Electronic Components, aerospace industry, commercial components, Boeing, Amir A. Anissipour, electronic equipment, Boeing Commercial Airplane Group, BCAG, component design, component manufacturers, Flight Systems Research, Wichita State University, Boeing Defense and Space Group, the University of Washington, principal engineer, Systems Research, avionics design, IEEE Transactions on Reliability, Dennis D. Mayfield, CALCE Electronic Packaging Research Center, aeronautical engineering, configuration control, hardware standards, Michael G. Pecht, component availability, equipment suppliers, Electronics Components, American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, military specification system, military grade components, equipment designers, CALCE Electronic Packaging Research Center University of Maryland College Park, Manufacturing Technology, component level, components industry, Lloyd W. Condra, Boeing Commercial Airplane Group Hardware Standards, Obsolescence, Texas Instruments
Electronic Components Obsolescence IEEE Transactions on Components, Packaging, and Manufacturing Technology, Part A Vol. 20, No. 3, pp. 368371, 1997.
Lloyd W. Condra, Amir A. Anissipour, Dennis D. Mayfield Boeing Commercial Airplane Group Hardware Standards, Process & Research P.O. Box 3707 Seattle, WA 981242207Michael G.
Pecht CALCE Electronic Packaging Research Center University of Maryland
College Park, MD 20742
Until recently, permanence was an underlying assumption of aerospace electronic equipment. The intent was to design electronic equipment once, and the design was assumed to be static, produceable and maintainable for the lifetime of the airframe, which was, and still is, often several decades. Furthermore, the aerospaceoriented culture that pervaded the avionics equipment industry, allowed each equipment design to be optimized independently, with little regard for commonality, modularity, reuse, scalability, or extendibility to other applications. Provisions for design and production changes were minimal or nonexistent and suppliers focused on producing spares, rather than developing more competitive products. This situation was abetted by the lack of any significant competition and the longterm availability of military grade electronic components.
In recent years, several major electronic component manufacturers have ceased production of militarygrade components which were once considered immune to obsolescence . The reasons are associated mostly with global competitiveness and the financial benefits of manufacturing components for the high volume electronics industries (e.g., computers, consumer products
, and telecommunications), rather than for the low volume Complex systems
industries (see Figure 1).
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Figure 1. Historical data and projected changes in the world semiconductor usage market [Sources: CALCE EPRC 1997, TACTech 1994, SIA 1996, Semico Research 1996]
The pullout of many of the leading component manufacturers from the military market has had mixed effects on the aerospace industry. The use of commercial electronic components has already provided such advantages as availability of more and advanced functions, availability of stateofthe art technology, extremely reliable components, and significantly lower costs than traditional military (and QML) components . On the other hand, the decline of the military components industry and the fast pace of the commercial components industry have both lead to shortened component availability and thus concerns about component obsolescence.
Some aspects of the current challenges and "costs" associated with the phenomenon of component obsolescence are described below to illustrate the problems and the demand for urgent attention.
A. Unavailable components
Relative to the total electronic components market, the percentage market held by military electronic components segment is shrinking to the point of disappearance , as shown in Figure 1. Thus the military component market, which was traditionally considered immune from obsolescence, and from which assurances once were given that their parts would not become obsolete, is no longer free from risk. Component manufacturers are now exiting the militarygrade component markets to concentrate on and to compete globally in the highvolume markets such as computers, telecommunications, and consumer appliances.
In the global market, the time between introductions of successive iterations of commercial components is decreasing. Table 1 depicts this trend for the Intel family of microprocessors. Due to demands for new product offerings by highvolume markets and the high wafer fabrication capacity costs, the introduction of a new product usually coincides with the discontinuance of an older one. Unfortunately, the highvolume market product lifetimes are significantly shorter than those of most airplanes. This is illustrated by Figure 2 , in which the alternating open and solid bar segments indicate typical lifetimes of technology elements, airplanes, and computers .
Table 1. X86 microprocessor introductions.Dt is the time to market from the next generation product.
Dt Processor Speed, (MHz) Transistors MIPS Date Introduced
When militarygrade components have become unavailable, in the aerospace industry, the equipment in which they were used often had to be redesigned at costs which ranged into tens of millions of dollars due to the high costs of parts, materials, and the regulatory process. For a commercial jetliner with more than 250,000 components and 100 electronic boxes, the cost of redesigning the boxes at five year intervals, using current methods is prohibitive. B. Undocumented component design and production changes All components are subject to changes in design and production processes. In fact, even military component catalogs typically have a clause written into the cover stating that changes can occur. For example, in the "Military Semiconductors Selection Guide" published by Texas Instruments in 1997 it says "Texas Instruments
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reserves the right to make changes to or discontinue any semiconductor product or service identified in this publication without notice."
Undocumented component design or manufacturing changes can threaten loss of configuration control, i.e., the knowledge and control of the functions and capabilities of a given piece of electronic equipment, and its components, which is a key regulatory concern in today's aerospace electronics industry.
Figure 2. Technology element lifetimes compared to product lifetimes for airplanes and computers . Configuration control used to mean traceability from accident scene back to the component manufacturers own suppliers. Today, with commercial parts, after the equipment suppliers receive goods, analysis to the component level is rare. Changes in the functionality of a component and thus in the electronic equipment, due to manufacturers' design and process changes, may also impact the functionality and performance of aerospace electronic equipment, which may in turn impact its certification. A report to the administrator of the FAA  stated that systems employing commercial components "will be in a continuous state of recertification throughout the life cycle." Equipment must also be maintained throughout its useful life. With current aerospace maintenance practices, component unavailability can cause the user or manufacturer of the equipment to either maintain costly inventories of spare equipment, components, and possibly subassemblies or to assume the administrative burdens associated with multiple equipment configurations. As an example, if a component change necessitates an avionics equipment redesign, there are two different equipment part numbers in service (the original and the modification), each of which must be inventoried, maintained, and repaired and for each component an inventory of spares must be maintained. Additionally, it must be known which part number is in service in which box on which airplane. However, a 20+ years commitment to repair to the component level is not really a sustainable position even today. It may be better to accept that component level support can only last for a few years and thereafter repairs are charged at Module Level
prices. II. ALLEVIATING COMPONENT OBSOLESCENCE Two classes of approaches are available to address the component obsolescence problem. 1. Minimize the impact of component obsolescence by developing new methods to define, design, partition, acquire, and use (maintain) aerospace equipment.
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2. Maximize availability of components by identifying, using and supporting all available resources for electronic components which meet aerospace requirements.
A. Minimize the impact of component obsolescence
As noted in the introduction, the dynamic world of electronics today is quite different from the static one previously utilized by the aerospace industry. Thus, to accommodate rapid component changes, the ability to change equipment designs and production processes quickly, easily, and inexpensively must become a critical feature. This is illustrated by Figure 3 and three issues and approaches are given below.
1) Flexible but controlled parts management processes. An outcome of the transition away from the unique military specification system, is that the aerospace industry had no common standard for electronic components management. Several standards have been proposed, including one by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics , and another issued and controlled by the ChryslerDelcoFord Automotive Electronics Council. However, these have been considered to have most of the same problems as the military standards, and for this reason, companies such as Boeing Commercial Airplane Group (BCAG) has developed alternative approaches.
In particular, Boeing realizes that affordable access to leading technologies is key to the success of the avionics community and is even becoming more important to the U.S. government . To insure that avionics equipment suppliers have a workable process for parts selection and management, BCAG has developed a requirements specification titled Electronics Components management plan
(ECMP) whereby each subcontract supplier is made responsible for selecting and managing the components used in their designs. This enables the supplier to be globally competitive, while providing Boeing with a process that is known and accepted, albeit supplier unique
2) Reconfigurability. Component obsolescence can also be addressed at the assembly or even at the box level. For example, Boeing has effectively utilized commercialofftheshelf (COTS) subassemblies, on some equipment. While the components used in COTS assemblies are likely to become obsolete at the same rate as other components, with the proper controls, system integrators can preserve functions with minimum impact to the certification status of the equipment and its interfaces with other equipment. This type of modular design approach can minimize system redesign impact, and if the modules are used across multiple equipments, some economies of scale may be obtained. Thus, COTS equipment and subassembly designs can be extendible, portable, reuseable, upgradeable, scalable, and modular.
Figure 3. Flexible vs. static design
3) Update regulatory procedures. Certification of avionics equipment can be as much as 20% of the development schedule, and in fact to be as long as the availability of some components. Thus, equipment designers and regulatory agencies must work together to streamline the certification and recertification processes, to accommodate the new realities of the rapidlychanging components industry. Changes should be
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investigated more at the subsystem level, rather than at the assembly or the component level. The key here is to be able to obtain some certification credit for reused hardware and for the confidence in the item obtained from service experience in nonflight applications in lieu of extensive (and expensive) testing.
B. Maximize availability of components
A high priority task for the aerospace industry is to identify and access all possible sources of electronic components. Some alternatives are presented below.
1) Use current military suppliers and aftermarket sources. Some manufacturers of industrial and military grade components are still in the market, albeit under conditions which may not be acceptable for the long term needs of the aerospace industry. Many major manufacturers (e.g. Motorola, Intel, Philips, AMD) of military grade components, who even two years ago stated that they would be in the military components market for the long haul, have exited the market and others are in the process of doing so. Thus, besides the lack of available functions, the lack of a large range of surface mount package configurations and the high costs, there is also a risk that the military component suppliers may suddenly get out of the market completely.
Another source of industrial and military components is aftermarket component manufacturers, who purchase designs, mask sets, and test software of components discontinued by the original manufacturers. Some smaller component manufacturers in Asia are seeing this as a visible niche market. Unfortunately, all of these manufacturers will have to charge much more, and will be prone to quality and reliability problems associated with low volume production.
2) Consider government involvement. The U.S. Department of Defense and some of its counterparts in other nations, have decided to get out of the business of establishing and maintaining standards however, as major customers of electronic systems, they all have a vital interest in systems availability issues. Unfortunately, the role of the government and its level of cooperation with industry is not defined, especially within the context of assuring an adequate and reliable supply of electronic components to meet aerospace needs. Nevertheless, it is possible for Sandia Laboratories, Naval Research Laboratory, and the national security
Agency, among others who have semiconductor facilities, to manufacture components to meet common military and commercial aerospace demands.
3) Cooperate with other low volume electronics suppliers. Commercial aerospace, automotive, outdoor telecommunications and other industries whose demands require components that can operate in rugged environments, but reject the use of military components due to the high cost and lack of availability of modern functions, are all impacted by the problem of components obsolescence. While Figure 4  shows that the combined "outdoor" electronics and military segments constitute only about ten per cent of the total electronic component market, and while "outdoor" electronics manufacturers have little influence on the electronic component industry, an option is for cooperation so that they appear as one large customer to the components industry. The goal is to be a large enough customer to keep "older technology" components on the market.
4) Establish an internal capability. The aerospace industry could acquire its own component capability, in the form of purchasing design and fabrication facility, or investing in an existing one. The largest avionics equipment suppliers to Boeing Commercial Airplane Group (BCAG) today is Boeing. It might not be such a stretch for BCAG to also make some selected components, perhaps with cooperation from the equipment suppliers.
The electronic components obsolescence problem is as challenging as any faced by the aerospace industry (both commercial and defense) in recent years. The military specification system for components has, for all practical purposes, become ineffective. The bulk of the worldclass military components industry has changed its focus, and now exists to serve other markets. There is no turning back, especially since the aerospace industry today demands affordable access to leading technologies: something which can only be cost effectively obtained from the commercial sector. To avoid unnecessary redesign costs, loss of configuration control, recertification,
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customer dissatisfaction, and other impacts of this revolutionary change, the aerospace industry is preparing to respond. Yet, there is no single answer and probably no simple answer to this problem. The solutions must include: a comprehensive businessdriven approach to managing parts, an immediate recognition that some form of interindustry and governmentindustry cooperation is necessary, and complete acceptance of the reality of this transformation. The aerospace industry and the CALCE EPRC is currently benchmarking approaches taken in response to the obsolescence problem, and looking for all affected industries to cooperate.
Figure 4. Relative sizes of the indoor electronics, outdoor electronics, and military electronic component Market Segment
s . REFERENCES  Pecht, M.G., Fink, J., Hakim E., and Wyler, J. An Assessment of the Qualified Manufacturer List (QML), IEEE Aerospace and Electronic Systems, 1997.  Condra, L.W., presentation to Boeing Commercial Airplane Group Electronic Component Management Program Users' Forum II, March 5, 1997.  Report of the Challenge 2000 Subcommittee of the FAA Research, Engineering, and Development Advisory Committee to the Administrator of the FAA, March 6, 1996.  American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Parts Management, draft document
R1001996 June 1996.  Pecht, M., Issues Affecting Early Affordable Access to Leading Electronics Technologies by the US Military and Government, Circuit World, Vol. 22(2), pp.715, 1996. BIOGRAPHIES Lloyd W. Condra is a senior principal engineer with the Boeing Commercial Airplane Group. He has over thirty years' experience in the telecommunications, computer, medical electronics, and aerospace industries. For the past ten years, he has been involved in the application of industrial and commercial electronic components to aerospace products. Mr. Condra is a senior member of IEEE has published numerous technical papers and book chapters and is the author of two technical reference books. Mr. Condra was one of six U.S. winners of the 1987 Taguchi Quality Award and has served as chairman of the Industrial Advisory Board of the ComputerAided Life Cycle Engineering research consortium at the University of Maryland. He holds a B.S. from Iowa State University, and an M.S. from Lehigh University
, both in materials engineering.
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Amir A. Anissipour is a principal engineer with the Boeing Commercial Airplane Group (BCAG), Seattle, WA. He holds B.S. and M.S. degrees in physics, and B.S. and M.S. degrees in Aeronautical engineering
, from the University of Washington
and has completed additional graduate work at the University of Washington. For six years, he served as lead engineer at Boeing in Flight Systems Research in application of modern control, estimation, and optimization theory on airplane flight controls. For the past seven years, he has served as lead engineer in avionics design, reliability, and maintainability, and is currently the lead engineer in hardware standards and research.
Dennis D. Mayfield is manager of Hardware Standards with the Boeing Commercial Airplane Group (BCAG). He is currently leading initiatives to develop and implement BCAG initiatives to improve reliability, and to mitigate the impacts of component obsolescence on BCAG electronic equipment. He holds a B.S. from Wichita State University in Computer Science
and engineering, and has worked in both defense and commercial electronics/avionics for over 25 years. Prior to his current assignment, he was the Unit Chief on the 777 Interface Control Documents, was a leader in the 777 CMS core requirements team, and a design manager for the Boeing Defense and Space Group, where he was responsible for the development of seven Line Replaceable Units, two Special test set
s, an integrated laboratory upgrade, and various other programs. Prior to his Boeing employment, he spent nine years at NCR developing hardware and firmware for disk controllers.
Michael G. Pecht is the Director of the CALCE Electronic Packaging Research Center (EPRC) at the University of Maryland and a Full Professor with a three way joint appointment in Mechanical Engineering
, Engineering Research, and Systems Research. Dr. Pecht has a BS in Acoustics, a MS in electrical engineer
ing and a MS and PhD in Engineering Mechanics from the University of Wisconsin. He is a Professional Engineer, an IEEE Fellow, an ASME Fellow and a Westinghouse Fellow. He has written eleven books on electronics products development. He served as chief editor of the IEEE Transactions on Reliability for eight years and on the advisory board of IEEE Spectrum. He is currently the chief editor for Microelectronics and Reliability International, an associate editor for the IEEE Transactions on Components, Packaging, and Manufacturing Technology SAE Reliability, Maintainability and Supportability Journal and the International Microelectronics Journal, and on the advisory board of the Journal of Electronics Manufacturing. He serves on the board of advisors for various companies and consults for the U.S. government, providing expertise in strategic planning in the area of electronics products development and marketing.