More COTS seen in 98 NEMI roadmap

HERNDON, Va. - The 1998 technology roadmap of the National Electronics Manufacturing Initiative (NEMI) will contain some changes reflecting increased acceptance of commercial off- the-shelf (COTS) technology.

Aug 1st, 1998

By John Rhea

HERNDON, Va. - The 1998 technology roadmap of the National Electronics Manufacturing Initiative (NEMI) will contain some changes reflecting increased acceptance of commercial off- the-shelf (COTS) technology.

The NEMI changes will include four new technology sectors and greater penetration of COTS technology up the product/market food chain, says Jim McElroy, the organization`s executive director. The roadmap is due out in December

The four new technology sectors to join the 17 of past roadmaps are:

- supply chain management;

- environmentally conscious manufacturing;

- ceramic substrates; and

- digital and mixed-mode sensors.

Also, McElroy notes, COTS is moving up into the cost-performance and high-performance product/market sectors. There are five of these sectors in NEMI`s roadmaps. COTS has previously been accepted at the two lower sectors - low-cost and hand-held.

The fifth, and top, sector is known as harsh environment, which contains automotive as well as military components. The chairman of that sector is William Murphy, an engineering manager at Lockheed Martin Federal Systems in Owego, N.Y.

McElroy calls the growing role of COTS a "normal evolution," noting that a major trend has been the outsourcing drive of the past five years that resulted in the major systems integrators contracting out their manufacturing to a new breed of electronics manufacturing services firms. This new segment of the electronics industry is growing three times as fast as the industry itself, he estimates.

This trend also raises problems of maintaining leadership in research and technological development, he adds. This had once been the responsibility of the big OEMs, but the new segment lacks sufficient resources and is investing at a modest level of 1 to 2 percent of revenues.

NEMI, originally sponsored by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in 1991, issued its first roadmap in 1994. In 1995 NEMI switched to an industry-led group and incorporated as a non-profit organization in 1996, while retaining informal ties with DARPA and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). The latest roadmap, a long-term view of technology and market trends in the electronics industry, was produced in 1996.

Despite the original DARPA connection, the commercial sector has strongly dominated NEMI roadmaps, and there has been some concern that technologies critical to military requirements need more attention.

One of these voices has been that of Raymond Kammer, NIST director, who raised the question at the NEMI Roadmap Workshop in Chicago on June 23. "In the next iteration of the roadmap," he told the meeting, "there may be an opportunity to add defense electronics to the mix of interrelated technology areas that NEMI now surveys and factors into its planning."

Those areas of particular concern in which military needs may not be getting sufficient attention from the commercial industry, NIST officials explained, are gallium arsenide and other III-V compound semiconductors and radiation hardening.

Digital silicon is becoming increasingly dominant in RF functions formerly performed by analog compound semiconductors, for example, in cell phones.

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