Previously, I advocated ditching obsolescence mitigation (OM) as outworn and flawed and laid out a fresh approach to the increasing gap between commercial semiconductor availability and long-term device requirements in aerospace and military system applications. (See: Military-Aviation Semiconductor Sourcing Remains Problematic and Get Strategic With Military/Aero IC Supply Challenges.)
This new approach is dubbed semiconductor lifecycle management (SLiM). It makes logistical and manufacturing support sense by addressing the problem in a new way. Taking the SLiM path also integrates business needs of commercial semiconductor suppliers and military/aero system contractors, making economic sense for both. This approach offers real monetary benefits. Here is a vision of the way forward.
At the core are long-term, profitable agreements between commercial IC manufacturers and military/aero supply-focused businesses. These set up profit-driven opportunities in advance of product end-of-life. They create wafer sources from several foundry partners that have been engaged early in the product’s life.
Additionally, integrated "back-end" services, essential to the manufacturing process, are planned for and financed by these agreements. These include assembly, testing, screening, and packaging. These are best combined into a single facility, not farmed out to myriad subcontractors that are likely to trigger potential security and inherently costly logistic problems.
The facilities should be certified and fully qualified by major certification agencies, such as the US Department of Defense and the European Space Agency to the most demanding quality standards. These include AS/EN9100 and QML Class Q and V standards.
Addressing the manufacturing process early on is critical to the successful long-term support of products based on semiconductor wafer banking. Wafer banking is one of the safest, easiest, and most cost-effective ways of extending semiconductor product life.
Agreements under the aegis of SLiM should be based on the following principles:
- Delivering precisely what you promise year-after-year
- Taking complete responsibility for products
- Making customers completely satisfied with your quality and service
- Avoiding last-time buy phenomena when commercial suppliers discontinue product lines, creating logistical expenses and aggravation for the military/aero contractor
The relationships with commercial semiconductor manufacturers are about being a partner they trust to provide the best support and the best quality of service to the markets being served. In such agreements for continuing product support, both parties must share interest in serving the after-market. Agreements must fulfill the conditions mentioned above, and these providers must be companies with the correct facilities, the right personnel talents, and good customer attitude.
A clear example of SLiM in action is an agreement that continues availability of high-reliability microprocessors based on a popular, but now discontinued, commercial microprocessor line. Based on wafer banking methodology, repackaged, selected versions of the still-popular product are tested and screened to an extended temperature range.
Most importantly, the agreements, put in place well in advance of end of life, continue product availability for on-going requirements in military and aerospace system applications. The component supply is effectively managed for as long as the mil/aero contractors require the components. This is the key value of SLiM.
— Joe Bronson is Director of Business Development at e2v Aerospace & Defense, Sunnyvale, Calif. He was previously president of Sanmina-SCI Corp. (Nasdaq: SANM), a leading electronics contract manufacturer.