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Fully Programmable Memory BIST for Commodity DRAMs
Fully Programmable Memory BIST for Commodity DRAMs
ETRI Journal. 2015. Aug, 37(4): 787-792
Copyright © 2015, Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute (ETRI)
  • Received : January 16, 2015
  • Accepted : April 21, 2015
  • Published : August 01, 2015
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About the Authors
Ilwoong Kim
Woosik Jeong
Dongho Kang
Sungho Kang

Abstract
To accomplish a high-speed test on low-speed automatic test equipment (ATE), a new instruction-based fully programmable memory built-in self-test (BIST) is proposed. The proposed memory BIST generates a high-speed internal clock signal by multiplying an external low-speed clock signal from an ATE by a clock multiplier embedded in a DRAM. For maximum programmability and small area overhead, the proposed memory BIST stores the unique sets of instructions and corresponding test sequences that are implicit within the test algorithms that it receives from an external ATE. The proposed memory BIST is managed by an external ATE on-the-fly to perform complicated and hard-to-implement functions, such as loop operations and refresh-interrupts. Therefore, the proposed memory BIST has a simple hardware structure compared to conventional memory BIST schemes. The proposed memory BIST is a practical test solution for reducing the overall test cost for the mass production of commodity DDRx SDRAMs.
Keywords
I. Introduction
As the capacity and density of semiconductor memories have rapidly increased, maintaining acceptable yields and quality has become the most critical challenges in semiconductor memory manufacturing. Most commodity dynamic random-access memory (DRAM) is tested with a multitude of test algorithms in a mass production test, by using external automatic test equipment (ATE). Recently, to test high-density and high-speed commodity memories, such as Giga-bit DDR3 SDRAM with at-speed, a high-end ATE platform is required; however, such a platform comes at an extremely high cost. The following are some of the major requirements of a memory BIST for commodity DRAMs: high fault coverage, high test frequency, high diagnostic capability, and small area-overhead.
Most of the previous researches on memory BIST techniques have been developed for embedded memories on system on a chip (SOC) [1] [4] , but the test algorithms for embedded memories are inappropriate for the mass production testing of commodity DRAMs. Specifically, programmability is mandatory, not optional; programming is used to build various types of test algorithms for a mass production test, as well as to determine the root cause(s) when critical faults occur, to screen them out. To satisfy the major requirements of a memory BIST for commodity DRAMs (high fault coverage, high test frequency, and small area-overhead), an instructionbased programmable memory BIST is the most suitable for commodity DRAMs.
This paper proposes a new memory BIST, presents experimental data, and provides conclusions on the proposed BIST.
II. Proposed Memory BIST
The main concept of the proposed memory BIST is to maximize the programmability and reusability of low-performance ATEs, which are commonly used in the mass production testing of commodity DRAMs. Even if a commodity DRAM has a memory BIST, an external ATE is required to provide input signals and automatically acquire test results.
Figure 1 shows a block diagram of the proposed memory BIST, which consists of a sequence buffer, instruction buffer, and instruction decoder. In the proposed memory BIST, a built-in redundancy analysis (BIRA), which consists of fault collection from the proposed memory BIST and redundancy analysis to extract the featured repair solution, is used for wafer-level test and repair [5] .
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Block diagram of proposed memory BIST.
Test algorithms for a commodity DRAM generated by an ATE generally comprise five unit operations as follows: command instructions, loop operations, refresh-interrupts for managing various types of retention tests, address operations, and data operations. To guarantee a high level of programmability for test algorithms, within the confines that an ATE is able to provide, a memory BIST for commodity DRAMs must support multiple levels of loop operations and various types of timers for refresh-interrupts for testing the retention time of DRAMs. However, in the proposed memory BIST, the loop operations and refresh-interrupts are managed by an external ATE to guarantee a high level of programmability and reduce the hardware required for the two functions. Therefore, the proposed memory BIST handles only three unit operations: a command instruction, address operation, and data operation; there are also two types of buffer: an instruction buffer and a sequence buffer. An instruction buffer contains a command instruction, an address operation, and a data operation.
The proposed memory BIST is designed to perform at-speed tests with a low-frequency ATE. The external test clock frequency of the required low-frequency ATE can be multiplied by four or eight to generate a faster internal clock frequency for the proposed memory BIST by using modified DLL logic. For this reason, several internal instructions must be delivered from the external ATE in an external clock cycle so that a sequence buffer pointer, which contains pointers for instruction buffers to be executed sequentially, is transferred from the ATE to the proposed memory BIST. Subsequently, a series of instructions is able to be executed with fast internal clocks.
Figure 2 shows the bit fields for a sequence buffer and an instruction buffer. The proposed memory BIST has only 31 instruction buffers (from #0 to #30) and 32 sequential buffers. These are sufficient for storing complicated test algorithms for DRAM mass production.
Each sequence buffer of Fig. 2(a) consists of twenty-six bits. The first bit of a sequence buffer represents the buffer’s link status with one of the other remaining buffers. The next five bits represent the sequence buffer pointer. The final twenty bits represent instruction buffer pointers, which are to be executed sequentially.
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Bit fields for (a) sequence buffer and (b) instruction buffer.
An instruction buffer pointer is comprised of five bits and represents a valid instruction buffer pointer when its value is from 0 to 30, whereas it represents the end of the instruction buffer when its value is 31.
If the first bit of sequence buffer A is set to “1” and the next five bits point to sequence buffer B, then this means that all of the valid instructions of sequence buffer B will be executed after completing those of sequence buffer A.
Each instruction buffer consists of fourteen bits for DDR3 SDRAM. In Fig. 2(b) , the first four bits of the instruction buffer represent the command instruction for DDR3 SDRAM, such as Active, Write, Read, and Precharge. The next seven bits represent the address operations; the fifth to seventh bits represent the bank address. The eighth bit selects whether x addresses or y addresses are to be modified by the address function. The next three bits represent the address functions, and the last three bits represent the data function.
Figure 3 shows the structure of the instruction decoder of the proposed memory BIST and provides descriptions of the address function and data function for the instructions. The instruction decoder decodes each bit of an instruction buffer and generates a command; x address and y address; and dataE/dataO for the memory core.
The address generator of the proposed memory BIST (that is, ADDR_gen of Fig. 3(a) ) has two address registers, xaddr and yaddr , to hold a current x address and y address, respectively. It also has two registers, xreg and yreg , which hold address values to be added or subtracted into address registers by INCR or DECR functions of the addr_fn of Fig. 3(b) .
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(a) Instruction decoder and (b) function descriptions of addr_fn and data_fn.
The data generator of the proposed memory BIST has two data registers ( dreg ) to hold current data values, dataE for a clock rising edge and dataO for a clock falling edge.
III. Communication between Memory BIST and ATE
Figure 4(a) shows an example of a scan algorithm with checkerboard data background for a DDR3 SDRAM, which includes five loops (L1–L5) that collectively form a three-level loop (L1). Figures 4(b) and 4(c) represent a set of unique instructions (which are saved in the instruction buffers) and a set of sequence buffers (to construct the same test algorithm described in Fig. 4 (a) ), respectively.
Figure 5 shows an example of a timing diagram between an ATE and the proposed memory BIST; it is assumed that the internal clock frequency is eight times faster than the external clock frequency from the ATE. To construct the same test algorithm as the one shown in Fig. 4 , the external ATE generates sequence pointers in every clock cycle, such as is shown in Fig. 5 . If a generated sequence number is synchronized with the external low frequency clock signal, then the internal instructions for the sequence buffer are executed to the memory core. On every rising edge of the external clock, the sequence buffer pointer value is stored into a sequence register of the memory BIST. At the same time, external data is stored in an external data register for setting the xreg , yreg , or dreg of the memory BIST.
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Example of test algorithm for DDR3 SDRAM: (a) scan algorithm with checkerboard data backgraound, (b) instruction buffer, and (c) sequence buffer.
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Example of timing diagram between ATE and memory BIST.
When the Link status is set to “0” and an instruction pointer of a sequence buffer reaches the “End of pointer” or the fourth instruction pointer, the memory BIST retrieves the next sequence buffer pointer value from the sequence register; otherwise, the sequence pointer value is ignored.
In this case, the external ATE generates a SEQ0 once and consecutive SEQ3s. SEQ0 indicates S0 in the first sequence buffer of Fig. 4(c) . S0 is linked with S1, which is the start point of L1. S1–S14 are sequentially linked, and S14 is linked with S15. However, S15 is not linked with any other sequence buffer. Therefore, the proposed memory BIST retrieves SEQ3 from the sequence register and jumps to S3, which is the start point of L2 and L3.
The external ATE manages the sequence buffer pointers and internal register setting; it is sufficiently knowledgeable with the loop control and refresh-interrupt control to build complicated test algorithms. Therefore, complicated control functions are not required in the proposed memory BIST, which makes the structure of the proposed memory BIST very simple. In addition, the required area overhead for saving test algorithms into the memory BIST is very small, all the while guaranteeing full programmability and high-speed testing with a low-speed ATE.
IV. Experimental Results
The proposed memory BIST was designed with Verilog HDL and synthesized with 0.13 μm CMOS technology. Table 1 shows a performance comparison of the proposed memory BIST with previous researches [1] [4] . In Table 1 , the second row represents the area overhead of each memory BIST. There is a trade-off between the area overhead and the programmability. In a memory BIST for a commodity DRAM, a very high programmability has to be provided so as to be robust to the ever-changing conditions of mass production testing. Although the area overhead of the proposed memory BIST is larger than those of [1] [3] , it shows an approximately three times smaller area overhead as compared with that of [4] and provides a very high programmability as shown by the third row of Table 1 . Unlike the previous researches [2] [4] , the timing control for a retention test can be managed by an ATE without extra hardware and additional test channels. This fully enables various kinds of retention testing algorithms. Therefore, typical mass-production test algorithms (for example, Scan, MATS+, Moving Inversion, GalRow, GalCol, March LAd [6] , and so on) for a commodity DRAM can be supported. Using dual instruction decoders, the clock speed of the proposed memory BIST is 1.25 ns, and it can perform at-speed tests for DDR3 SDRAM. Most current wafer-level ATEs, such as MT6060 (YOKOGAWA) and T5377 (Advantest), are able to generate clock frequencies above 100 MHz. If a DDR3 SDRAM adopts the proposed memory BIST and generates an eight times faster internal clock frequency than the external clock speed, then the memory is able be tested at up to 800 MHz (1.6 Gbps). Without high-speed ATEs, the proposed memory BIST can provide a practical solution for testing DRAM with at-speed.
Performance comparison.
Feature [1] [2] [3] [4] Proposed
Area (gates) ~2.5 K > 300 K 7.9 K 50 K 15 K
Programmability Medium Medium High High Very high
Retention test support N/A Partial Partial Partial Full
Testing freq. N/A N/A 400 MHz 972 MHz 800 MHz
V. Conclusion
In this paper, an instruction-based fully programmable high-speed memory BIST solution for commodity DRAM mass production tests with low-speed ATEs is proposed. The proposed memory BIST provides very high programmability with reasonable area overhead, making it is possible to encompass typical mass-production test algorithms for DRAMs. The proposed memory BIST can be a viable solution for maintaining yield and quality of commodity DDRx SDRAMs without using high-end ATEs.
This work was supported by the National Research Foundation of Korea (NRF) grant funded by the Korea government (MSIP) (No. 2015R1A2A1A13001751).
BIO
woong@soc.yonsei.ac.kr
Ilwoong Kim received his BS degree in control and instrumentation engineering from Kwangwoon University, Seoul, Rep. of Korea, in 2001 and his MS degree in electrical and electronic engineering from Yonsei University, Seoul, Rep. of Korea, in 2007, respectively. He is currently pursuing his PhD degree in electrical and electronics engineering at Yonsei University. His current research interests include built-in self-test and low-cost fault management for commodity DRAMs; TSV repair schemes and algorithms; VLSI/SOC design and testing; and design for testability.
woosik.jeong@sk.com
Woosik Jeong received his BS degree in control and instrumentation engineering and his MS degree in electronics engineering from Korea University, Seoul, Rep. of Korea, in 1997 and 1999, respectively. He received his PhD degree in electrical and electronics engineering from Yonsei University, Seoul, Rep. of Korea, in 2011. Since 1999, he has been a product engineer with the DRAM Technology Development Division, SK hynix Semiconductor, Inc., Icheon, Rep. of Korea. His current research interests include memory testing, built-in self-testing, built-in self-repair, reliability, and very-large-scale integration design.
fourier2@soc.yonsei.ac.kr
Dongho Kang received his BS degree in information and communication engineering from Myongji University, Yongin, Rep. of Korea, in 2013. He is currently pursuing his MS degree in electrical and electronics engineering at Yonsei University, Seoul, Rep. of Korea. His current research interests include reliable storage systems, built-in self-testing, TSV repair, redundancy analysis algorithms, reliability, and VLSI design.
Corresponding Author shkang@yonsei.ac.kr
Sungho Kang received his BS degree in control and instrumentation engineering from Seoul National University, Rep. of Korea, in 1986 and his MS and PhD degrees in electrical and computer engineering from the University of Texas at Austin, USA, in 1988 and 1992, respectively. From 1989 to 1992, he was a research scientist with the Schlumberger Laboratory for Computer Science, Schlumberger, Inc., USA. From 1992 to 1994, he was a senior staff engineer with Semiconductor Systems Design Technology, Motorola, Inc., USA. Since 1994, he has been a professor with the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, Yonsei University, Seoul, Rep. of Korea. His current research interests include VLSI/SOC design and testing; design for testability; and design for manufacturability.
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