Strategies to extend product lifecycles

Rochester Electronics’ technical sales manager EMEA, Ken Greenwood

Rochester Electronics’ technical sales manager EMEA, Ken Greenwood, investigates how companies can take control of component obsolescence.

The semiconductor industry is evolving regarding manufacturing technology and consolidations. This typically means old components reach end-of-life sooner; and more applications and industry segments are being affected by obsolescence.

Systems in markets such as mil-aero, industrial, energy, transportation and medical often have lengthy product and service lives and customers need long-term support for the original system design without modification. However, semiconductors used in these systems tend to have much shorter life cycles. The challenge for the system supplier is how to manage the gap between these two conflicting timelines.

Traditionally, customers made large last-time-buy (LTB) purchases of finished components and then attempt to store components for the life of the project: with varying degrees of success. A forecast LTB is almost guaranteed to be wrong. Fluctuating market demand and uncertainty of long-term storage yields, can lead to premature system discontinuations, shortened service-lives, full re-designs driven only by component obsolescence or unused components which are subsequently scrapped.

In desperation, some customers turn to last-time supply by purchasing finished components through the non-authorised markets which introduces a range of new risks such as: pre-used, damaged, contaminated or pre-programmed components, many sold as new.

The only way to guarantee long-term semiconductor availability is wafer storage and long-term packaging and test.

For over 35-years Rochester Electronics has offered a range of wafer storage and processing services at its facilities in Newburyport MA, USA. Wafers are either stored in wafer form (known-good-die tested from the original fabs with full die maps) or in die form.

Nitrogen storage provides almost unlimited storage life. This means long-term customer delivery programmes can be guaranteed, with no appreciable changes in production yield.

In parallel, Rochester’s long-term relationships with over 70 leading semiconductor manufacturers, allows for the transfer of the original assembly and test specifications after component discontinuation. Many of these manufacturers authorise Rochester to continue production, guaranteeing 100 per cent identical parts and even allowing Rochester to use the original part numbers.

Increasingly, where future market demand is visible, Rochester is funding the purchase of fully tested known-good-die for key ‘heart-beat’ components at the core of customers’ most critical long-term systems.

Rochester’s in-house packaging capabilities, including ceramic, metal-can and plastic DIP, are supplemented by relationships with other leading packaging companies, allowing Rochester to identify best-in-class sourcing for most historical packages.

A key customer benefit of authorised long-term production from wafer is improved cash-flow because a wafer/die reservation fee is significantly more economical than the upfront purchase of finished goods. Also, long-term storage costs are minimised because wafer storage is more economical than finished goods. Other benefits include guaranteed long-term production yields and no quality/solderability risks.

This means customers who purchase from Rochester, can be 100 per cent confident that components are authorised and compliant with the original supplier’s specification, not only fit-form-function but also errata/software compliant as well. No further testing or qualification is required.