Designing around component obsolescence
When selecting components for a new design good component engineer specialists can give a vital perspective on the track record of suppliers from their experience, but this is not simply a question of looking in the numerous on-line, commercially available parts databases. Frequently, these have been shown to give mathematical predictions of impending obsolescence that fail to take into account individual manufacturer policies. For example, at Linear Technology, we have a non-obsolescence policy. This means we still offer for sale the LT1001, now more than 28 years old and still good for new designs. A close supplier relationship will bring with it access to inside information on component popularity, manufacturability and new process technologies that assist in making a more informed choice for new designs. It is therefore important to dedicate time to cultivate such relationships.
The risks of reworked & counterfeit components
The Senate Armed Services Committee investigation into counterfeit electronic parts in the U.S. Department of Defense supply chain reported in November 2011 that a flood of counterfeit parts entering the supply chain and that the cost to the electronics industry is estimated at $7.5Bn annually. A quick search of YouTube finds numerous examples of component salvage operations and sales outlets for what amounts to scrap or misrepresented components. While efforts are being made to tighten up on illegal activities, the simple solution is not to buy from unauthorized sources or brokers. Careful selection of suppliers and a close working partnership will also assist in solving the most intractable obsolescence issues. Linear Technology will, under strict conditions, offer components in die form to enable customers to engage third party packaging where the original package piece parts are obsolete. From a design perspective, this can be a helpful option where no other changes or PCB redesign is required.
Design Managers should be major stakeholders in the supplier selection and development process and should encourage designers to develop close working relationships in pursuit of their design goals.
Strong innovation, stability of supply, high quality and a track record of long-term commitment to the Military and Aerospace market are all elements that form the basis of dependable supplier relationships.
Component selection is not just a matter of finding a part that fits the performance need. First-class design support from the supplier will reduce time to market, assist in bridging any skills gaps and facilitate informed choices in term of component selection. This will deliver the most competitive solution and reduce the longer-term risk of obsolescence problems.
Beware of misinformation, the Internet is full of instant answers and data but the knowledge and experience of component specialists and good contacts at suppliers will serve higher quality information.
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