Flip Electronics: Your Trusted Partner for EOL Semiconductor Solutions

17-07-2023 | By Robin Mitchell

Recently,  Flip Electronics  completed its acquisition of Resurgent Semiconductor, which provides obsolete semiconductor manufacturing IP acquisition and manufacturing services for end-of-life semiconductor components. In an exclusive interview, Electropages talked to Duker Dapper, the Vice President and General Manager of Resurgent, to find out the challenges that face engineers, what the acquisition means, and how engineers will benefit from this news. EOL Chip

Flip Electronics: Your Trusted Partner for EOL Semiconductor Solutions

For engineers involved in the development of common commercial products (such as laptops and smartphones), production lifecycles are rarely more than a few years, meaning that engineers almost never need to consider the end-of-life (EOL) times for components. This is especially true when considering that modern products will likely need to use the latest components offering the smallest sizes, lowest prices, and highest performance. 

However, in cases where products are expected to be manufactured or deployed over many years, engineers need to carefully consider what components they select. As component manufacturers have no obligation to provide advanced warning of parts becoming EOL, it is very common for engineers developing long-life products to find that some crucial parts become impossible to obtain.

One solution to this problem is to buy excess stock before a manufacturer ceases all manufacturing and put these parts into deep storage. However, this introduces challenges regarding storage conditions, as environmental effects will degrade electronics over time (for example, IC packages can become corroded and difficult to solder). At the same time, trying to purchase enough semiconductors to last many years not only incurs a large initial charge but is also expensive to store.

Another solution is to find replacement parts, but again, this is not always possible. In the case of application-specific devices, it will be virtually impossible to find a replacement that is not only electrically compatible but also pin-compatible. In the case of generic parts, new replacements may have electrical characteristics that don’t match the original part, and this can be problematic in applications that require extensive testing and qualifications by third parties (reworking a product design is possible, but this incurs large financial costs, product development cycles, and expensive testing).

Engineers who desperately require parts but cannot find replacements may be tempted to search the grey market. But, unlike parts from reputable suppliers, there is no guarantee of authenticity for parts purchased in grey markets, with many being outright counterfeits. Even if a grey market device is an original part, poor storage practices can make parts unusable. In some cases, these devices are sourced from old, recycled boards, putting products at serious risk of failure.

As such, components used in long-term projects introduce major risks regarding availability. Ensuring that a project has sufficient access to parts potentially at risk of being EOL’d is both expensive and logistically difficult, and trying to source parts from non-reputable sources can quickly spell disaster.

Flip Electronics was founded in 2015 under the premise of a simple realization. The industry was underserved in terms of what semiconductor manufacturers could do with excess and end-of-life inventory. 

It was clear that numerous manufacturers of semiconductor parts were unsure of what to do with excess stock, as self-storing ICs incur financial and logistical challenges. Furthermore, distributors who had stock of semiconductors becoming EOL typically return these parts to the manufacturer, compounding the manufacturer’s EOL inventory problem.  

Flip Electronics, however, chose to flip this concept around by doing the exact opposite to most broad-line distributors. Instead of returning parts and emptying shelves,  Flip Electronics , as an authorized ECIA distributor, partnered up with over 20 semiconductor manufacturers and promote the value of EOL inventory. By discussing with manufacturers and storing finished parts (i.e., packaged ICs), supplies for critical components can be guaranteed for many years after a part is no longer manufactured, ensuring that long-term products can continue to not only be manufactured but repaired.

Parts acquired by  Flip Electronics  are authorized direct from the manufacturer. They are 100% authentic, eliminating the risk of counterfeits and second-hand parts. In addition to storing EOL parts, Flip Electronics strategically acquires stock and, by working alongside its customers and manufacturers, ensures that it will be able to meet customer demand, thereby eliminating the risk of component sourcing issues. However, as Flip Electronics historically has never stored wafers, storage efficiency has been an ongoing challenge, as wafers are able to store significantly more devices per cubic meter of space compared to completed parts in packages.

Recognising the numerous challenges faced with storing packaged ICs, Flip Electronics recently acquired Resurgent Semiconductor, a company that specialises in the acquisition of EOL semiconductor manufacturing rights as well as direct purchasing of wafers. This acquisition not only provides Flip Electronics with a greater reach to customers who require EOL parts but gives  Flip Electronics  the ability to source and store wafers in bulk before they are EOL’d by the original component manufacturer. Resurgent Semiconductor is now a wholly owned subsidiary of Flip Electronics, known as Resurgent Manufacturing Services.

Compared to discrete packaged ICs, wafers offer numerous advantages over pre-packaged ICs, including storage density, longevity, and inventory flexibility, meaning wafers can be assembled into different packages or product configurations. As wafers will often have thousands of dies per piece, the storage size is significantly smaller by several orders of magnitude. The use of specialised environmentally sealed containers prevents moisture damage.

Unlike the pins of a packaged IC, which can corrode and dull over time, properly stored dies on a wafer, have a virtually unlimited lifespan. The lack of corrosion for wafers when stored in controlled environments makes wafers easy to package into finished parts, even if the wafer is well over 20 years old. This also means that IC packages made from old wafers will have brand-new pins, perfect for soldering. 

The manufacturing rights provided to Resurgent allow Resurgent to package dies, eliminating the need for costly customer product redesigns and the resulting costs and production delays. Using the Resurgent manufacturing model, customers are assured of getting products meeting the original semiconductor manufacturers’ data sheets. Resurgent manufactures products from a wide variety of functions, including logic, microprocessors, memory, analog and RF. As well multiple package categories are supported, such as through hole, surface mount and multi-chip modules.

By providing EOL parts over a long-time horizon, engineers can continue to support older hardware for extended periods of time. This is often essential in many critical applications where redesigning a circuit or system is simply out of the question due to the need for extensive testing and qualification (such as aerospace and defense systems, industrial controls, or medical devices). 

Replacement of older systems which are perfectly functional can incur large unnecessary costs as well as divert much-needed engineering time on projects that will not yield any increases in performance or cost reduction. As such, by providing engineers with EOL parts, design resources can be better utilised for projects which will provide a better return on investment, whether that is exploring new ideas, sources of revenue, or integrating new technologies. 

Of course, the acquisition by  Flip Electronics  gives Resurgent a greater reach to customers. As such, engineers and purchasing managers who have historically spent resources searching for legacy ICs now have a source of high-quality, authentic, form-fit function compatible components available over a time horizon that better matches the end product.

But, the biggest advantage to customers is that the semiconductor components supplied by Resurgent are directly from the original manufacturing sources, meaning that they have the exact same circuit behaviour. This continuation of the supply chain by Resurgent reduces the need for customer qualifications. 

Overall, the combination of Flip Electronics and Resurgent Manufacturing Services helps customers secure high-quality original semiconductor manufacturer parts for extended periods of time, eliminating the need to rely on the grey market. Resurgent and Flip can now offer a win for the semiconductor manufacturer, a win for the Flip/Resurgent business and a win for the customer.

Flip Electronics: Your Trusted Partner for EOL Semiconductor Solutions

Finding Obsolete Ics Robin Mitchell is an electronic engineer who has been involved in electronics since the age of 13. After completing a BEng at the University of Warwick, Robin moved into the field of online content creation, developing articles, news pieces, and projects aimed at professionals and makers alike. Currently, Robin runs a small electronics business, MitchElectronics, which produces educational kits and resources.