Engineers from Stanford University’s Shape Lab have designed a platform that’s capable of debugging in-circuit PCBs using interruptible routing and instrumentation, which translates to using a custom jig and software to analyze a circuit. Their platform looks as though it may save many headaches over using manual debugging techniques — including manually isolating and probing the pins of ICs.
“Pinpoint is a tool that facilitates in-circuit PCB debugging through techniques such as programmatically probing signals, dynamically disconnecting components and subcircuits to test in isolation, and splicing in new elements to explore potential modifications.”
The Pinpoint platform makes it easy to debug any PCB using a novel approach — after designing a PCB, Pinpoint automatically adds test pads to the board. During the fabrication process, the user also creates a Jig board, which is a hardware interface that connects the PCB to a control board that acts as a bridge to the testing software and serves as the control mechanism that tests the circuits on the PCB.
Users can utilize the software to probe or inject signals to any point on the circuit, which they can apply to record and reply for in-depth analysis. The software even produces a schematic of the PCB as well, which allows users to indicate specific points of interest that can then undergo a series of tests to detect any deviation of expected results. It can also generate tasks automatically to probe for short circuits in the design, saving you the hassle of doing it manually. The engineers recently uploaded a paper on their Pinpoint platform, available for reading in PDF form.