Requirements for Aerospace Components Manufacturing

October 5, 2018 , in Blog

On January 28, 1986, countless people around the world witnessed one of the greatest tragedies in human history. On that date, after what appeared to be a flawless takeoff, the Space Shuttle Challenger broke apart and exploded. None of the seven crew members, including a graduate of my alma mater, survived. Many of us did and still do grieve as we lost some of the best among us that day. The best way to honor those who are sacrificed through tragedy is to learn from the situation, correct any mistakes and charge ahead with renewed vigor committed to overcoming the challenge.

What the National Space Aeronautics Agency (NASA) and the aerospace industry as a whole learned from this tragedy is that the ultimate cause of this fatal accident was a flawed component. Specifically, the O-rings that were unable to withstand the cold temperatures that existed at launch. Armed with this knowledge, we have acquired a new vigilance of the significance of ensuring the quality and integrity of components used in aerospace platforms. Implementing this knowledge includes confirming that original component manufacturers (OCMs) adhere to aerospace components manufacturing standards and partnering with your contract manufacturer (CM) to help ensure that your AS9100 quality management system (QMS) requirements are instituted in the PCB manufacturing stage of product development.

A space shuttle takeoff

Aerospace Components Manufacturing Standards

Although you or your organization may be an original equipment manufacturer (OEM) for the aerospace industry, you probably procure basic components for your PCBs from an OCM that is a registered supplier to the industry. To acquire this status, these suppliers are typically required to meet certain criteria. Similarly, specific aerospace components manufacturing standards must be met for specific components to be qualified for usage in aerospace platforms.

Components that may be used in aerospace systems are generally categorized as either space-qualified or non-space qualified. Space-qualified components are designed to withstand the space environment, especially the ionizing radiation. Non-space qualified components, which may be commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) components, typically don’t meet Radiation Hardness Assurance (RHA) standards and require shielding to be deployed in space, but may be used in subsystems where shielding is not required. To ensure the integrity of the electrical, electronic and electromechanical (EEE) components used in its aerospace systems, NASA utilizes a parts selection list that classifies OCMs into three product assurance classes, as summarized below.

NASA Parts Selection List (NPSL)

Product Assurance Classes

  • Level 1 – Maximum classification
    • The facility must be certified under a quality assurance program (i.e. ISO 9000)
    • Have had a Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) Land and Maritime audit or NASA survey within the previous two years
    • Parts must have been procured for a previous project under highest assurance class requirements
    • No unresolved Government-Industry Data Exchange Program (GIDEP) alerts in the past three years that have a major impact or negative impact on the quality, reliability or performance of space flight applications on Level 1 quality or reliability
    • Successfully completed qualification for procurement specification
  • Level 2 – Mid-level classification
    • The facility must be certified under a quality assurance program (i.e. ISO 9000)
    • Have had a DLA Land and Maritime audit or NASA survey within the previous two years
    • Parts must have been procured for a previous project under highest assurance class requirements
    • No unresolved GIDEP alerts exist that have a major impact on Level 2 quality or reliability
    • Successfully completed qualification for procurement specification
  • Level 3 – Minimum classification
    • Facility must be certified under a quality assurance program (i.e. ISO 9000)
    • The manufacturer has supplied and qualified parts on multiple projects in the past two years
    • A space agency procurement specification exists (e.g. NASA, Department of Defense (DoD))
    • No GIDEP alerts, low destructive physical analysis (DPA) rejection rate or significant failures related to quality and/or reliability

Supplier components are assigned to the levels above based on their history of supplying components. In order to proceed to the next highest classification, the supplier’s history must not exhibit any negative trends that fall outside of the requirements for their current classification. For example, in order to move to classification 2, a supplier at classification 3 must have supplied components for two years without exceeding the rejection and failure rates and have no GIDEP alerts.

It should be noted that with the inclusion of more commercial entities into the aerospace industry, adherence to such stringent requirements as for the NPSL may not be necessary. For example, the requirements for supplying a government space agency for two years will most likely be impractical. Additionally, there is a trend toward using more commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) components to speed development and mitigate costs. However, meeting the quality and reliability standards set forth above should ensure that most aerospace companies will accept your components.

Managing Aerospace Components Throughout PCB Development

As important as component procurement is to your product design and development process, it is only a part of ensuring that your product and components meet the aerospace industry standards. In fact, the first step in managing your aerospace components throughout the PCB development process is component selection, which should be optimized for the fabrication of your boards and PCB assembly in addition to meeting the aerospace components manufacturing standards discussed above.

Good component management also requires you to understand and make good use of the component lifecycle. Not doing so may have significant adverse effects like production delays caused by planned or unplanned component shortages. Another major consideration is the employment of methods to reduce the possibility of counterfeit components ending up on your PCBs or within your products.

At Tempo Automation, we employ quality control measures throughout the PCB manufacturing process to assist you in meeting the quality and reliability requirements for your aerospace components, PCBs and products.

Tempo‘s Custom Avionics for PCB Manufacturing Service

●   Accurate quote in less than a day.●   DFM support from Day 1 of design.●   Entire turnkey PCB manufacturing in as fast as 3 days.●   Manufacturing processes that support your AS9100 Quality Management System Requirements.●   Sources components from the most reputable suppliers in the industry to reduce procurement time and help with component security.●   Performs multiple automated inspections during PCB assembly to ensure PCB quality for prototyping.●   Design testing capabilities; including Flying Probe.

And to help you get started on the best path, we furnish information for your DFM 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 aerospace components manufacturing or managing components throughout your PCB development process, contact us.

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