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Addressing obsolescence issues in mil/aero industry

Posted: 11 Sep 2012 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Obsolescence Mitigation? OEM? COTS?

This is, however, an expensive and risky investment. Financial capital needs to be committed up front to procure all the available devices but there is no guarantee that they will all eventually be needed. Additionally, all the parts will have a single date code (the date on which the parts were assembled into the packages). In future years the OEM manufacturer will be using parts with date codes from the LTB date which could be years old as time progresses. Moreover, solderability and moisture intrusion/contamination will be real issues and a direct result of the care taken in storage.

The gray market
In some instances, a Mil/Aero OEM cannot acquire enough needed parts in the LTB procurement, which will force them to look to the gray market. The gray marketI cannot think of any reason to go to the gray market. The risks are just too high. Nonetheless, some companies do use this option. What should they expect?

When purchasing from the gray market, a Mil/Aero OEM must verify part authenticity by making sure that there is an unbroken chain of possession for the parts to verify authenticity. Otherwise, there is the possibility that the parts are counterfeit. This can occur even when a CoC is provided. CoCs are fairly easy to copy and there have been cases where a copy of a valid CoC is used to pass off multiple lots of questionable parts.

New design
If the prime/CM cannot obtain genuine replacement parts, they will be forced to redesign and requalify their board. Added to this will be a delayed delivery of the finished product to the end customer.

Obsolescence mitigation
There is a fourth alternative for Maxim parts. Maxim offers a collaborative program between Maxim's Mil/Aero group and the military and aerospace customer. A key point here is that Maxim still needs to be making the wafers. Clearly, this program does not work if wafer manufacturing has ceased.

The OM program supports virtually any Maxim plastic part, leaded or lead-free, in any plastic package. It includes commercial, industrial, automotive, and medical devices. It does not include military hermetic devices since they already have their own long-life initiative.

The OM process is quite straightforward. Maxim posts obsolescence notices with GIDEP (pronounced "guy-dep") which are picked up by various material supply-chain solutions firms like ILS and published to their subscribers. When a customer identifies that a needed Maxim part on their Bill of Material (BOM) is going obsolete (LTB), then they must contact the Maxim Mil/Aero group before the part(s) are no longer manufactured. Maxim cannot initiate this interchange. Maxim's Mil/Aero group does not know which Mil/Aero customers have purchased the given LTB part because the majority of Mil/Aero shipments go through distribution. Instead, Maxim must rely on the customer to start the discussion about the LTB part.

The Mil/Aero customers work with Maxim to define both the customer's total program life in years and the expected total IC demand. Maxim calculates the total number of wafers needed to support that total demand and then increases it to anticipate yield loss, program extensions, and similar unforeseen issues.

The customer then places an order for the first year's demand, defined as the total agreed volume divided by the number of years. Once that first order is received by the factory, the wafers are set aside. While a customer is not obligated to procure a given volume in any given year after the first year, the minimum order quantity (MOQ) is 500 pieces during any subsequent year when parts are ordered. There are no storage fees and the customer may cancel at any time. Any price increases will be in line with any other future price increases for like packages and assembly flows.

Obsolescence of an IC in a military or aerospace application is certainly a disruption, but it need not trigger a rush to stockpile parts or a search of the gray market. Instead Maxim's OM program can set aside wafers to support future demand. The program supports any Maxim plastic part, leaded or lead-free, in any plastic package. It includes commercial, industrial, automotive and even medical devices. The date code on the device will be the date when the die is enclosed in the package. The Maxim OM program does not stop a part from becoming obsolete, but it is touted to help customers work through the obsolescence process so disruption to ongoing programs is mitigated.

1 Frostholm, Bob, "Analog ASICs Eliminate The Threat Of Counterfeit Chips,", July 09, 2012.

About the author
John O'Boyle is Senior Business Manager for the Military/Aerospace Group at Maxim Integrated Products. With over 30 years of semiconductor industry experience, O'Boyle is currently responsible for managing the company's business supporting military/aerospace customers. He has developed an innovative program for the delivery of SnPb-finished parts to military customers who require a non lead-free finish. He also developed a program to solve the problem of obsolete parts in long-life programs. He holds BSEE, MSEE, and MBA degrees from Santa Clara University.

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