FORCE, A BRIEF HISTORY
BY DIRECTOR OF ENGINEERING, MICHAEL SALMON
Force Technologies became a possibility when, at the ripe old age of 23, I became an Electronics Development engineer.
After Technical College (as it was then) I did a 5-year apprenticeship at GEC where I cut my teeth on small – and I mean small – Nimrod and Concorde applications and development projects. After spending a number of years at GEC and other electronic companies, it became clear that an engineering vocation wasn’t going to give me the financial rewards I desired. This growing realisation, coupled with the fact that the guys selling me the components and systems that I used on a daily basis were earning more than me, were the reasons I jumped ship and joined Texas Instruments as a Field Sales Engineer.
Texas Instruments not only showed me who the product users were but also gave me an introduction to the art of selling IC’s (and the art of the expense account lunch – but that’s another story). After building up a good loyal customer base, I soon found myself lured into the lucrative world of brokering.
These were the pre-Google days when knowledge and experience came from within and by that time, I had plenty of both along with some extremely good contacts in the world of semiconductors.
Not long after that, the Fax machine appeared as a cutting-edge replacement for the Telex. A stint with a few of these brokers and a spell with the biggest one of all, Abacus, gave me enough knowledge and experience to finally start my own company, with little-known OEM’s called Atmel and Micron Technology.
Force launched in 1986 with two unknown franchises that were growing day by day, until they did what all other US manufacturers did and that was to set up a European operation. Overnight we lost our major franchises and 75% of our business and it wasn’t long before the Global distributors began to squeeze us out with their ‘all things to all men’ approach.
Lucky for us, one of our major defence customers at that time had a supply problem. “How can we continue to manufacture our engine management systems when two of our major semiconductor devices have been made obsolete with no replacement available?” We had the solution.
We’d been supplying these standard products for 5 years so had both the knowledge and the capability to re-create them from alternative i.e. using the same military assembly and test as the original.
Our first FT device (87C256 UVEPROM) was born in April 1995 and marked the start of a new path for Force Technologies in Obsolescence Alternative Solutions – a path no one had trodden.
By having direct routes to major OEM’s for die and by using clever custom technology we were able to undertake many obsolete replacements. We were also able to manufacture IC’s and test them to the parametrics and environmentals of the original along with the capabilities of the correct packaging. Parts were also built using all the gained QA approvals needed for our customers to approve.
Force had now become a true OEM but after 5 years of producing 7000+ manufactured and screened parts (FT branded as cross references to obsolete parts) and over 10 years of “FT” manufacturing, the “broker” label still stuck.
During the last 10 years, with increasing blue chip customer approvals and the addition of AS9100 Rev C/BS EN9100:2009 and ISO 9001:2008, we are, at last, recognised for what we truly are – an established manufacturer and test facilitator for solutions to the problem of replacements for obsolescence, and producers of devices from initial design to turnkey solutions when no other supply options are available.
What will the future hold? I see the problems of counterfeiting, cloning, and obsolescence forever being a thorn in the side. Hopefully, we can continue to support and provide the necessary hand holding in the short and long term. Products once thought cutting edge will reach the obsolete pile sooner than expected. Replacements will require greater in-depth analysis as we see devices become more complicated, and many designs will require building blocks of IP cores and completely new designs in silicon to replace the smaller obsoleted devices.
With other technologies coming into play like Advanced Die Reclamation Technique (an accepted technology for many customers who have little or no choice), removing and reusing die with no effect on quality or reliability is a good option.
I honestly believe that the industry has moved from service to efficiency – which is no bad thing – and although it’s been difficult and nigh on impossible at times, it’s always been rewarding.
Welcome to the truly Responsive Obsolescence Solution Provider that is Force Technologies Limited.
Written by Mike Salmon, Director of Engineering, Force Technologies