Left out in the cold by high temperature electronics

By Judith Porter, Neopartners Ltd.

I could hardly contain my excitement when the postman dropped a promising looking package through the letter box – the latest must have iPad or a belated Christmas present perhaps…ah no, it was a bag full of capacitors! I was officially out of my depth and as those capacitors lay on my dining room table with as much glamour as a wet kipper, I realised my quest for high temperature components and the construct of a database to house them had begun on a cold January day.

Now how hard could this be? Although I had no electronics background as such I felt (perhaps naively) confident that I would find these black diamonds of the electronics industry.

It turns out that I greatly underestimated this task, high temperature components that exceed an operating temperature of 150 °C is such a specialised market that after the long lost hours of a day spent searching I am lucky to find one component that is eligible for entry onto the high temperature database. Hours and hours of searching the likes of Google and Yahoo to the more specialised search engines of GlobalSpec, The Sandia Government Labs and NASA and I’m still left out in the cold. Oh I’ve been trying to think out of the box alright and I think NASA is right up there with them! Turns out the usual response to such a request is ‘you want what? A component that operates above 150°C? …..Are you insane?’  – Oh yes, I’m getting there!

AVX, Cissoid, Novacap, Holystone and your little gems like TRS Technologies and of course the flames on the icebergs, Texas Instruments & Micropac, through to Honeywell, are all names that I am now well versed in and who have rightly earned their place on the database.

Yet I find myself disappointed, labouring under the misapprehension that there would be a whole lot more out there. Unless I’m missing something, unless this is a cruel initiation for the inexperienced and I have yet to discover the password that gives access to oracle of the electronics industry who will take my hand and show me the light! Which leads me to a problem which I have encountered many times on this journey, whilst the manufacturers themselves are very helpful; the suppliers aren’t quite so forthcoming.

Even as a rookie of the electronics industry I have quickly realised with a market so specialised that the parts I seek are few and far between. I can’t imagine for one minute that these suppliers use them in a game of tiddly winks whilst on their tea break, so why do people insist that they cannot deal with me until I provide them with technically specific information (did i mention I wasn’t an engineer!)? So as my frustration grows so does my disappointment, after all I am a customer and times are challenging, we all need a little help.

So naturally the concluding question is why is it so hard to find high temperature electronic components, surely high temperature electronics is a growing market, as industries seek to increasingly enhance monitoring and control using intelligent technologies with the emphasis on  aircraft engines, downhole drilling and well completions, the industry doesn’t appear to be matching the demands of the users.

As yet I don’t have the answer but I will continue on this long hard road to perdition….. where it’s oh so hot and don’t all your components work so well in such extreme temperatures…. can you give me the name of any good suppliers?!

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