Today’s industrial factory is a finely tuned-collection of equipment. Each piece is doing its part to run efficiently and achieve maximum output, says Edel Griffith, Industrial ASIC marketing manager, Dialog Semiconductor. But like any other well-built system, factory equipment eventually exceeds its lifetime.
Historically, the average life of an integrated circuit ranges anywhere from three to 10 years, with top performing equipment extending upwards of two decades. But when equipment fails, downtime can occur, resulting in a direct effect on the amount of product manufactured and ultimately, the company’s bottom line.
Planned downtime, while not ideal, is sometimes necessary for the servicing of machines, but generally can be controlled so the impact is minimised. Unplanned downtime, however, is very costly and can quickly run from thousands to millions of dollars.
In an attempt to overcome this challenge, industrial equipment manufacturers are requesting longevity with regard to the components used in their systems – they want to know that the products they use will be available to support these long lifetimes.
Longevity of supply
Depending on the product and how often it is used, there is a discrepancy between what a factory requires and what suppliers can support. Add in the discontinuance or end of life of an electronic component, and this can have drastic consequences for a business’ industrial equipment, and their control over the factory automation. In the event a product has been discontinued, some manufacturers rely on performing a pin for pin replacement, but this often results in downtime. And if the replacement product is not pin for pin or even functionally equivalent, this becomes even more of a headache and has a greater impact on a business’ bottom line.
To ensure they have systems that can withstand the test of time, more and more equipment manufacturers are looking to ASICs (Application-Specific Integrated Circuits) for better security over supply. With a custom chip, there are many ways that the user can gain better control. An ASIC makes it possible to integrate the functionality from hundreds, or even thousands of discrete chips into one single chip. This means a much smaller bill of materials to manage and greater control over the supply chain.
A second advantage of an Industrial ASIC is that it can be developed exclusively for the customer. Thus, the ASIC meets all the technical requirements of the end application, but also elements like redundancy and design for reliability can be considered as part of the design process to help extend the lifetime of the chip. The key benefit of a custom chip, however, centres around the fact that because the customer essentially owns the part, they determine the lifetime. Therefore, if they need to make a board replacement in an industrial product in 15 years’ time, there is no issue with regard to sourcing more of the custom chip.
At Dialog, we have been developing industrial ASICs for customers for over 20 years and continue to support our customers with their demand for long lifetime supply, to make sure that their end customers’ factories stay fully functioning with no unplanned downtime.
The author is Edel Griffith, industrial ASIC marketing manager, Dialog Semiconductor.