Navigating the pitfalls of a semiconductor device's end-of-life need not cripple a company.
After an end-of-life event, OEMs need to procure hard-to-find or obsolete critical devices without encountering two pitfalls:
Obtaining substandard or counterfeit components during an “emergency buy” on the gray market, and
Embarking on lengthy and costly system re-designs.
The best solution is for OEMs to partner with an authorized distributor that can procure residual inventory from the original manufacturer and then provide customized, comprehensive, scheduled, and managed long-term supply programs to ensure a continuous source of guaranteed devices that have been stored in environmentally controlled, state-of-the-art storage facilities.
When original inventory is exhausted, authorized semiconductor manufacturers can use the original intellectual property (IP) including wafer/die, tooling, test programs, test equipment, package design, and foundry process to continue manufacturing the component.
What? No IP? If the design archive and other IP is no longer available to continue manufacturing, some authorized continuing manufacturers can deconstruct and electrically analyze a semiconductor device. Engineers re-draw / re-design the device using images from scopes, including a scanning electron microscope (SEM), and re-engineer it onto a matched mature foundry process to replicate the original component.
The replicated device is a pin-for-pin replicate with matched cycle-for-cycle timing, guaranteed to meet the original semiconductor’s performance in form, fit, and function. Upgraded functionality can often be added.
Another advantage is that the transfer of technology eliminates any potential legal issues from patent or IP infringement.
For example, a leading engineering, construction, and project management firm recently entered into a re-creation and long-term manufacturing agreement with an authorized semiconductor distributor and continuing manufacturer to extend the life of several mission critical logic octal buffers.
The firm serves as a contractor for multiple government agencies including the U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S. Department of Defense, the Environmental Protection Agency, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and NASA.
End-of-life: A case in point Through the Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program (NNPP), the contracting firm is responsible for a number of critical hardware and software products that control a submarine’s nuclear reactor.
The contractor faced a serious problem when the original semiconductor manufacturer made an end-of-life announcement for several logic octal buffers critical to the nuclear reactor control system.
The octal buffers contain eight discrete buffer amplifiers in a single package and are employed to provide logic, speed, and drive capabilities, such as memory address drivers, clock drivers, and bus-oriented transmitters/receivers. The contractor needed to find an alternative source quickly so that there would be no interruption in the supply to the Naval Stocking Program (NSP).
The logic octal buffers were required to meet all military-grade specifications. Because a re-design of nuclear reactor hardware and software was not feasible, the contractor had to find drop-in replacements that were exact duplicates of the original octal buffers, not emulated parts that would merely mimic the performance of the originals.
Matching performance and durability was essential.
The contractor checked with the original manufacturer for availability of residual inventory, and found that the manufacturer had entered into an end-of-life manufacturing agreement with an authorized semiconductor distributor and continuing manufacturer.
The contractor had previously worked with this authorized continuing manufacturer and knew from experience that they would be able to quickly replicate the octal buffers and manufacture drop-in replacements and thus eliminate significant engineering expenses, including board replacements, re-designs, and re-qualification, ultimately saving millions of dollars.
Ensuring supply Additionally, the quick lead time assured that the NSP would not be left high and dry without vital logic control components for existing and developing projects, which might set projects back a minimum of 12 to 18 months.
For industries with long life cycles, contractually licensed continuing manufacturers provide services that ensure a constant supply of critical devices.
Authorized long-term supply programs and re-creation services enable OEMs to appropriately and confidently secure critical EOL and obsolete semiconductors that come with a 100% guarantee of integrity, traceability, reliability, and performance, while saving the OEM time, money and credibility.
(George Karalias is director of marketing and communications for Rochester Electronics, headquartered in Newburyport, Mass.)