How to Manage Electronics Obsolescence
Design, manufacturing, testing, and installation are all the first steps in the life cycle of a printed circuit board (PCB). However, once these steps have been completed, that does not mean you can simply move on and forget all about the PCB in your electronic device.
The next and most important stage in a PCB’s life involves obsolescence management, as it is an essential process for ensuring that you get the most out of your printed circuit board.
What is electronics obsolescence, and what causes it?
As a PCB begins aging, various components that are part of the board may no longer be available for purchase as replacements since constant developments in the world of electronics limit the amount of time that certain components are commercially available.
Obsolescence occurs when one of your PCB’s components has passed the point of repair or replacement. When this happens, it could potentially render the entire PCB dysfunctional.
Although some components tend to become obsolete faster than others, all components become obsolete eventually. Thus, obsolescence is inevitable in all electronics.
Fortunately, there are some techniques that you can use to manage obsolescence in your products so that you may continue to use them for a longer time without issues.
How to Solve Electronics Obsolescence
When it comes to managing electronics obsolescence, there are generally two main approaches: design obsolescence techniques and production engineering-based obsolescence techniques.
In some cases, it may be most advantageous to employ techniques from both of these approaches to minimize your chances of dealing with obsolescence.
Design Obsolescence Techniques
Designing electronic equipment to minimize the effects of any likely obsolescence is possible.
Although this is not an easy thing to do, there are a few strategies that you can employ during the design stage of various components to manage obsolescence proactively.
1. Second source
Before deciding to use a particular component, it is always wise to ensure that there is at least one other secondary source where the component can be obtained.
This is a standard method of managing obsolescence because if one supplier stops production or experiences production difficulties, then the other supplier can be used. The more suppliers that are carrying a certain component, the better.
2. Consider near-second source components
Another obsolescence-management tactic involves choosing to use components that have viable alternatives with nearly identical designs.
That way, if exact replacements are ever not available, there may still be other potentially available replacements to choose from.
3. Use industry-standard components
It is generally wise to stay away from more specialized components since they tend to be used by a smaller number of products and, thus, are produced in lower volumes.
This usually means that they also have a shorter production life. On the other hand, industry-standard components are typically used in a wider number of products and are consequently produced in higher volumes and with longer production life.
4. Use automotive components
When a component tends to be used in high volume in certain industry sectors, it usually has a longer production life. This is often the case with many products that are used in various automotive applications.
Automotive manufacturers generally insist that certain components remain in production for long periods to support both new car production and later maintenance.
Thus, if it is possible to use automotive components, you may be able to delay obsolescence.
Production Engineering-Based Obsolescence Techniques
It is also possible to apply obsolescence-management techniques during the production stage of an item.
This responsibility generally falls on the engineering department. Engineers have numerous options to limit the chances of obsolescence occurring.
1. Last time buy
Manufacturers typically provide notice when a component is about to become obsolete, and during this time, it may be possible for a last-time buy to be done.
This approach requires that you can accurately predict your product’s overall usage expectancy.
That way, you can invest significantly in replacement components all at once, essentially stocking up on them before it becomes impossible. Unfortunately, this option is not always advantageous.
2. Locate surplus stock
Even after a product has become obsolete, it may be possible to locate some surplus stock of that product.
If you are looking to purchase surplus stock from a supplier, it is essential that you ensure the product is genuine and is from a traceable source. That way, you can avoid the frustration of dealing with counterfeit products.
3. Board redesign
In cases where there may be no alternative options available, the only possible way to manage obsolescence may be to redesign the board, even if that only means redesigning a small area of the original circuit. In doing so, you can enable it for other, newer parts to be used.
If you use this approach, it is crucial that you take measures to ensure the board’s performance is not affected by the design changes.
If a board’s performance remains unchanged even after being redesigned, then it will be able to interface with the other elements of the system without creating problems.
How Circuits Central Can Help Solve Your Electronics Obsolescence Problems
If you are dealing with electronics obsolescence problems related to components in your PCB, Circuits Central will gladly help you come up with a solution.
We have plenty of experience in electronics manufacturing and PCB assembly, so we are well aware of the issues that component obsolescence can cause.
Fortunately, our team of skilled experts can guide you with regard to the best approach when it comes to managing obsolescence.
We offer top-of-the-line electronics design and engineering services. If you choose Circuits Central for help with designing a high-performing PCB layout, you can be certain that our expert engineers will be able to deliver exactly what you are looking for.
We will discuss your specific needs throughout the process, so if you would like us to employ design obsolescence techniques, we will make it our priority to do so.
We also offer upgrade and ECO services as a production phase or post-production process.
In fact, we have industry-leading speedy turnaround times when it comes to Engineering Change Orders, repairs, upgrades, and refurbishing. To complement these services, we offer in-house X-ray inspection and BGA reballing and rework services.