Many electronics companies need components that, for one reason or another, have been discontinued by the manufacturer. At the same time, green legislation can make finding the right parts difficult.
Equipment with long lifecycles, such as medical systems, military and defense equipment, and industrial machinery, often needs repairs that require a component that was made 10 or more years ago. However, since the EU's Restriction on Hazardous Substances (RoHS) was adopted in 2005, many components containing lead (as one example) have been phased out.
For many OEMs, securing obsolete components means extensive searches on the Internet or finding a partner that can re-manufacture the required part. An even better solution is finding a partner that can re-manufacture that part with current environmental regulations in mind.
Electronics OEMs should partner with a company that specialize in meeting the need for obsolete products. These organizations that can:
- Deliver authorized end-of-life and obsolete components.
- Buy finished goods from suppliers.
- Acquire the die and masks for those products if finished goods aren't available.
- Offer the capability to re-manufacture or re-create products if other options aren't available.
- Provide these services with the original manufacturers' authorized support, meaning suppliers stand 100 percent behind their products and their warranties.
Rochester Electronics' Extension-of-Life program, as one example, has authorized solutions that provide the best lead-free and “green” product solutions possible. When Rochester continues to manufacture a device that is no longer produced by the original manufacturer, the part can be made lead-free/green-compliant. For devices that were discontinued prior to the RoHS initiative, Rochester can draw from its wafer bank of more than 10 billion die, and continue to manufacture the device as fully lead-free/green-compliant. Depending on customer demand, these may be available in stock or made to order.
Re-manufactured and re-created parts then undergo a battery of “Original Engineer-Driven Test Protocols” to make sure they perform to spec. These include:
- An electrical comparative analysis between the original manufacturer's device and the Rochester Electronics re-creation that proves that the components are electrically identical. Dubbed “Rochester Semiconductor Identicality,” the service includes significantly more than just functional comparison. For example, identicality parameters include rise/fall times across temperature and voltage.
- The use of proprietary criteria to measure central tendency, variation, position, process capability, and notable characteristics of all measured values.
Of course, organizations may be tempted to choose an unauthorized source for hard-to-find parts. There are dangers associated with this path. Obsolete and end-of-life (EOL) parts are available on the open market and many of them may indeed be “green,” but it is difficult for buyers to be certain of the device's origin. This confusion increases the risk of procuring the wrong part.
Many component manufacturers continue to produce both leaded and non-leaded devices during the RoHS transition. In some cases, the manufacturer uses the same part number for both devices; in other cases, separate part numbers are used. Authorized distributors work closely with their suppliers to make sure end customers got the right device regardless of part number.
Components bought and sold in the open market have no such guarantees. The only way to make sure an EOL or obsolete part performs to spec — and is green — is to buy from a component manufacturer, an authorized distributor, or an authorized re-manufacturer. Testing a part after it's been acquired could be a waste of time and money, especially if it turns out not to be green.