In my most recent column I pointed to the financial business values of an entirely new model for the military/aero component supply chain with the acronym SLiM, for semiconductor lifecycle management. We will look at the new model in greater detail over the next few columns. (See: Requirements for a Successful IC End-of-Life Planning.)
With aerospace system lifecycles ranging from 20 years to over 50 years, IC volumes clearly cannot drive the semiconductor market. Then factor in Moore’s Law and quickly evolving consumer electronics markets with 18-month product cycles. Commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) and International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) initiatives leave military/aero contractors more exposed. Further challenges include semiconductor suppliers exiting the aerospace and defense market. It’s a pretty gloomy picture, but it gets even worse!
Market dynamics force aerospace and defense contractors to get involved early in end-of-life management. There are specialty resellers and distributors offering bill-of-materials management programs. However, opportunistic dealers and traders offer end-of-life inventory at highly inflated prices. On top of this, semiconductor counterfeiting is an increasing problem. There is clearly a need for a better way. A perspective on obsolescence mitigation (OM) was laid out in earlier columns. OM is clearly not a solution to the challenges of consistent, reliable supply. (See: Get Strategic With Military/Aero IC Supply Challenges and Military-Aviation Semiconductor Sourcing Remains Problematic.)
There are three distinct stages to SLiM. Stage 1 is the early design phase for high-reliability products being used in military/aero applications, when it is essential to establishing the long-term supply chain. Stage 2 involves wafer banking, and Stage 3 applies to a foundry transfer and/or product reengineering strategy. See the following graphic for how it occurs over time.
Stage 1 has three phases to settling the supply chain. The first phase involves partnerships with major commercial semiconductor manufacturers, as I advocated in my last column. In this initial phase, licensing agreements are created allowing military/aero-focused suppliers to serve aerospace and defense markets. Some of these agreements already exist. The agreements include early access by commercial suppliers to their roadmaps and products and also can include joint marketing activities.
The second is the engineering phase, which involves creation and qualification of high-reliability versions of commercial devices including electrical characterization in high-temp, ruggedized packaging.
The final production phase involves manufacturing and qualification to QML Class Q and V requirements. This requires high-performance testers, high-reliability screening, burn-in, and life testing, making the devices truly “flight ready.”
In my next column I will address Stages 2 and 3 details of semiconductor lifecycle management. Wafer banking, foundry transfer, and redesign strategies that can securely, reliably, and cost-effectively extend semiconductor device lifetimes beyond 20 years will be discussed.
Semiconductor lifecycle management is a multi-decade, robust supply chain approach. It requires early and well designed partnerships with key commercial semiconductor manufacturers. Also essential is a razor-sharp focus on the aerospace and defense electronics market. For success, a three-stage supply chain approach, as outlined above, should be adopted. Ideally, suppliers wanting to play in this arena should also have an operational presence in both Europe and North America, the two epicenters of military/aero electronic systems design.