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Boundary Scan Methods & Standards - 3 - Embedded Systems (Web) - Computer Science Engineering (CSE)

Simple Board Level Test Sequence

One of the first tests that should be performed for a PCB test is called the infra-structure test. This test is used to determine whether all the components are installed correctly. This test relies on the fact that the last two bits of the instruction register (IR) are always ``01''. By shifting out the IR of each device in the chain, it can be determined whether the device is properly installed. This is accomplished through sequencing the TAP controller for IR read. After the infra-structure test is successful, the board level interconnect test can begin. This is accomplished through the EXTEST command. This test can be used to check out ``opens'' and ``shorts'' on the PCB. The test patterns are preloaded into the output pins of the driving devices. Then they are propagated to the receiving devices and captured in the input boundary scan cells. The result can then be shifted out through the TDO pin for analysis. These patterns can be generated and analyzed automatically, via software programs. This feature is normally offered through tools like Automatic Test Pattern Generation (ATPG) or Boundary Scan Test Pattern Generation (BTPG).

Boundary Scan Description Language

Boundary Scan Description Language (BSDL) has been approved as the IEEE Std. 1149.1b (the original boundary scan standard is IEEE Std. 1149.1a) [1,6]. This VHDL compatible language can greatly reduce the effort to incorporate boundary scan into a chip, and hence is quite useful when a designer wishes to design boundary scan in his own style. Basically for those parts that are mandatory to the Std. 1149.1a such as the TAP controller and the BYPASS register, the designer does not need to describe them; they can be automatically generated. The designer only has to describe the specifications related to his own design such as the length of boundary scan register, the user-defined boundary scan instructions, the decoder for his own instructions, the I/O pins assignment. In general these descriptions are quite easy to prepare. In fact, currently many CAD tools already implement the boundary scan generation procedure and thus it may even not needed for a designer to write the BSDL file: the tools can automatically generate the needed boundary scan circuitry for any circuit design as long as the I/O of the design is specified.

Any manufacturer of a JTAG compliant device must provide a BSDL file for that device. The BSDL file contains information on the function of each of the pins on the device - which are used as I/Os, power or ground. BSDL files describe the Boundary Scan architecture of a JTAGcompliant device, and are written in VHDL. The BSDL file includes:

1. Entity Declaration: The entity declaration is a VHDL construct that is used to identify the name of the device that is described by the BSDL file.

2. Generic Parameter: The Generic parameter specifies which package is described by the BSDL file.

3. Logical Port Description: lists all of the pads on a device, and states whether that pin is an input(in bit;), output(out bit;), bidirectional (inout bit;) or unavailable for boundary scan (linkage bit;).

4. Package Pin Mapping: The Package Pin Mapping shows how the pads on the device die are wired to the pins on the device package.

5. Use statements: The use statement calls VHDL packages that contain attributes, types, constants, etc. that are referenced in the BSDL File.

6. Scan Port Identification: The Scan Port Identification identifies the JTAG pins: TDI, TDO, TMS, TCK and TRST (if used).

7. TAP description: provides additional information on the device's JTAG logic; the Instruction Register length, Instruction Opcodes, device IDCODE, etc. These characteristics are device specific.

8. Boundary Register description: provides the structure of the Boundary Scan cells on the device. Each pin on a device may have up to three Boundary Scan cells, each cell consisting of a register and a latch.

Boundary Scan Methods & Standards - 3 | Embedded Systems (Web) - Computer Science Engineering (CSE)Boundary Scan Methods & Standards - 3 | Embedded Systems (Web) - Computer Science Engineering (CSE)

Fig. 41.12 Example to illustrate BSDL (a) core logic (b) after BS insertion

Benefits and Penalties of Boundary Scan

The decision whether to use boundary-scan usually involves economics. Designers often hesitate to use boundary-scan due to the additional silicon involved. In many cases it may appear that the penalties outweigh the benefits for an ASIC. However, considering an analysis spanning all assembly levels and all test phases during the system's life, the benefits will usually outweigh the penalties.


The benefits provided by boundary-scan include the following:

  • lower test generation costs
  • reduced test time
  • reduced time to market
  • simpler and less costly testers
  • compatibility with tester interfaces
  • high-density packaging devices accommodation

By providing access to the scan chain I/Os, the need for physical test points on the board is eliminated or greatly reduced, leading to significant savings as a result of simpler board layouts, less costly test fixtures, reduced time on in-circuit test systems, increased use of standard interfaces, and faster time-to-market. In addition to board testing, boundary-scan allows programming almost all types of CPLDs and flash memories, regardless of size or package type, on the board, after PCB assembly. In-system programming saves money and improves throughput by reducing device handling, simplifying inventory management, and integrating the programming steps into the board production line.


The penalties incurred in using boundary-scan include the following:

  • extra silicon due to boundary scan circuitry
  • added pins
  • additional design effort
  • degradation in performance due to gate delays through the additional circuitry
  • increased power consumption

Boundary Scan Example 

Since boundary-scan design is new to many designers, an example of gate count for a circuit with boundary scan is discussed here. This provides an estimate for the circuitry sizes required to implement the IEEE 1149.1 standard, but without the extensions defined in the standard. The example uses a library-based gate array design environment. The gate counts given are based on commercial cells and relate to a 10000 gate design in a 40-pin package. Table 1 gives the gate requirement.

Logic ElementGate Equivalent

Variable Size

Boundary-scan Register (40 cells)

Fixed Sizes

TAP controller

Instruction Register (2 bits)

Bypass Register

Miscellaneous Logic



680 Approx





20 Approx


Total868 Approx

Table: 1 Gate requirements for a Gate Array Boundary-scan Design

It must be noted that in Table 1 the boundary-scan implementation requires 868 gates, requiring an estimated 8 percent overhead. It also be noted that the cells used in this example were created prior to publication of the IEEE 1149.1 standard. If specific cell designs had been available to support the standard or if the vendor had placed the boundary-scan circuitry in areas of the ASIC not available to the user, then the design would have required less.


Board level testing has become more complex with the increasing use of fine pitch, high pin count devices. However with the use of boundary scan the implementation of board level testing is done more efficiently and at lower cost. This standard provides a unique opportunity to simplify the design debug and test processes by enabling a simple and standard means of automatically creating and applying tests at the device, board, and system levels. Boundary scan is the only solution for MCMs and limited-access SMT/ML boards. The standard supports external testing with an ATE. The IEEE 1532-2000 In-System Configuration (ISC) standard makes use of 1149.1 boundary-scan structures within the CPLD and FPGA devices.

The document Boundary Scan Methods & Standards - 3 | Embedded Systems (Web) - Computer Science Engineering (CSE) is a part of the Computer Science Engineering (CSE) Course Embedded Systems (Web).
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