Auto Electronics

A Portal to the World of Component Reliability

The Automotive Electronics Council (AEC) will host its Eleventh Annual Automotive Electronics Reliability Workshop, May 9-11 in Indianapolis. The event provides a forum in which component and system suppliers can address a variety of issues relating to the quality and reliability of electronic components used in automotive designs. The event is truly a workshop meant to focus on real-world quality issues, rather than a conference at which speakers might present papers of a more academic nature.

At this workshop, many of the speakers represent the familiar semiconductor and passive component suppliers and use their talks to address quality and reliability issues that directly concern their company's products. A panel discussion format provides a medium for dialog between component suppliers and their customers on the system side of the business. A look at the agenda from last year's workshop reveals a greater emphasis on ICs (three sessions) and discrete semiconductors (two sessions) than on passives (one session). But then, there were also some issues that cut across these component categories and these topics were given special attention. For example, last year's program included sessions on lead (Pb)-free components, system reliability and “zero defects.”

This last topic is expected to be one of the hot button issues at this year's workshop, according to Bob Knoell of Visteon, who is one of the AEC sustaining members representing the tier one suppliers. Speaking of “zero defects,” Knoell commented, “Our customers are demanding it, especially in light of some high profile supplier issues over the past few years. We in the AEC are putting the finishing touches on a zero defects guideline that will direct suppliers to which tools can be used in certain applications to approach zero defects.”

Knoell points to process average testing (PAT) per AEC Q001 and statistical bin limits (SBL) per AEC Q002 as two of the tools that will be discussed in the guideline, which is currently undergoing evaluations and revisions For anyone not immersed in quality engineering, the expression “zero defects” may have the ring of some unattainable goal. But as Mark Kelly of Delphi explains it, the term has a number of meanings.

On a basic level, “zero defects” refers to achieving zero failures throughout the life of a component however the end customer defines the expected lifetime of the component. Kelly notes that this definition will vary from one carmaker to another. On another level, “zero defects” refers to an approach to quality, or set of practices, that encompass all aspects of component engineering from design to test to fabrication to device characterization. According to Kelly, a zero defects approach attacks all of these aspects of component engineering in order to drive out any potential cause of failures.

The topic of OEM/end customer requirements may also generate lively discussion at the AEC event, according to Knoell. The Automotive Electronics Council is currently working with the SAE and ZVEI (the European automotive consortium) to develop ways to improve component qualification. Says Knoell, “We're basically trying to determine an appropriate mix of methods (for example, risk assessment, physics-of-failure, step stress, stress-to-failure, application-specific) to enhance Q100 component stress testing.”

Some of the other topics that may be addressed at the AEC workshop include 90-nm IC design, particularly as it relates to non-volatile memory. Other themes may be lead-free design, bare die qualification, and product/process change control.

Many of the workshop attendees will be engineers charged with responsibility for component and system quality. However, this event offers an opportunity for automotive system designers, particularly those new to the field, to come up to speed on the quality and reliability issues that will impact their work. And all who attend the workshop are encouraged to ask questions — even the basic ones. For more information, visit www.aecouncil.com.

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