Weathering the obsolescence storm


Rochester Electronics’ product and technology solutions manager, Ken Greenwood

Rochester Electronics’ product and technology solutions manager, Ken Greenwood, explains the value of a reliable supply chain regarding mission-critical obsolete components


Semiconductor lifecycles continue to shrink and product discontinuation notices (PDNs) are on the rise. With recent supply constraints, original component manufacturers (OCMs) and the semiconductor manufacturing chain have been reassessing product profitability. Oftentimes the decision has been made to prune uneconomical lines.


Whether it is third party or OCM owned fabs cutting older geometries, packaging houses choosing to end support of older package styles (such as PLCCs or small-SOICs) or the withdrawal of tester platform support, PDNs are increasing and becoming more unpredictable.


Manufacturers must be able to track and anticipate the lifecycles of their core semiconductors. Component databases, such as IHS and Z2Data, can predict the remaining life of a component and the anticipated end-of-life (EOL) dates. Premature PDNs are, by nature, not easily anticipated by standard algorithms.


Component discontinuations force customers to commit to a traditional last-time-buy, whereby finished components must be purchased all at once, to hopefully cover any future needs. Along with the capital tied up in the stock itself, there are additional costs for specialized IC storage. Under perfect conditions, these costs are unwelcome, but manageable. However, if market needs increase, in-service maintenance timescales are extended, or an unanticipated EOL is announced, what should be done?


It is a common misconception that after a PDN is announced, only non-authorized sources can meet additional product needs. However, this route carries enormous risks and is patently untrue.


Any active component shortage or ongoing need for obsolete components provides ‘incentives’ for unscrupulous sources to exploit the situation and potentially contribute poor quality products or counterfeits into the market.

The risks of counterfeit and poor-quality components from unauthorized sources represent a significant risk to both production yields and mean time between failure rates (MTBR). Inferior or substandard testing by unauthorized third parties provides a false promise that authenticity can be tested. This testing is visual, x-ray or a poor partial copy of the original manufacturer’s test processes. Full tri-temp testing can rarely be offered and the risk of commercial-grade components being re-marked as industrial, automotive or military parts is frightfully present.


There are also documented quality problems related to foreign chemicals. Cleaning chemicals used to recover, wash and re-mark used components, slowly migrate into the products, leading to the shorting and corroding of bond wires and pads alike. Superficial testing is not guaranteed to find these faults. Unauthorized components may not only pass these tests, but also survive for a period of service. However, the components’ inevitable failures will destroy MTBR figures, resulting in reduced reliability and damaged industry reputations.


Authorized aftermarket distributors and manufacturers, such as Rochester Electronics, provide a risk-free long-term source for semiconductors. They are an indispensable authorized partner supporting:


  • Stock to overcome market shortages or long lead-times


  • A trusted source for obsolete components


  • Long-term manufacturing from wafer of selected product ranges


Rochester is 100 per cent authorized by over 70 leading semiconductor manufacturers.  Its factory direct, AS6496-compliant, offering negates the need for expensive redesign, requalification and recertification.

Additionally, partnering with a licensed semiconductor manufacturer can mitigate the risks of component EOL. A licensed manufacturer can produce devices no longer supplied by the OCM. When a component is discontinued, the remaining tested wafer and die, assembly processes and original test IP, are transferred to the licensed manufacturer by the OCM. This means that previously discontinued components are still available newly manufactured, and 100 per cent in compliance with the original specifications. No additional qualifications required or software changes.