The key stages of Semiconductor Lifecycle Management (SLiM) were presented in my first blogs, and now we are starting to look at the key aspects of a successful SLiM program. In a preceding blog we discussed the key elements of wafer storage and management, and this article will take a look at how to ensure the uninterrupted supply of key components by managing the fabrication and testing conversion process. (See: Wafer Storage & Management for Extending Product Lifecycle.)
Many semiconductor manufacturers, even those with an appreciation for the needs of the military contractor, make end-of-life (EOL) and last-time-buy (LTB) announcements well before the end of the life of a program. This forces the aerospace or defense contractor into a tough situation with two unattractive choices: 1) try to predict how many devices it will need for the life of the program and then figure out how to come up with the funding to purchase these devices; or 2) initiate a redesign to replace the soon-to-be obsolete devices.
A strategic SLiM supplier will work with the military contractor to prepare in advance for the pending EOL/LTB events and put a plan in place to continue to supply these devices over the length of the program.
The ideal scenario for the military contractor is to work with a SLiM supplier that has a direct business relationship with the original semiconductor manufacturer. In this model, the SLiM supplier will have access to the original fabrication facility and will also have a direct link to test programs and information that will enable it to easily move directly into volume production. A successful SLiM supplier will anticipate widely used semiconductor devices and negotiate with OEM suppliers to work out a plan for obsolescence, thereby ensuring a continuous supply of devices to the military market.
This ideal scenario is not always viable between the OEM semiconductor suppliers and the SLiM supplier. In this case, the SLiM supplier must be able to obtain a significant quantity of wafers to supply the aerospace and defense contractors with enough products to satisfy the market demand. The SLiM supplier must also possess the expertise to independently develop and verify test programs with adequate test coverage to ensure all required specifications are met in all applications.
Additionally, the SLiM supplier must have the capability to assemble with packages that meet the MIL-STD-1835 and/or JEDEC package specifications. Finally, the SLiM supplier must have the necessary quality controls and certifications in place to be able to provide anything from COTS to fully DSCC certified and QML Class B, Q, and V level products as needed by the market.
Even with all of the best planning and preparation for the aerospace and defense market demand, there may still come a time when the wafer bank runs out. The most valuable SLiM provider will have the capability to extend the life of products by completing product redesign, including determination and management of a suitable replacement wafer fab facility, complete product and test program redevelopment, and full quality programs to meet the stringent requirements of key military and aerospace programs.