For many of us, the oil shortages of the 1970s are simply historical footnotes. For those who lived through it, however, the long lines and high gas prices that were commonplace created significant disruptions with effects that reverberate to the present. For example, the current proliferation of renewable energy and electric vehicles developed from a cultural demand for alternative energy that traces back to those decades-old oil shortages. Yet, these developments do not reduce the upheaval and uncertainty the shortages caused at the time.
Fortunately, energy supplies are much more stable now. However, for PCBA designers, out of stock is too often the response when sourcing components for your design. While the historical COVID-19 pandemic has impacted supply chains, mitigation efforts can help reduce the pandemic’s influence on component availability. The global electronic component shortages that engineers face when designing boards today require a design for sourceability approach to prevent supply chain disruptions and development delays.
Current Global Electronic Component Shortages
The extensive need for electronic circuit boards and products requires supply chains to be secure and adequately stocked. This is possible when manufacturers meet demand by keeping distributors and suppliers—the most common sources for procurement—in components. Unfortunately, this is not the current situation for several common and specialized components.
Components Currently Experiencing Shortages
- Multilayer Ceramic Capacitors (MLCCs)
- Aluminum capacitors
- Thin-film resistors
- Sense resistors
- High power MOSFETs
- Power Supplies
- DC/DC converters
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Industries impacted by these shortages range from cellular phone makers to automobile manufacturers. And many predict that component shortages will not end soon; therefore, manufacturers should devise a strategy to lessen or eliminate the impact of these global electronic component shortages.
How to Design for Sourceability
As discussed above, the types of components in short supply range from common passives to special function devices. To effectively avoid the consequences of out-of-stock components, designers should adopt a design for sourceability strategy. Designing for sourceability is as important to effective and reliable PCBA development as a good design checklist. Specific strategies to incorporate include the following.
Strategy 1. Avoid Exotic Components
An exotic component is, by definition, a component that is not readily available, regardless of a shortage. Typically, these components are special requests due to unique functionality, capability or other characteristics. Sometimes they are preferred for reasons other than performance. For instance, such components may have been used previously and become familiar to the designer. Designing for sourceability requires you to opt for a more readily available component that meets functional requirements.
Strategy 2. Use COTS, if possible
Availability is a prerequisite for optimizing component selection. And COTS are typically abundant and easily procured. Additionally, COTS have a record of reliability. If there is no loss in performance or other essential functionality that would preclude their utilization, COTS can be your best designing for sourceability option.
Strategy 3. Source from On-shore Suppliers
Most tried-and-true electronic components that have been around for a while are used commonly in several different board design types. As a result, multiple manufacturers probably build the same component or a similar alternative. Although a large percentage of a particular component may be built in a specific geographical region, the chances are good that it is procurable from a local, regional or national distributor. This will help mitigate any unforeseen supply chain disruptions.
Strategy 4. Buy Ahead
Another good strategy to guard against the impact of global electronic component shortages is to buy ahead. For this strategy to be most effective, it is best to include component and material estimates for development and production. There is a potential drawback for new designs, though. Employing this strategy increases initial costs. And stocking components for a board that may not be proven or accepted by developers or OEMs is risky. Therefore, you should work with your CM to optimize material and component selection for minimal waste and unnecessary expense.
Strategy 5. Have a Backup Plan
Perhaps the best plan is to be aware that you may need to alter or change your plans. Therefore, it is always good to think ahead and have a contingency plan that includes readily available substitute components if your original selection(s) becomes unavailable.
The global electronic component shortages currently hampering not only the PCBA industry but national economies as a whole will likely diminish, revealing a silver lining—that time is not on the near horizon, though. For the time being, try to institute one or more of the above strategies, which may benefit your PCBA development even beyond the current shortages.
|Tempo's Custom PCB Manufacturing Service
At Tempo Automation, we specialize in providing the fastest, high-quality PCBA prototyping and low volume manufacturing service in the industry. We can do so because we have a quick turn-around component sourcing strategy that begins validating the availability of all components using our custom software and sourcing from the industry’s most reliable suppliers. Additionally, we will work with you to implement sourceability into your design.
And to help you get started on the best path, we furnish information for your DFM checks and enable you to easily view and download DRC files. If you’re an Altium Designer or Cadence Allegro user, you can simply add these files to your PCB design software. For Mentor Pads or other design packages, we furnish DRC information in other CAD formats and Excel.
If you are ready to have your design manufactured, try our quote tool to upload your CAD and BOM files. If you would like more information on how to best avoid the effects of global electronic component shortages for your design, contact us.