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The reality of a brittle supply chain could mean harsh consequences for failure to deliver.

A field programmable gate array (FPGA) is an integrated circuit configurable by customers in the field, making such devices desirable for space and defense applications. A fortified version, known as a Radiation Hardened (RadHard) FPGA, can withstand attacks from electromagnetic and particle radiation in outer space.

Columns, rather than solder balls, are a critical subcomponent in the final assembly of FPGA packages. A sudden shortage of mission-critical FPGA devices could result in warfighters not flying and rockets not launching. This is not an exaggeration. But how could this be? Quite simply, makers of ruggedized FPGA devices depend on a single subcontractor to provide services to attach copper-wrapped solder columns.

Past production shortages in the semiconductor industry have been short-lived because multiple vendors have been able to quickly step in to fill voids in the supply chain. Today, only a single subcontractor is designated on the Qualified Manufacturer List (QML-38535) as a provider of copper-wrapped solder column attachment services for the entire FPGA industry. Any supply chain dependent on a single supplier is inherently vulnerable. Action is needed to develop a solution to resolve this vulnerability.

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