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News

DSEI supplement to components in Eelectronics

Component Obsolescence Group (COG) : 01 August, 2005  (New Product)
In 1984, aerospace and defence components represented some 9% of the electronic, electrical and electromechanical components market. Today it is around a tenth of that; the reduction is caused by both the relative increase in other markets, and by the drive in high-reliability markets owards the use of commercial off-the-shelf components.
Component companies are moving out of the hi-rel market and counterfeits are rife. Sticking one's head in the sand may seem tempting, but as Sally Ward-Foxton
finds out, it could be very costly.

In 1984, aerospace and defence components represented some 9% of the electronic, electrical and electromechanical components market. Today it is around a tenth of that; the reduction is caused by both the relative increase in other markets, and by the drive in high-reliability markets owards the use of commercial off-the-shelf components.

However, the Component Obsolescence Group warns that COTS may not be the solution. 'Ironically, commercial components themselves, although very reliable in the short term, are likely to have quite a short production lifespan,' explains COG's Mike Trenchard.

Another problem with the decline in size of the military market is that manufacturers are moving away from the military arena.

'Microsemi will soon be closing its hi-rel facility in Ireland meaning even fewer options,' says Lloyd Francis, aerospace and defence manager at IGG
Component Technology.

'We certified a COTS fpga for one customer only to find that it wouldn't work in the application six weeks later,' he added. 'It transpired that the manufacturer had done an internal 'die shrink' and also moved the place of
manufacture. The parts were still OK but no longer suitable for military/aerospace use. The worrying thing is that the manufacturer has no obligation to tell anyone they have done this.'

With this story in mind, you will want to check that parts claiming to be hi-rel actually are. The IEC 62239 standard effectively means that when parts are screened for hi-rel that they are correctly and consistently screened via electronic component management plans.

According to Francis, Smiths and Goodrich are the only UK companies currently qualified to do this. IGG are the third company to move towards adoption of the standard and should be qualified by October 2005.

If the worst happens, the costs can be high: recent figures in a UK Ministry of Defence study revealed the price of a major redesign caused by obsolescence to be as much as 300,000.

Last time buys are becoming more and more frequent for military parts and inevitably when companies get desperate then they may look at more dubious sources for parts. IGG used to see one or two counterfeit parts a year, 'now it's approaching two a week,' says Francis, warning that despite publicity, the problem is getting ever more prolific.

'For those supplying the military, the MoD's CADMID procurement policy is a way forward,' comments Francis. The CADMID cycle (concept, assessment, demonstration, manufacture, in-service, disposal) is actually a simplified approval system to reduce the time taken to bring new projects to completion and the equipment into service.

If you are looking for a component for a design that has become obsolete, the best way to tackle it, says COG, is to consult your company's company-wide pro-active strategy that should already be in place for dealing with obsolescence.
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