Microelectronics obsolescence is largely the result of commercial
pressures: when it is no longer economical to produce a certain product, the manufacturer
stops producing it.
Depending on a single commercial source is dangerous. Committing to a single technology
is an invitation to disaster. The mission of the Department of Defense is too critical
to be subject to shifting commercial demand, but DOD must be responsive to the realities
of the marketplace.
The Only Real Solution
A call to ARMS - The Flexible Foundry
The only real solution to microelectronics obsolescence is having the capability
to produce on demand form, fit, and functionally equivalent integrated circuits.
Until now, this has been a distant goal. It has been realized through the Advanced
Reconfigurable Manufacturing for Semiconductors (ARMS) facility.
The ARMS facility is a true flexible foundry, conceived and designed by the Defense
Microelectronics Activity to produce any quantity, small or large, of microelectronic
ARMS can be “flexed” on demand to handle multiple devices on not just
one, but multiple manufacturing processes. This results in “just enough, just
in time” supportability.
The ARMS tool set has been configured in one location to support the largest number
of manufacturing processes, process steps, and devices. The supported devices can
be analog, digital, mixed signal, and memory or radio frequency.
The foundry is the product of government and industry partnerships
to transfer commercial technology to DMEA. A key part of this cooperation is an
aggressive policy of licensing intellectual property from multiple semiconductor
manufacturers like IMP, Raytheon, Peregrine, and Intersil.
By merging technology processes with device specifications, replacement components
can be generated long into the future. DMEA stores the instructions for producing
a component instead of the components themselves.
By partnering with commercial foundries to flex from one semiconductor technology
to another, DMEA has created a new paradigm of storing processes, not parts. At
last, we are beyond a mitigation strategy. No longer is it necessary to try to keep
up with the escalating pace of obsolescence.
This creates a new definition for commercial off-the-shelf technology - technology
that is permanently supportable on demand, even though it is not available from
the original commercial provider.
Managers of weapons systems can use ARMS as a single solution or as part of a comprehensive
supportability solution. A program manager can replace single devices or, if there
are a large number of components approaching obsolescence, use these replacements
as a temporary measure while redesigning and fabricating an entirely new system
or subsystem. Either way, the system stays operational.