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Feb 26
The Trials and Tribulations of Selecting Non-Traditional Parts, the Rewards Make them Worthwhile

By Robin Brown, Defense Standardization Program Office and Christine Metz, LMI

Selecting a non-traditional part, such as selecting an automotive grade connector for use in an aerospace system, can be tricky business. Many alternate grade parts have shown better quality than the COTS (Commercial Off the Shelf) parts and could be used as alternate to Military grade parts for certain applications as long as the mission and application for these products can tolerate reduced short term or long tong term quality and reliability considerations.  

For example; although automotive grade electronic parts are not subjected to the rigors of qualification and testing that parts designed for aerospace applications undergo, their performance in an aerospace environment tends to be better than COTS due to the line statistical process control and other review processes used their manufacture. The issue is, most users don't consider the application driven risk tolerance that automotive grade products may have because they undergo less rigorous screening (quality, conformance, inspection, and testing) than that of a Military grade product.

Additional measures can be employed to reduce the risk of using non-traditional parts, ensuring reliability and performance in the intended application. One solution to using non-traditional parts may be conducting additional part qualification and screening and part derating to ensure the part can meet the specific intended application.  Additionally, existing standards, AEC Q specifications for automotive electronics for example, may help to predict performance and reliability.  Effective measures can also be in form of process changes, such as planning for more frequent part refresh, building in redundancy, and providing additional insulation against environmental extremes.

Whatever the approach, implementing additional measures will likely add to overall part acquisition cost and time, which must be weighed against the benefits of using a non-traditional part.  However, the benefits can be considerable. 

Beyond the potential cost savings, a non-traditional part may offer improved technology or a value-added reduction in size and weight.  In addition, a non-traditional part may be more readily available from a larger supplier base than an aerospace grade part, offering future reductions in lead times and costs. 

In the end, selecting a non-traditional part may be just the right choice. 

For More Information contact Robin Brown


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