What is component obsolescence?

An electronic component is said to be obsolete if it is no longer available for purchase with the specified orderable part number. Sometimes the components become obsolete by replacement of their new versions in the form, fit, function, quality, or reliability. But the suggested replacements (new versions) may not fit in our existing circuit without change.

In case of company acquisitions, sometimes the components become obsolete from the current manufacturer, but are available from other manufacturers.

What is the effect of component obsolescence?

  • Many products and systems are designed to last longer than just a few years. Items like automobiles, airplanes and military weapons often have life expectancies of five to 30 years; they are nearly guaranteed to outlive most of their internal components. Unfortunately, parts obsolescence can severely impact the supportability and life cycle costs of these products and systems.
  • Having a component or the materials it’s made from go obsolete can have a dramatic impact on the long-term viability of a product life cycle.
  • The component and its materials are critical in product design and development for the defense and aerospace industries where communications, aircraft, navigation, guidance, and radar systems require long-term reliability and upgradability.
  • It’s a fact that it can cost millions of dollars to replace, redesign, or re-qualify a product simply because a $20 part went obsolete.

What are the reasons for the obsolescence of electronic components?

  • Current electronics development and sales are driven by consumer applications, such as cell phones, computers and digital gadgets. These products are notorious for their short product life cycles, the result of increasing consumer demand for faster, cheaper and smarter technology. As a result, the component manufacturers are frequently upgrading their components to meet the applications of fast changing consumer electronics world.
  • Migration to RoHS. Due to RoHS directive, the rate of component obsolescence has been multiplied, as the component manufacturers stopped the production of non-RoHS components.
  • Technology upgrades. Due to advancement in electronics technology, the component manufacturers releasing millions of new technology components into the market every year. And these new components push the old components out.
  • Unavailability of raw materials. Sometimes the component manufacturers discontinue their components due to shortage in raw materials.
  • Decline in sales. The well known business strategy of component manufacturers is they produce the components until they are in safe profit levels. Microelectronics obsolescence is most often the result of basic economics: When it is no longer economical to produce a certain product, the semiconductor manufacturer stops producing it.
  • The component manufacturers to make huge money. It is a rare case, but it often happens in electronics industry. In case the manufacturers find their component is unique no alternates available for the end customers, they may make these components obsolete and earn huge money through last time buy. And it is possible that they may release similar component with new version and part number after some time, to continue their production line.

Read more at Reactive and Proactive Obsolescence Management for Long Life Electronics (Aerospace/ Avionics/ Defense/ Automotive/ Industrial/ Medical).