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DMS: keeping your Eagles, Tomcats, and Mustangs, up and running

(10/23/1995)

Diminishing Manufacturing Sources (DMS) holds the answer to the maintenance questions that will always plague others of vintage vehicles.

by John Redding

TEMPE, ARIZONA - Dale Lillard, an avid classic car enthusiast, drives a fully restored bright red 1965 Ford Mustang GT powered by a high performance 289 Cobra engine. As President and CEO of Lansdale Semiconductor Inc., the vintage Mustang also has become the symbol for his Diminishing Manufacturing Sources (DMS) integrated circuit (IC) wafer fabrication foundry business. "Driving a '65 Mustang, I need to know there are automotive aftermarket manufacturers who will continue to provide replacement parts fo it meeting Ford's Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEM) performance and quality standards," said Lillard.

Although the older Mustang is unprecedented in popularity and demand, Ford Motor Company's prime business is manufacturing new cars with leading edge technologies and providing replacement parts for a reasonable period of time. They have no interest as an OEM in providing volume replacement parts indefinitely.
The DMS Dilemma Dominates

The same DMS dilemma exists today in the military, commercial and telecommunications (telecom) IC industry. The Navy still flies the F-14 Tomcat; the Air Force, the F15 Eagle, both fighter aircraft developed in the 1960s, and require the same IC replacement part (component) support. for example, the U.S. Military often has a procurement problem when electronic components are needed for its older aircraft, missile and torpedo systems.

The desired life cycle of telecommunications products is similar to that of military and commercial products. Designs are as complex and large, making it difficult to replace designs as rapidly as the semiconductor building blocks demand (3 to 5 years) and driven by consumer life cycles. During the building of electronic communication systems over the past 15 years, the volume of this market alone consumed 30 percent of the world's semiconductors, economically pushing the IC OEMs to maintain the products due to their high demand and user clout.

When telecom DMS began in 1980, ICs were driving the personal computer market, and bringing mainframe computers to their knees, the majority of telephone calls were placed through mechanical relays in central office exchanges. The latest electronic switch was just being introduced by companies Northern Telecom and ITT. Those switches and their designs are over 15 years old now. Ancient when compared to today's Intel Pentium-based PC leading today's technology curve.

Some companies that made the original chips frequently no longer produce them. The need to supply the military, commercial and telecommunications industries with critical, but trailing edge technology semiconductors was recognized early on by aftermarket IC manufacturers.
Economics Dictate Obsolescence

When a new IC or component is designed, it capabilities may be indispensable for a new military system or commercial application. With leading edge technologies advancing so rapidly, literally hundreds of first and second generation ICs are becoming obsolete and classified as DMS at an increasingly alarming rate, causing procurement management to scramble for parts while facing higher customer demands. When the OEM or second source makes an economic decision to discontinue the IC, systems managers and logistics support groups face tough choices to ensure that components are always available.

The DMS problem becomes even more critical as the leading edge of technology pushed ahead faster - where commercial product lifetimes are becoming as short 18 months or less. Coupled with typically long procurement cycles of complex military systems, the problem becomes ever more unmanageable.

The DMS dilemma will only increase given the precipitous forecast downturn in U.S. and foreigh defense electronics equipment spending. Many programs, operational for 10 or more years, will be extednded well into the turn of the century, requiring replacement parts which commercial manufacturers will no longer produce.
Past DMS Alternatives

A number of yesterday's traditional DMS alternatives still exist, including IC reverse engineering, IC emulation, board-level redesign and end-of-life buys where an estimated number of ICs are stockpiled to cover a program's life. All have distinct advantages and disadvantages depending upon the application.

An excess inventory distributor/broker stockpiles varying types and quantities of ICs by literally buying out inventories and die or packaged devices from OEMs. The distributor/broker can offer low cost and quick delivery. However, while an excess inventory distributor/broker may have a part in stock today, inherent risks and no guarantees regarding quality, manufacturing date or availability caution caveat empior.
Todays' DMS Solution: Aftermarket Manufacturing

While all alternatives are worth investigating, aftermarket IC manufacturing has emerged as a viable, permanent solution to the DMS problem, costing up to 80 percent less than board-level redesign.

An aftermarket IC manufacturer purchases the marketing rights and manufacturing technology of a product line discontinued by the OEM. The aftermarket manufacturer can literally start and stop the production line, depending on demand for the product, guaranteeing a supply indefinitely. Using original IC dies, masks, process recipes and tooling, aftermarket manufacturing ensures that the over-all system will perform the same - because exact duplicates of the original product are made. Most circuit designs are tuned for a specific IC, and there is always a risk of system glitches or failures when an IC is replaced by something other than the original device - as is the case with other DMS alternatives.

Today's electronic DMS aftermarket is modeled after the successful 95-year-old automobile industry. This approach has been around since OEMs began eliminating older technology to make way for newer ICs.

While aftermarket manufacturing is literally at the railing edge of technology, its advantages in reliability, speed, economy and availability is the ideal immediate and long term procurement solution. Once considered nothing more than taking cast-off parts from OEMs, aftermarket manufacturers are now regarded as reliable, high-tech, quality suppliers of mission critical components.

With the number of benefits offered over existing DMS alternatives, IC aftermarket manufacturing has become the industry driven solution to DMS and product obsolescence realities.

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