Component obsolescence – what to do next?

September 02, 2019 //By Dunstan Power
obsolescence
For most engineers, obsolescence is a daunting challenge but one that frustratingly abounds in the electronics industry. A successful, reliable product may suddenly become impossible to manufacture because of a single component going to end of life (EOL) or a new design that hasn’t even gone into production is stopped thanks to one of the chips being pulled by the manufacturer.

Sometimes it is ICs, sometimes connectors or passives. Every component has a finite longevity and even the cheapest, smallest, seemingly insignificant part can jeopardise production of a whole product line.

While the majority of mainline semiconductor manufacturers are very good at labelling where their parts are on this list, here’s a roundup of the typical product cycle of a component with some of the different terms used by different suppliers: Marketing -> Preproduction / Beta / Sampling -> General Availability (GA) / Active-> Not recommended for New designs (NRD) -> End of Life (EoL) -> Obsolete

Marketing

Despite the marketing brief being posted, for some reason you just can’t get hold of it, or the data sheet. Perhaps you can get on an alpha program, but do you need this pain as you will be helping to qualify the part? Dates for GA are written in sand at this stage, so beware as if they slip, that will likely adversely affect your own schedule.

Preproduction / Beta / Sampling             

That hot new part which your engineers want to use is one that you can only get samples of, if you’re lucky, and you might even need to be on a beta program to get hold of those. Again, you will probably find some TBDs in the data sheet, or it’s watermarked with “Draft”. GA dates should be more solid now and the part is “safe” to use. Occasionally however, parts don’t go from Beta to GA, such as when a technical snag is discovered.

 

General Availability (GA) / Active

The part is in full production. The question now is just how far through GA it is. Is it relatively new or near to NRD? Looking at the dates on the data sheet will help. At this point, errata and apps notes may be available, which can be very useful.

Not recommended for new designs (NRD)

As the label says, don’t use it unless you have a very specific need or a small production run. Time to look at last time buy options. Beware of the grey market (parts of indeterminate providence).

 

End of Life (EoL)

May be rolled into the NRD stage, so now is last time buy time.

 

Obsolete

You missed the last time buy and specialist suppliers are finding pockets of them at the back of dusty warehouses around the world. They may even be genuine.


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