photo above: Graham Munson, Vice President of EMEA Customer Service at Mouser Electronics. Credit: Techtime
Over the past couple of years, the electronics components market has been impacted by a variety of factors, creating a new reality characterized by growing fluctuations in demands of products and consumer requirements which have challenges for generating long-term forecasts. Graham Munson, Vice President of EMEA Customer Service at Mouser Electronics, explains to Techtime: “Over the last two years, Europe, along with Israel, has emerged as the world’s most rapidly expanding region for procuring components.
“In 2022, Mouser’s European sales increased by approximately 30%. Currently, we are observing improvements in the global supply chain, resulting in shorte lead times. This impact is most evident in Asia, where the market is focused mainly on consumer goods. We are also witnessing global inflation and higher interest rates which usually lead to less consumer spendings.
“Today the majority of components available to order from Mouser have very short lead times, except for select products such as large FPGAs or some microcontrollers. Following a boost in sales during 2021-2022, we experienced stability in Q1 2023, and forecast a slower market in Q2 and Q3 2023, as a result of the growing inventories of our costumers. We expect a renewed growth in Q4 2023, or at the latest in Q1 2024. ”
“Israel is a people’s market”
According to Munson, the current market is very dynamic and thus “more difficult to provide long-term forecasts”. Even though the Israeli market falls under Mouser’s European region and contributes 9% to the overall European sales, it possesses distinctive features: “This market has an extremely high technological specialty and is constantly growing. Israel is a people’s market, and interpersonal relations are essential for Israelis.”
Mouser does not hold local offices in Israel. Instead, local activities are conducted through MI Catalog (Mouser Israel), a local Israeli company located in Ra’anana and owned by Moshe Elbas. MI Catalog provides engineering support for Israeli costumers and take care of order processing; costums release and local deliveries to customers.
Do you feel the impact of the war in Ukraine?
Munson: “We observe considerable impacts. Energy costs have doubled, and it affects the whole business world. Our customers are currently analyzing their expenses and searching for methods to decrease them.”
What are the main developments at Mouser?
“In the last 18 months, we doubled our inventories. Our new warehouse in Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas, is currently in the advanced construction phase and is expected to be fully operational by the beginning of 2024. The new building will feature a triple-mezzanine floorplan, advanced automation, and a skybridge connecting it to the existing distribution center building.
“Upon completion of the new construction, Mouser’s 78-acre global headquarters and massive distribution center will consist of almost 1.5 million square feet to accommodate Mouser’s vast inventory of 1 million unique SKUs for products and technologies.
“Once the warehouse is complete, we will fill it with components. It is highly important for us to provide the market with new products, as customers would rather have a single point of purchase. On Mouser.com, our customers can search for more than 6.8 million products from over 1,200 manufacturer brands as well as have access to customer-focused online tools and resources to simplify and optimize the component selection and purchasing process.
“With Mouser, design engineers can get what they want, when they need it.”
Ten years ago, we at Techtime interviewed Bob Dobkin, a technological guru and the founder of Linear Technology. In this interview, Dobkin predicted that there would be a rise in demand for analog engineers. He also acknowledged that he finds it puzzling that only a handful of engineers choose to be analog designers.
“The analog market was always 15% of the electronics market, but the analog industry gets much fewer engineers, so there is a persistent shortage of analog engineers”. Dobkin, who had designed the innovative low dropout linear regulator LT3081, pointed out: “One of the earliest operational amplifiers (OP-AMP) in the industry, the LT1001, which was developed by us 30 years ago, is still in production and high demand.”
In fact, Analog Devices, which acquired Linear in 2016 for $14.8 billion, is still widely distributing LT1001 op amps and LT3081 regulators in 2023, ten years after this interview. They belong to a selected group of electronic components and integrated circuits (IC) called “Jellybeans”: Even though some are over 50 years old, they are still widely used, easily available, mass-produced, and in high demand on the market.
Everlasting Operational Amplifiers
Which components entered this hall of fame? The two most notable examples are the monolithic operational amplifiers (Op-Amp) 741 and LM101. OP-AMP, a concept characterized by very high input resistance and nearly limitless gain, was created by Bell Labs during World War II. The Op-Amp enabled the Allies to produce an anti-aircraft gun director systems with remarkable hit rates. However, these weren’t actual components; they were cumbersome small circuits. The first monolithic Op-Amp components were developed in the mid-60s but had many drawbacks.
The real revolution took place only in the second half of this decade: in 1965, Fairchild introduced the first classical amplifier, the uA709, which led National Semiconductor to introduce the LM101 in 1967. Fairchild responded by launching uA741 amplifier in 1968. The latter two are still available and are flying off the shelves. According to a cursory scan of Mouser and Digi-Key websites, Texas Instruments still manufactures the LM101 and versions of the 741 are also manufactured and sold by TI and Rohm, while non-branded bootlegs are manufactured in Asia.
The Hall of Fame
The most distinctive example of a Jellybean component that remains vital is the 555 Timer. It is based on two comparators and a digital memory circuit (Flip-flop), which creates timing solutions and oscillators using simple combinations of resistors and capacitors. The 555 was introduced in 1971 by Signetics, and according to various estimations, at least up to 2017, it sold more than 1 billion units annually. Companies including Texas Instruments, Rohm, Renesas, Analog Devices, Diodes, Onsemi, and the Chinese UMW continue mass producing it even today.
There are many components still regarded as fundamental parts in the industry, even after decades of use. For instance, RCA introduced the 2N3055 transistor in the early 1960s – Onsemi and Microchip continue to produce it today. The N2222 transistor, the BC456/7 audio amplifiers, the 78xx voltage regulators, as well as other components, are among the members of this hardball group.
It is more difficult to find Jellybeans the processors, as they are at the forefront of technological progress and are challenged by the increasing demand for processing performance and speed. Nevertheless, we can locate even here some components that refuse to disappear. such as Atmel’s (currently Microchip) AVR microcontroller family which is the basis for the Arduino platform, or new series of microcontrollers based on the old Intel’s 8051 family.
Processors from the 80s are still in production
The website of Rochester Electronics, which produces authorized versions of semiconductors that no longer produced by the original manufacturer, reveals the magnitude of this phenomenon: today, Rochester manufactures Intel’s 80186 microcontrollers introduced in 1982, and ADI’s ADSP-2101 signal processor introduced in 1989. We also found Motorola’s MC6802 CPU introduced in 1977, and a long list of logical components of the widespread 7400 family, developed by National Semiconductor in mid 1960s. These components are indeed old, but like old warhorses – they are still necessary, efficient, and get the job done.
Knowles Precision Devices announced that its DLI brand continue to expand its RF Filtering options with newly acquires Lumped Element and Ceramic Resonator Filters to go alongside its SMD high frequency microstrip filters.
DLI is also establishing a range of broadband blocking components under the ‘Xtreme Broadband Blocking Components’ heading. It includes a new line of Single Layer Capacitors – SLC for RF and microwave applications (mmWave). Existing parts, like Opti-Cap, MilliCap, MLC Broadband Blocks and RF Blocking Networks, will be included, as well as new ones. The first of which is the PX range for DC blocking applications up to 40 GHz.
The structure of SLC capacitor is based on a rectangular piece of dielectric material with metallization across the bottom and top of the ceramic. According to the research firm Future Market Insights, The single layer capacitors market is projected to grow at an expected CAGR of 10.9% during the forecast period 2021-2031.
The increase in demand of SLC capacitors is driven by their high operating voltage of up to 10 kilovolts (kV), high stability and low losses for resonant circuit application. These capacitors have better mechanical durability as compared to multilayer ceramic capacitors and are used for very high frequency applications.
Cybordfrom Tel Aviv has developed a new concept for detecting counterfeit components right on the production line, guaranteeing that every component will only be assembled after a comprehensive inspection by utilizing existing systems in the SMT placement machines (Pick and Place). In a meeting with the Founder and CTO, Dr. Eyal Weiss and the CEO Zeev Efrat, we learned that the technology is already being tested at Flex Israel’s plant in Ofakim, and another pilot is likely to be carried out soon at the Flex’s plant in Migdal Haemek, using ASM machinery.
The technology uses visual data taken from industrial SMT machines: During manufacturing process, the machines capture image of each component to ensure it is placed on the circuit in the right direction and at the correct angle. Cybord connects to the placement machine software, extracts the images as they are produced, and examines them using an Artificial Intelligence algorithm.
The algorithm identifies vital data such as the manufacturer identity, date of manufacture and more. It provides authenticity level, solderability (which also indicates the age of the component), whether attempts were made to connect and reprogram the component and whether it was disassembled from an electronic board – before being returned again to the production line.
A 3 cents worth capacitor risked NIS multi-billions project
Processing all these parameters makes it possible to identify whether the component is counterfeit. In this case, the SMT machine will discard the component or halt the production line – in accordance with the factory policy. Siemens was impressed by the idea, adding the company to its Dynamo program that supports start-ups. Cybord is also conducting a joint trial with a leading placement machine maker to control their SMT machines by Cybord.
The company was founded as the result of an unexpected malfunction, which almost shut down a strategic project that had twice received the Israel Security Award. Weiss is an Electronics Engineering PhD with 12 years of experience in an advanced national technological research group.
Several years ago he managed a very large technological development project for a system that includes sensors, algorithms, and complex electronic manufacturing. Weiss: “Although all the tests showed that the system was working properly, when field trials began, there were inexplicable glitches that we were unable to locate.”
Everything seemed fine – but the system was not working properly. After four months of searching, the problem was revealed: ceramic capacitors (MLCC) that were thought to be new, actually came from a 10-year-old component reel. “A project worth three billion shekels was almost canceled due to a simple capacitor costing just 3 cents.
“The production was done in a large and well-known Israeli company, the components were purchased from authorized suppliers, the documentation was correct – but the capacitor was a fake.” Following this experience, Weiss came to the conclusion that a way must be found to test each component before it reaches the production line.
Why should you check all the components and not settle for samples?
Weiss: “The U.S. Department of Defense security standard requires a statistical test for each set of reels by sampling one component from the beginning of the batch, one component from the center of the batch and one component from the end of the batch. This is why counterfeiters scatter fake parts randomly throughout the entire cylinder. Usually, they don’t sell a reel or cartridge made up entirely of counterfeit components. Rather, they sell a reel or cartridge that contains real components but also has counterfeit components in between.”
Fake Component in every Electronic Device
The problem of counterfeit components is complex and comes in many forms. The most obvious is actual forgery: a change in the documentation that appears on the component to present it as a different component, or the unauthorized production of copies using stolen intellectual property or reverse engineering. In many cases these are old components manufactured on expired dates or that have not passed quality testing, and their documentation is forged so they appear to be new, ‘fresh’ and qualified components.
The forgeries are often recycled components, removed from old PCB boards and returned to the market. In some cases, the forgery manifests as a change that has been made to the components – mainly burning software for the purpose of inserting back-entry doors for hackers or for the purpose of compromising performance at the critical moment. This category has been nicknamed “Silicon Time Bomb”. The CEO Zeev Efrat: “The US Department of Commerce estimates that 5%-10% of the components in the world are counterfeit and their market scope is estimated at about $70 billion a year. This means that almost every electronic device has at least one counterfeit component.”
How can real time flash photography detects counterfeit component?
Eyal Weiss: “We collect these images, compare them to a database of components and immediately know who the manufacturer is. Additional algorithms detect component phenomena that indicate whether it is original or counterfeit. For example, there is a clear correlation between the component’s age and its oxidation level. Another indicators: The contacts are made of a soft material and leave traces of its history that allow us to identify recycled components or if it had been connected to a circuit in order to inject malware.
“Pick and Place machines are usually install components a rate of 100,000 components per hour. There is a time-frame of 500-700 milliseconds between the moment the photo is being taken and the physical placement. This gives us enough time to study each component and stop the process if necessary, since we can perform the full analysis in just 10 milliseconds.”
Efrat said that as part of the collaboration with Flex, at the end of each production day Cybord receives all the photographs taken from the SMT machines, and analyses them. “To date, we have accumulated a database of more than 5 million components.” The information is used by the company to supply another product: an ‘As Made’ report of each PCB board, detailing the entire list of components on the board and who manufactured them.
“The depth of the history tracing of components (traceability) in the industry reaches only to the level of the batch, based on the assumption that the reel itself is valid. But this is not necessarily the case. Our goal is to close the tracing gap. We have also developed a testing machine that allows us to test reels outside the SMT machine. It photographs the entire tape, thereby enabling components to be tested even before they are introduced into the production line. We will provide our customers with a complete report of each reel and each PCB board.”
Flex enters the picture
The experiment taking place at Flex required special preparations and a willingness to carry out a non-standard procedure. Michael Dolkin, who serves as Senior Director of Engineering and Technology at Flex EMEA, was recruited to rhe project along with Gadi Mike, who serves as Senior Engineering Manager at Flex EMEA, and who was also responsible for the technical support for the joint project.
According to Dolkin, Flex Israel employs approximately 4,000 workers in its three production plants in Israel and serves about 150 different clients. “We are at the forefront of adopting technological solutions that provide protection for our clients and production procedures in Israel and around the world.”
“We believe that Cybord’s impressive technology constitutes a breakthrough in the field and will strengthen Flex’s capacity to ensure advanced, quality production. We will continue to implement the advanced production and testing technologies that enable Flex Israel to be a global center of excellence in manufacturing processes.”
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