How to Protect Against Obsolescence
With all of the semiconductor industry consolidation, there are many RF and microwave parts being discontinued or obsoleted after a rationalization of the merged companies is complete. As bigger companies consume smaller ones, they typically will stop supporting and investing in designs that have lower demand even though many customers need them in existing designs and programs. This trend will certainly continue as the mergers and acquisitions are still active (Broadcom/Qualcomm/NXP is still in process to name one big one still out there).
A recent example happened in Dec, where Broadcom (Avago) released an obsolescence notice containing more than 1,000 GaAs MMICS and discrete transistors covering many different applications and functions. The last time buys for these have to be done by June 2018 with delivery by Dec 2018 (with the exception of one part). This leaves a lot of customers without a source for existing and replacement parts.
These actions do open opportunities for the smaller and medium sized MMIC manufacturers to fill the void if they are willing to focus their resources on helping the customers find replacements or substitutes. Companies like Custom MMIC, MACOM, Microsemi, IDT, Marki, Guerrilla RF, Ommic and others are filling some of these voids but it can still be difficult to find acceptable replacements for all of these parts.
We talked with Custom MMIC as they have a concentrated effort to service their military and aerospace customers and are working with many of them already to find or design similar or replacement parts. They have already created a cross reference list for a portion of these Broadcom parts. UPDATES: MACOM released their cross reference list (updated Feb 12) and here is Guerrilla RF's cross reference list (updated Feb 26).
Custom MMIC had some good advice for designers when selecting a source:
- Be strategic in the selection process looking ahead for long term support and stability of the company
- Keep an eye on supplier status as mergers and acquisitions change a company’s focus
- Watch out for changes in strategies of key suppliers making sure they match your needs
They also noted that as a fabless company, Custom MMIC second source selected products so their customers are not left out in the cold if a fab obsoletes a process. This just shows how important sourcing issues are for designers who typically might not consider this aspect in their everyday work.