Flash Device Programming: When Free isn’t Free

Sometimes an effective plan for production Flash programming gets created. For the high volume manufacturer, a variety of solutions are available. But few options exist for lower volume production. High volume solutions are simply too expensive for mid volume or low volume/high mix production. For low volumes, the implementation of production Flashing often gets minimal planning. The assumption is its easy and virtually free.

Programming KlugeOn low volume/high mix production lines, this problem is often addressed with several low cost ad hoc stations that use ‘free” programming pods provided by device manufacturers. Engineers typically will cobble together a set of existing equipment, computers and peripherals to create a programming tool for a solitary task in the test process. Typically one of these stations uses a PC, some cabling and a low cost pod. Sometimes these pods are acquired from the manufacturer, sometimes from a vendor such as P&E or Segger or other brand. Usually they are dedicated to a single application.

But station integration is still required. With the minimal planning these solutions are often considered near free. As we examine this process further, we see that “free” has some real and significant costs:
•Set up is expensive.

 

Integrating and setting up the programming station usually requires several hours of an engineer’s time.
•Costs are duplicated.

Since the Flash Device Programming solution is typically created for a specific project, other projects require their own sites. In a typical factory there are often several such sites – all different, but each similar in cost.
•Floor space is wasted.

•Multiple Programming Sites Take Up Room

Any given site is usually idle.
•Excess operator training is required.

Since each site utilizes fragmented and often obsolete equipment, and has a different procedure, production start-up requires additional operator instruction.
•Rushed solutions are barely suitable for a production environment.

Cabling and inputs are flimsy and may cause complete system failure if the station needs to be relocated.

Operational Procedures are half baked.

Documentation is lacking.

Tech support is hard to find.

Downtime is too frequent.

Mods to firmware are awkward and time consuming.
•Awkward procedures can impact quality.

There is a better way. The SMH FlashRunner remains the market leader providing manufacturers a powerful engine for the creation of effective programming stations.

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