Are Programmable Parts the Answer?

Dove can program and ship up to 10K oscillators per day from its programming center

President and chief executive officer of Dove Electronic Components, Matt Waite, offers advice on alleviating frequency control lead-time issues, suggesting that configurable parts can play a key role

Here we are again in a long lead-time environment and frequency control products are not immune. There are reports of devices with deliveries of over one year, although the worst that Dove has heard from its roster of frequency control suppliers is 20 to 25 weeks. Though long and certainly inconvenient, 20 to 25 weeks is not unmanageable. Furthermore, with over 30 authorized FCP suppliers, Dove offers enough options to come up with a solution to lead-time constraints.

For the most part, the current situation is being driven by smaller crystals, with some random oscillators affected as well. In recent years, Dove has seen far more demand for basic crystals versus oscillators since, in many cases, customers can build their own oscillation circuit more affordably than buying an oscillator.

Where in the past manufacturers would add capacity to meet demand, in this cycle they are content to just sell out their production. There is also the dynamic that many FCP suppliers use the fabless production model. If too many FCP suppliers go to the same manufacturer this pushes out lead times.

To alleviate lead time issues, Dove suggests the following: approve at least two, even three, suppliers at the time of design-in with a crystal. When designing in an oscillator, design in at least two, making one of them a programmable.

Programmable positives

President and CEO, Dove Electronic Components, Matt Waite

Programmable oscillators are well suited for the current long lead time environment. They bring the latest in technology and form factor and can be tailored to a customer’s needs quickly and at a reasonable price.

Dove Electronic Components is no stranger to these oscillators, having installed its first mass production programming equipment nearly 20 years ago. The company now has four of these machines as well as multiple smaller programming setups for low volume, higher technology, parts. At its East Setauket New York headquarters, Dove can program oscillators from Abracon, Cardinal, Citizen, ECS, Epson and SiTime. Many suppliers on Dove’s line card also have programmable oscillator capability at their factories.

It’s clear that programmable oscillators have become an exciting area; performance is as good, equal, or better depending on the application. Issues of the past, such as power consumption, noise and general unreliability, have been put to rest. Epson Electronics remains a pioneer in programmable oscillators, with an expanding portfolio of these products, while SiTime with its microelectromechanical systems technology has rolled out great new products, many of which are programmable.

With regards to lead times, the key to success with configurable oscillators is having the unprogrammed ‘blank’ in stock. Dove therefore ensures it has stock on any blank oscillator that it promotes at its in-house programming facility. This enables the company to program and ship up to 10k oscillators per day from its programming center.