Military Embedded Systems

Defense electronics get boost from in-house manufacturing


March 03, 2015

Tom Roberts


While we are all aware that defense programs require rugged electronics that can deal with the harshest environments, and demand the highest levels of quality and reliability, an issue that might not be at top of mind is the effect that using contract manufacturers can have when customers require quick responses to critical program issues and urgent orders.

When carefully designed defense electronics modules are slotted into contract manufacturing facilities for production they take their place in the queue along with orders from the telecommunications, medical equipment, and consumer electronics industries. Like any business, the contract manufacturer responds fastest to their big volume orders and can’t afford to invest in equipment used only by a small set of customers.

The implications for defense are obvious; a small, unexpected order will wait for a schedule opening, while unique processes and tests require that boards are moved to labs or small, specialized shops for final preparation.

The best way to avoid these issues is with an in-house manufacturing capability. Having full control of the manufacturing process delivers a combination of responsiveness, flexibility, and quality that far exceeds anything achievable by contract manufacturing. It also ensures that those special capabilities, processes, and testing typical to rugged deployed commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) electronics are handled correctly, such as:
− both leaded and lead-free soldering
− RoHS
− International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) and non-ITAR
− Class 3 of IPC and J-STD
− Environmental stress screening for every rugged board
− Three options for conformal coating: acrylic, urethane, and parylene

In-house manufacturing has clear advantages for defense and aerospace programs facing tough schedules and shifting requirements. The video linked to below provides an overview of Curtiss-Wright’s in-house electronics manufacturing.



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