Is ITAR Compliance Required for Your PCB Development?

A popular Canadian band that has been inducted into Rolling Stone’s Hall of Fame, Rush, has a song that discusses the importance of science in the development of the human race. A central theme of the song, Natural Science, is that things are often done without knowing their potential impact or overall effect. This is certainly true for a significant portion of technological development, although the potential effects do not pose great risks. On the other hand, the development of critical systems, such as those used by the aerospace and defense industries, demands greater awareness to ensure that strict standards are met.

Most regulatory restrictions placed on electronics and PCBs are intended to ensure their quality meets requirements for the reliable operation of the critical systems in which they are deployed. The primary motivation for a good deal of these regulations is to protect the public. However, there is also a need to limit access to certain devices and systems to prevent their use by groups or individuals that are unqualified or may have mal-intent. Domestically, this is accomplished by laws and statute. Internationally, trade regulations such as the Export Administration Regulations (EAR) and International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) are used to prevent defense devices and technology from winding up in the wrong hands.

ITAR is the most restrictive of the two and the one that you would most likely need to be aware of and in compliance with for electronics and PCB development. Therefore, let’s take a look at what the regulations cover and determine whether you need to have ITAR compliance.

What is ITAR Compliance?

In the interest of national security, the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) tightened the contractual restrictions on government contractors in 2008. Although no new regulations were added, this action did enhance the possibility that a company working with the DoD could breach their contract, resulting in sanctions or the inability to continue working with the government in defense. Subsequently, companies that supply the DoD and other defense organizations have expanded the requirement that subcontractors and others comply with international trade regulations, such as ITAR.

ITAR compliance is established by an entity registering with the US State Department’s Directorate of Defense Trade Controls. By registering, an electronics or PCB designer, developer or manufacturer asserts they will follow the rules and regulations of the ITAR as it pertains to items on the United States Munitions List (USML). The USML includes Items that you assume require restriction, such as tanks, armored vehicles and other platforms that are used for defense purposes. It also includes systems, such as commercial satellites, software, and data that are not as obvious. Therefore, care must be taken to ensure that, if necessary, you are operating within ITAR compliance.

When is ITAR Compliance Required?

Unless you are a defense contractor or regularly supply DoD contractors, you may not typically consider whether or not you need to be within ITAR compliance. Alternatively, you may rely on your client for your determination. However, due to the sanctions involved and the potential harm for failing to meet these regulatory requirements, it is best that you be aware of when ITAR compliance applies to your design and development. Asking the following questions can be helpful in making this determination.

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Is ITAR Compliance Required for My Design?


Is your client a defense contractor?
Is any part of your design classified?
Is the product you are designing intended to be used on an aerospace or military vehicle or platform?
Is your product listed on the USML?
Is your product used as support for any item listed on the USML?
Does your client contractually require you to be ITAR registered?
Is your product intended to be exported, especially to a foreign government?

Unless you can firmly answer “no” to all of the questions in the list above, you should investigate further to explicitly determine if ITAR compliance is required for your development. If so, you can learn more about the registration process here.

The management and restriction of defense systems from those without the specific need for access are one of the most serious undertakings of the DoD and other government agencies. If you design and develop PCBs and electronics that are used for these systems, then you are an important part of that restriction apparatus. As such, you should engage an ITAR registered contract manufacturer (CM) like Tempo Automation for your development.

Tempo‘s Custom PCB Manufacturing Service
  • ISO-9001, IPC-600 and IPC-610 commitment to quality certifications.
  • Accurate quote in less than 1 day.
  • Performs entire turnkey process in as fast as 3 days.
  • Emphasizes DFM to eliminate time-consuming back-and-forth design corrections.
  • Sources components from the most reputable suppliers in the industry to reduce procurement time.
  • Performs multiple automated inspections during assembly to ensure PCB quality for prototyping.
  • Provides support throughout the PCB manufacturing process, beginning with design.
  • Smooth transition from prototyping to production.

At Tempo, we are committed to producing the highest quality PCBs that meet or exceed all applicable standards and regulations. 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 user, you can simply add these files to your PCB design software.

If you are ready to have your design manufactured, try our quote tool to upload your CAD and BOM files. If you want more information on ITAR compliance and how it may pertain to your PCB design and development, contact us.

Legal Disclaimer:
The information in this article should not be considered as legal, consulting or any other professional advice and the use of any or all of the information is “at your own risk.”

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