By Becky Hurley | Jun 26, 2016
Colorado Springs (Global HQ: Wimborne Minster, England, U.K.)
Employees: Cobham Semiconductor Solutions -- 377; Cobham RAD -- 30; worldwide total -- more than 12,000
Publicly traded (London Stock Exchange: COB)
Acquired from Aeroflex: 2014 (Cobham founded in 1934)
Equipped with the assembly, environmental and testing prowess to meet an industry's exacting needs, Cobham Semiconductor Solutions' Colorado Springs facility specializes in standard product integrated circuits and custom ASICS (application specific integrated circuits) for defense, aerospace, medical, commercial, and industrial applications. Another Cobham facility in Colorado Springs is Cobham RAD, a radiation-testing facility.
The company's electronic components include memories and microprocessors as well as complex FPGAs (field-programmable integrated circuits that can be configured after manufacturing), and logic and clocks used to power wide-ranging semiconductor applications. Cobham's latest products are memory chips used in a European-Russian unmanned spacecraft sent to study the atmosphere of Mars in spring 2016.
A market leader in air-to-air refueling and military intercom systems, British aerospace and defense supplier Cobham purchased the former Aeroflex chip and circuit card manufacturing operation in 2014. The strategic move was designed to help the international giant build a larger commercial customer base in an era of tighter U.S. and European defense spending.
Serving both as an EMS manufacturing supplier and an OEM partner, the company recently invested millions of dollars on an automated circuit card assembly line at its Colorado plant. In addition, products for low- to medium-volume users like Boeing are assembled on-site by skilled technicians and are fully tested for electronic or environmental issues.
”[Customers] send in their own inspectors on a regular basis," says Director of Operations Mark Whiteside, noting that a number of companies consider Cobham an indispensable OEM partner. In addition to circuit card assembly, the company's on-site workforce provides testing, packaging, and screening of electronic components as well as design and sales and marketing.
"We're now able to produce the highest quality outputs, whether basic or highly complex," Whiteside explains during a tour of the company's semiconductor facility. Awarded Defense Logistics Agency certification for Class Y flip chip assembly, for example, Cobham's investment allows it to provide rigorously tested, high-quality electronic components vital to the defense and aerospace industries.
He points out that top-level certification also enables customers to save money and avoid having to duplicate expensive qualification costs. It is also a key selling point for today's commercial space customers like NASA, the European Space Agency SA and Lockheed Martin -- all of which that rely to some degree on federal funding.
Global suppliers provide raw materials such as epoxy, solder, and bond wire. Many components used in assembly are very specific due to the highly reliable nature of the company's end products.
Challenges: "Unpredictable domestic and international government and defense budgets are a fact of life," Whiteside notes. "The 2014 acquisition of Aeroflex has enabled Cobham to meet the needs of both high-volume and low- to medium-volume commercial, defense, and aerospace markets."
Opportunities: "There's growing opportunity in the commercial and private aerospace arena," says Whiteside. "As an OEM partner with the highest level DoD certifications, we are well-equipped to grow with a wide array of customers."
Needs: "Like many in the semiconductor and chip manufacturing industry, Cobham is always looking for skilled employees with a solid work ethic," says Whiteside. "Thirty-eight percent of our employees are Electrical and Mechanical engineers and another 44 percent work in production and quality testing. We are always interested in finding top talent."