Just because you have the TDP doesn’t mean you can build the board

Just because you have the TDP doesn’t mean you can build the board

Recently, one of the ways in which we’ve seen end-use customers try to combat electronics obsolescence is by getting the technical data (TDP) of the required  circuit board from the OEM. For the last few years, there has been a growing conviction that having the TDP is the answer to the challenge of assuring support for legacy designs. However, as we’ve seen time and again, having the technical data is not the solution they had hoped it would be and most times end users end up with a lot of data that they realize too late does not actually help them secure their lifecycle requirements. 

Technical data is important. It provides some of the necessary information to build the board: what components go on it, where those components are sourced, and other relevant details. If it’s been maintained and kept up-to-date, the TDP can offer a blueprint for how to rebuild and test the circuit board–if it’s up to date, and if it is complete. 

Although it is true the TDP is a valuable resource for rebuilding the legacy equipment manufacturing capability of a circuit board, it’s just that–a resource, not the sum total of a solution. Far from it.  

Where the technical data falls short for legacy circuit boards

The Technical Data

In order to use technical data for a board, you have to be able to understand and validate it first, and in order to do that you will need an expert. You will need someone who knows how to work with the TDP, piecing together what is useful and what isn’t to support legacy manufacturing, testing, and supply chain management. Typically,  legacy technical data is not only outdated, but it also is riddled with gaps, missing files, and other difficulties. You also have to be able to read it in the first place, often translating the old data into new formats, whether that’s an outdated electronic format or just digitizing paper files or even microfiche. This requires experts with knowledge of not just old equipment and hardware but old manufacturing methodologies as well. 

The Supply Chain

One of the major difficulties that the TDP does not address is the supply chain for legacy circuit boards. As the product gets older, the supply chain always breaks down. Components are discontinued and new products take their place–and the TDP doesn’t have the solution of where to source those components, or how to replace them. Without the actual engineering capabilities and supply chain expertise to actually close these gaps, the technical data is basically useless. 

The Test Capability

Then there’s an often overlooked part of legacy manufacturing that the technical data is often missing–testing the circuit card to ensure that it works. Many times, the test engineering hardware and software is decades old, and sometimes nonexistent if the OEM has long since moved on from the product. However, to ensure that the board works as intended, it needs to be tested to OEM specifications, which means that the test capability has to be rebuilt as well. That can be pulling old testing equipment into modern-day use, or re-engineering it entirely–a massive undertaking when combined with also filling the gaps in the supply chain and the technical data itself. 

Technical Data is a Resource–Not a Solution

Having the technical data is often vital for building a sustainable source of supply for an obsolete circuit board, but without a trained team and a methodical, organized approach to audit the TDP, translate it into a modern format, solve any standing supply chain gaps, and ensure the boards are tested to OEM specifications, that data ends up being useless. 

If you need a new source of supply for an embedded system, you don’t need the technical data–you need a knowledgeable and trusted partner who can not only get that data but use it to sustain your product. That’s what GDCA is all about. We have decades of experience working specifically with legacy embedded systems, for sourcing the necessary data, components, and expertise to rebuild not just a circuit board for our customers, but a fully sustainable source of product. 

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As the pioneer in COTS obsolescence management, GDCA is authorized by our OEM partners to continue to manufacture and repair the embedded legacy products critical to long-lasting applications. Using OEM-authorized IP and original specifications, GDCA provides repair, long-term customer support, manufacturing, and sustainment for over three thousand End-of-Life, COTS, and custom-embedded computer boards and systems.

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