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Blog: Tackling military supply chain challenges from the start

Technology News |
By Jean-Pierre Joosting


Electronic supply chain issues caused by illnesses and personnel shortages from the global COVID-19 pandemic have resulted in well publicized challenges in timely manufacturing and delivering newer electronic products. For some, those problems may translate into longer-than-expected waits for a product such as an electric vehicle (EV) or hybrid electric vehicle (HEV). But such issues can also jeopardize completion of electronic products for critical aerospace and defense (A&D) systems. Isola-Group, as a supplier of circuit materials and electronic building-block components, is well aware of the impact that shortages of such fundamental materials can have on the electronic supply chain, and has taken as many steps as possible to overcome the electronic supply chain problems created by the global pandemic.

An advanced A & D system such as an aircraft radar, electronic-warfare (EW) system, or satellite communications (satcom) system cannot be fully assembled if lacking a key component. Without an array antenna, or even the test equipment to evaluate its performance, the system will not be ready for use. Without the advanced circuit materials produced by Isola Group, analog, digital, RF/microwave, and optical circuit assemblies required in advanced A & D systems will not be started. Those materials are the foundations of an A & D system, the starting points for the printed circuit boards (PCBs) in those systems. They are at the beginning of the electronic supply chain. Problems in receiving those circuit materials lead to complications further along the supply chain in the development of components and assemblies needed for a system.

Microstrip ring resonator on Astra MT77.

Isola-Group has long been aware of the critical need for steady, predictable quantities of circuit materials throughout the electronic supply chain and has tried to take steps to avoid complications for anyone anywhere along the electronic supply chain in need of their advanced circuit materials. The global pandemic, of course, is a rare and unfortunate cause of difficulty for the electronic supply chain and much sympathy to those and their families who have been affected by it. Viral infections from the disease can be devastating to the health, if not fatal, although the global availability of vaccines has brought back hope for return to at least a “normal” lifestyle.

In the meantime, users of Isola’s circuit materials depend on those laminates and prepregs and functioning without them can be costly. Because of the place of those materials early in the electronic supply chain, Isola has long been aware of the importance of always having sufficient supplies of the materials available and established a company structure from the start to provide as much “immunity” as possible against shortages of materials that could lead to electronic supply chain shortages.

Isola Group features a multiple-site company structure with duplication of engineering and manufacturing functions and services at each site. Should one site be forced to shut down because of pandemic illnesses or other causes, backup sites are prepared to step in for as long as needed to replace the materials or services of the afflicted facility. The company refers to this as “disaster recovery,” producing its materials at multiple sites so that a backup is instantly available to fill any gaps caused by a site shutdown. The company can quickly switch sites from which a material is shipped to a customer so that the customer’s engineering and production schedules are not affected by being without a vital circuit material.

 

Isola produces its materials at multiple sites so that a backup is instantly available to fill any gaps caused by a site shutdown.

Similarly, Isola-Group does not depend upon a sole source for its raw materials. Whether it is glass weave for its dielectrics or copper for its laminates, multiple approved suppliers have been established over the years to ensure backups for material components. By collaborating closely with its suppliers, Isola-Group helps them anticipate both short- and long-term needs for Isola’s raw materials so that Isola can hold raw-material stock for its customers’ needs.

As visitors to the Isola-Group’s product section will quickly see, a wide range of circuit materials is supported, with many legacy material products supported so that long-time material specifiers such as military contractors can depend upon the availability of a known circuit material product. Circuit material products at Isola-Group are rarely obsolete so that users are not put in a situation where a critical building block in a circuit or system must be replaced at the circuit material level. Should a circuit material be made obsolete, such as from one or more of its component substances no longer being available, Isola-Group collaborates closely with users of that material to find the best replacement circuit material for all an application’s requirements.

 

About the Author

Alexander Ippich, technical director signal integrity and advanced technology in the OEM marketing group, is the product manager for the RF/microwave products of Isola and a specialist for RF applications.

Previously, he worked 20 years on the PCB manufacturing side, holding various positions in the corporate technology group, application engineering and R&D. Mr. Ippich received his ‘Diplom Engineer’ degree in Electrical Engineering from University Stuttgart, Germany.

www.isola-group.com



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