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EETE JUNE 2013

Obsolescence groups tackles long term supply and conflict minerals challenges By Nick Flaherty The increasing use of off the shelf commercial equipment and conflict minerals are two key risks facing designers of long term systems says the outgoing chairman of the UK’s Component Obsolescence Group (COG). The UK COG is the focus in Europe for issues around the supply of long term platforms for markets such as transportation, nuclear, military and aerospace where designs can last 30 to 40 years. Chairman Nigel Wallis from Ultra Controls is handing over at the COG conference from the 25th June in York, UK. A key issue is getting designers to work more closely with their procurement departments on the sourcing of COTS parts and systems, he says. “From my perspective the most important thing is the supply chain issue,” said Wallis. “Historically COG has been about technology issues but now it’s about the supply chain and the engineering and procurement issues are inextricably linked up.” “The will and the intent is always there but there are mechanisms that stop that happening,” he said. “There’s different agendas – engineering can focus on MTBF and reliability for example, while our agenda as procurement is non-standard parts and long term supply, so hopefully between us we will get stuff that’s good for 25 years, he said. “In my situation we have broken down the barriers and the reasons for it. There’s always a technical reason for the part that’s designed in, but there might also be supply chain issues that we can address - we don’t have to replace the part but we can mitigate the risk.” “The important thing to note is there is still a lot of technical content in the design but there are always gaps in the supply chain. There’s often a replacement device but when there isn’t and you have to go through a re-design and re-qualification, that has to be avoided at all costs.” Single source items are an issue if people get bought out or go bust and you have to look for other parts, he says. “And there are some weird and wacky stuff that you can’t get remanufactured,” he said. “If you can mitigate it at the front end, best practice is to tackle this at the front end.” There are also problems with manufacturers changing the die, which they can do but this can mean the part is still current but doesn’t work in the design. “One of the problems we have that’s recurring is the use of commercial parts,” said Wallis. “The MIL parts are made to a certain spec, where a commercial manufacturer doesn’t need to tell you if they change the process. The commercial parts are more commonly used and COTS and what that means – it means different things to different people – for some its parts, for others it’s a whole systems and there is no one definition.” “The REACH regulations are starting to come in, restrictions on substances in devices, to safeguard health and safety and that could cause some problems,” he said. “We are about materials as well as components so there are issues with conflict materials such as tantalum and coltan – it is beginning to become a problem for people – it’s not regulated now, but it will be. I think all we can do is highlight the issues. We can’t change the world but it’s about raising the awareness”. The group has a German chapter with COG Deutschland looking at automotive issues and it is looking at at setting up a Spanish chapter, says Wallis. Power-One enters into patent license agreement with Microchip By Paul Buckley Power -One , a leading global manufacturer of renewable energy and energy-efficient power conversion and management solutions, has entered into a non-exclusive, worldwide, Field of Use agreement with Microchip Technology Inc. for Digital Power Technology (DPT) patents from Power-One. Digital Power Technology drives increased system efficiency, improved design flexibility, faster time to market, decreased board space requirements and lower system costs. DPT also enables telemetry capability, providing access to critical information including current, temperature and voltage. Telemetry allows the system to accurately monitor its power consumption and thermal performance, enabling designers to easily engineer key features such as system power optimization, fault detection and predictive maintenance features into their end products. Applications utilizing FPGAs, ASICS, DSPs continue to drive board densities higher, requiring complex power architectures to handle the increasing number of voltage rails and output voltages dropping below 1V. Digital Power Technology is an extremely effective solution for these complex power requirements. “These DPT patents support Microchip’s goal of offering its customers a new level of performance and flexibility in analogbased, point-of-load power conversion solutions,” said Bryan J. Liddiard, Marketing Vice President of Microchip’s Analog and Interface Products Division. “Configurability through serial communication is crucial to system optimization and maximizing power conversion performance.” 8 Electronic Engineering Times Europe June 2013 www.electronics-eetimes.com


EETE JUNE 2013
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