When I started out in the semiconductor business in the early 1990’s, a significant portion of the total dollars spent in the global semiconductor market were in the military / aerospace market. This sector was influential in driving new IC product developments and trends.
Today the situation is very different. The mil/aero market accounts for less than one percent of the global semiconductor spend and has essentially no influence in driving commercial semiconductor technology roadmaps. The recent increase in merger and acquisition activity in the semiconductor space will further reduce this influence.
For some years, the mil /aero players have recognized that it is important to leverage commercial technologies, but this is difficult, as large global semiconductor companies have streamlined their processes without regard to the unique requirements of the mil/aero market.
Some of the issues that arise in using commercial ICs in mil/aero applications are lot-to-lot variability, traceability, longevity of supply and even unanticipated changes in the device specification (that can occur for many reasons). These issues are routinely addressed by specialist suppliers in the mil/aero market but will remain to be an issue for commercial suppliers who are focused on higher volume and (arguably) less demanding customer requirements.
Given that it is not possible for the tail to wag the dog, it has become necessary for the mil/aero players to reframe the problem as what aspects of the commercial semiconductor component industry can be leveraged to ensure that the requirements of the mil/aero market can be met as efficiently as possible?
VORAGO Technologies create mil/aero grade devices but leverage two aspects of commercial market technology to reduce the cost and improve the security of supply. The first aspect is to use CMOS manufacturing technology. Running ICs in high volume commercial foundries improves security of supply and benefits from the high volume / high quality manufacturing expertise of the foundry. You no longer need to use a specialist fab to produce specialist products.
The other way that VORAGO leverage the commercial benefits of the global mass market semiconductor industry is to embrace commercial IP. The benefits of using the Arm Cortex-M core in the mil/aero market are as plentiful as other markets. The IP is state-of-the-art, the tool base and software base are huge and the ability to reuse these reduces overall cost and development time.
Rather than being forced to adopt commercial products with all their inherent unsuitableness, the mil/aero market can benefit from the manufacturing and IP advantages that the commercial market offers but still retain the specialist formula that has proven to be successful for many years.