Military Embedded Systems

BAM Blog: long life applications require high-rel components


April 09, 2014

George Karalias

Rochester Electronics

Before & After Market (BAM) Blog: Before you begin diving into this blog piece, take a moment to step out of your comfort zone and into the shoes of a warfighter on the frontlines in a battle. This specific person you have become has been using mission-critical equipment that must operate under some of the most severe conditions in their current environment, including operating in 100+ degree temperatures for eight or more hours each day. In this moment you realize just how much you rely on the proper functionality of your equipment, as you cannot afford to waste any time fixing defects because it puts your life at risk. These types of scenarios need to be considered every time the procurement of mission-critical, high-reliability (high-rel) devices takes place.

High-reliability devices are those components in applications that typically have longer life cycles, sometimes as long as 10-20 years, that can withstand harsh environments with a low-failure percentage. These devices are used in critical applications in industries such as military, defense, and medical because of their robust nature. Designing for the application is imperative. Devices must be tested to appropriate application specs, such as MIL-STD-750, MIL-STD-883, MIL-PRF-38535 and MIL-PRF-19500 for military applications.

Taking shortcuts in the procurement process of such devices in effort to adhere to budget cuts will end up costing more money in the long run, and worst case scenario, it will put more lives at stake.

Due to the nature of high-rel devices, they require more rugged test measurements and therefore cost more than a typical off-the-shelf device. As a result, military users have been turning to cost-saving methods on their high-rel devices that will extend the life of their current applications. Cost saving plans may include scouring the semiconductor supply chain to find the cheapest option for the devices needed to keep electronics-based applications up and running. What happens next in this case is procurement personnel end up finding the cheapest source within the supply chain, which makes sense in the short term, but unfortunately, if the price seems too good to be true, it probably is.

This problem is exacerbated when a device reaches end of life (EOL), as devices within the authorized supply chain can quickly become scarce. One solution is semiconductor continuing manufacturers. It is important to ensure that the continuing manufacturer is authorized, and certified to the Department of Defense Logistics Agency’s (DLA) Qualified Manufacturers List (QML) to ensure that devices are manufactured to the original manufacturers specifications to meet MIL-STD and screening requirements. It is also important that the continuing source has an environmental testing lab that includes tests such as extreme heat and extreme cold to ensure quality of the high-rel device and eliminate the risk of application failure and potential redesign costs associated with defects.


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