Microelectronics for the Defense Industry

Zachariah Peterson
|  Created: March 19, 2021
Sourcing Microelectronics for Military Systems

Defense contractors, military procurement officers, and contract manufacturers face a number of obstacles when designing and manufacturing PCBs for use in defense systems. Defense microelectronics and manufactured PCBs cannot be procured from just any company, and these components must meet rigorous standards that ensure quality and reliability. These components must also be traceable back to a compliant component manufacturer. Only Altium Designer gives you full control over your supply chain when preparing for production.


A unified PCB design package with the best data and supply chain management tools in a single interface.

Looking throughout the electronics market, there are plenty of components to choose from when planning your next electronic component or system. Whether you are planning a system for use in manufacturing, robotics, computer systems, or any number of other fields, you’ll have to carefully choose the components that will appear in your PCB and from where they will be sourced.

If you work as a defense contractor, for the military, or at a national lab, you are severely limited in your choices for available components. It’s not that components that appear in military-grade systems are unique. Instead, there are a number of sourcing and compliance issues that must be considered. You’ll need PCB design and data management software that helps you navigate a complicated legal landscape.

Sourcing Microelectronics for Military Systems

Microelectronic components are critical components for controlling, powering, and processing data in defense systems. From heads-up displays to communications, targeting, and guidance systems, you’ll need to include several microelectronic components in any advanced military system. You can’t just source them from anywhere; prospective distributors must comply with a number of regulations before you can use them as sources for your components.

First and foremost, any component distributor wishing to supply microelectronics for use in military systems must be registered in SAM, the primary federal contractor information system. The parts they source cannot just be any run-of-the-mill electronic components. Their origin must be traceable and comply with rigorous quality and reliability standards. Given these stringent sourcing requirements, how can hardware designers for military systems ensure that they remain in compliance as they design and plan for production?

Supply Chain Visibility Within Your Design Software

You can remain confident that your microelectronics and your board are fully compliant when your PCB design software integrates supply chain visibility tools into your schematic, layout, and deliverable generation tools. You can immediately identify soon-to-be obsolete and non-compliant components directly within your design software, ensuring you address any potential legal liabilities.

Screenshot of the supply chain capabilities in Altium Designer

Altium Designer gives you real-time control over your supply chain

Integrating Supply Chain and Design Tools for Defense Microelectronics Systems

Even designers are not immune to supply chain challenges. Remaining in compliance requires using tools that give you full supply chain visibility for every component in your design. Most design platforms force you to use a third-party database tool that does not integrate into your design software. Instead, you need to use a design platform that unifies your design and management tools into a single platform.

Building Documentation Within Your Design Software

Instead of switching between your design software and word processing software to build compliant documentation, your design software should include tools for automatically generating documentation in any format. This is much easier when you use a design platform that integrates your component, supply chain, data, and documentation management tools in a single platform.

Screenshot of the ActiveBOM extension in Altium Designer

The ActiveBOM extension in Altium Designer

Integrated Design and Supply Chain Visibility in Altium Designer

Keeping your devices compliant with the right microelectronics takes excellent design tools and supply chain tools. All of this is much easier when your supply chain and production planning tool are integrated into your design software. Only Altium Designer integrates these critical tools within a single design environment. All the design and management features in Altium Design are built on a rules-driven design engine, providing a consistent data format and workflow.

You won’t have to resort to working with third-party tools to ensure your designs only contain compliant components. Placing these tools in a single interface improves your productivity, helps you control costs, and allows you to specify tolerances on your boards in order to comply with defense microelectronics and manufacturing standards.

Working with Altium Designer Eases Compliance Pains

Sourcing microelectronics components, planning for production, and generating compliant documentation are easy when these tools are unified into a single design platform. You won’t have to cobble together multiple programs into a disordered workflow. Instead, you can access everything you need within a unified design environment.

Any engineer or defense systems designer working on a military contract will see huge productivity gains when they work within an environment that integrates their design tools in a single interface. Altium Designer is the only PCB design platform for defense microelectronics systems that places component critical layout, management, and production tools in a single environment.

The integrated design interface in Altium Designer is like nothing else on the market. Thankfully, Altium provides you with the resources you need to get started. From the AltiumLive forum to design tutorials, webinars and podcasts with industry experts, and an extensive knowledge base, you’ll have access to the resources you need to be successful.

As a designer, sourcing components for defense systems is much easier when you work with design software that gives you complete visibility of your sourcing options, helps you manage obsolescence, and prepare for manufacturing. When you use Altium Designer, these critical tools for compliance integrate directly with your design tools within a single design environment. It’s time to invest in the best design and management package on the market: it’s time for Altium Designer.

About Author

About Author

Zachariah Peterson has an extensive technical background in academia and industry. He currently provides research, design, and marketing services to companies in the electronics industry. Prior to working in the PCB industry, he taught at Portland State University and conducted research on random laser theory, materials, and stability. His background in scientific research spans topics in nanoparticle lasers, electronic and optoelectronic semiconductor devices, environmental sensors, and stochastics. His work has been published in over a dozen peer-reviewed journals and conference proceedings, and he has written 1000+ technical blogs on PCB design for a number of companies. He is a member of IEEE Photonics Society, IEEE Electronics Packaging Society, American Physical Society, and the Printed Circuit Engineering Association (PCEA), and he previously served on the INCITS Quantum Computing Technical Advisory Committee.

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