BPM provides equipment and accessories to upload custom programming to semiconductor devices. Founded in 1985, BPM Microsystems serves more than 2,000 companies in over 49 countries. BPM programmers offer high-performance device handling, advanced serialization, and quality control, meeting the highest programming and cybersecurity standards for automotive, aerospace, medical, industrial and mobile device applications. BPM’s intelligently designed systems deliver the lowest programming cost per device. 

Back in 1985 in a dorm room at Rice University, Bill White founded BP Microsystems (later BPM Microsystems). He couldn’t find a decent chip programmer for a class project he was working on, so he made his own. He started to sell the EP-1, an E/EPROM programmer, locally and then by mail order; the rest is history. BPM still builds all of their systems in Houston, Texas.

Interview with Scott Bronstad, Digital Marketing Manager at BPM Microsystems.

Easy Engineering: What are the main areas of activity of the company? 

Scott Bronstad: BPM designs and manufactures universal programming systems and supports them with algorithms and socket adapters (software and hardware) to program specific devices. BPM’s catalog of supported devices is in excess of 70,000, including both legacy and cutting-edge technologies. Newer and faster versions are continually added on an almost daily basis. BPM serves electronics manufacturers around the world including OEM, ODM, EMS and programming centers. Industries that utilize BPM programming solutions include:  Automotive, Healthcare, Aerospace/Defense, Industrial, IoT/Industry 4.0, and Cybersecurity.

E.E: What’s the news about new products?

S.B: BPM has “generations” of products with specific site technology. The “site” is the magic of BPM programmers, and sockets/algos make them the most “universal” of device programmers. Universal, as opposed to single-use, allows the systems to be configured to support thousands of devices on hundreds of different socket adapters. BPM pioneered socket adapter  technology with active circuitry that delivers clean signal integrity and high yield.

The latest generation of BPM sites is 10th Gen. 10th Generation site technology offers the broadest support in the industry at unsurpassed programming speeds. 

The newest Automated Programmer, the BPM310, comes with up to six 10th Gen sites providing full universal support for UFS, eMMC HS400, MCU, NAND and Serial Flash, at incredible speeds with up to 48 devices programmed concurrently. It is the most capable programmer in a small footprint. For UFS 2.1, each site can program eight devices at a time, at up to 440 MB/second read and 201 MB/second write (industry best).

E.E: What are the ranges of products?

S.B: Programmable devices are becoming more ubiquitous. More products than ever before require some kind of customization to add functionality. BPM makes programmers that focus on quality and reliability. Some products, such as satellites, require just a handful of each device programmed per month (or year); the cost for just one of those chips (such as an anti-fuse FPGA) can cost upwards of $100,000! When the cost of failure is that high, aerospace companies turn to BPM. Other companies need millions of programmed devices. BPM makes Automated systems that are fast, easy to set up/change-over, and reliable, with available automotive-level support verification (such as coplanarity test to confirm pin and ball grid array integrity). 

BPM continues to support many of their legacy programmers (some for more than 20 years), and adds additional supported devices on a weekly basis. When new devices are needed, BPM quotes hardware and software support. Customers with current Hardware Support contracts can make complementary 24/7 service calls (free for one year with new purchase). If machines experience issues, field service technicians with decades of experience and/or factory-trained service technicians are available for local support world-wide, usually within 48 hours.

E.E: At what stage is the market where you are currently active?

S.B: BPM serves both legacy and emerging markets. For instance, UFS and eMMC devices with massive memories (measured in Gigabytes) are becoming more common in infotainment, navigation, autonomous vehicles, military applications, etc. The universal nature of BPM programmers means one system can program multiple different devices (although not simultaneously). Some competitive systems require two different site technologies in order to cover their full device list. 

The legacy market is alive and well, especially in aerospace/defense. Many contractors and military branches, such as the US Navy, rely on BPM legacy (7th Generation) programmers. They’ve spent millions qualifying solutions, and continue to purchase this proven 17 year-old technology from BPM.

E.E: What can you tell us about market trends?

S.B: Devices are trending to smaller, denser (more data) packages. This makes off-line programming (as opposed to in-circuit or at test programming) the scalable choice. To program more chips, you add site and socket capacity, additional shifts, or additional systems (or a combination). Smaller packages (less than 3mm x 3mm) are particularly challenging. BPM systems have capabilities that are only available on larger competitive systems. All BPM automated programming systems come with WhisperTeach™ Auto-Z Teach (for fast, easy set-ups/changeovers) and CyberOptic cameras for component auto measure (fast set-ups) and on-the-fly alignment for maximum first pass yield and throughput.

Many companies are looking at in-house device programming as a means of gaining more control on their supply chain. For companies that have added programming in-house, they are also finding greater control of their intellectual property. Small changes in firmware versioning is now possible for rapid prototyping and implementation. Above all, device programming that was previously a cost center quickly becomes a profit center, as return on initial investment can be realized in a few months, not years.

E.E: What are the most innovative products marketed?

S.B: In late 2021, BPM released the BPM310 Automated Programming System, offering the industry’s fastest programming times for UFS, eMMC, Flash, and MCUs with twice as many sockets per site as its predecessor. The BPM310 offers a capacity of up to 48 sockets, automotive-level quality, and reliability in a small footprint. 10th Gen delivers the fastest UFS programming performance in the industry achieving up to 440MB/second Read and 201MB/second Write. First-part time is accelerated because UFS programming can commence without pausing for data to download.

The BPM310 leverages much of the socket adapter and algorithm development currently available on its 9th Generation systems. And like all 9th Gen automated programmers, the BPM310 continues to offer ease of operation and fast setup with award-winning BPWin process control software and patented WhisperTeach™. WhisperTeach™ automatically teaches the critical Z-height of each pick/place location with 15-micron accuracy. Accurate automated teaching is vital for small packages due to fundamental human limitations. Plus WhisperTeach™ saves an average of 83% of the time required for the job setup compared to traditional methods while increasing quality and yield.

E.E: What estimations do you have for 2023?

S.B: Supply chain issues, especially for programmable devices, will continue to plague manufacturers for at least the next two years. In an effort to reduce costs and shorten lead times, BPM sees continued growth in offline programming. Security and IP protection will continue to drive companies to take more control of their most valuable assets: their intellectual property. By physically securing IP, competitors are less likely to reverse engineer (or flat-out steal) their designs. Other advantages of programming in-house are: improved quality, reliability, and more flexibility by keeping programmed devices to just-in-time inventory levels (not possible with outsourcing).