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25 July 2013

How to meet the challenge of electronic aeronautic component obsolescence

Thales Avionics is one of the pioneers in the management of issues linked to the obsolescence of components. Pascal Lancial, in charge of component engineering and export control, answered our questions about the challenges met with regard to components used in the design of avionics products.

How would you assess the challenge of obsolescence and what are the factors to be taken into account? The market of electronic components is evolving ever more quickly. This is largely related to the miniaturization of products and enhanced levels of performance, but also to the quest for the reduced electrical consumption of components. Currently, it is estimated that memory cards generally become obsolete after three years, programmable components after five years and processors after seven years. Furthermore, the number of suppliers has reduced considerably. Consequently, there are less and less double sources for electronic components across the international arena. How would you rate the challenge for Thales? Thales and fellow aeronautical sector suppliers have to face up to the challenge of changing market constraints. Avionics products are intended to fly aboard aircraft during their entire life cycle. Thales ensures product management face no obsolescence issues for ten years and that it is not necessary to conduct expensive qualifications beyond those made during the initial certification. Thales has implemented an obsolescence management process, with dedicated teams, to master problems linked with obsolescence in a proactive way from the design phase of a product, or in a curative mode for products facing obsolescence issues. Which strategy has been deployed by Thales for the upstream treatment of obsolescence? Our upstream treatment strategy is a means of guaranteeing the durability of components used in Thales equipment over a long period of time. This strategy has been implemented by development teams from the product design phase onwards. Products are developed taking into account the lifecycle of the components used in avionics equipment. A standardization policy enables and urges engineers to make “de-risked” choices. The sustainable strategy to be adopted can differ according to the concerned area. What responsive treatment is applied to instances of obsolescence? Our suppliers must alert Thales at least six months before ceasing the production of an electronic component. As a result, end-of-life orders are placed to constitute stocks. If Thales does not receive an obsolescence alert from its suppliers and when the component can not be replaced by an equivalent unit, we rely on heavily-monitored aftermarket or brokerage solutions. The risk of counterfeit production is genuine in the aerospace world and Thales is committed to being a totally reliable supplier to its customers. Photos credit: copyright Thales