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Question About Firmware Releases and Part Numbers

Discussion in 'Embedded' started by Mr. C, Apr 7, 2005.

  1. Mr. C

    Mr. C Guest

    I was wondering how people handle a firmware change in the
    manufacturing process. One thing we are considering is issuing a
    new part number for every firmware release. The number may be a "Rev
    B" or some extension of a base part number, but it would be unique for
    each firmware release. Then, when a unit is built, it must use a
    certain "part number" that is really a firmware release, probably in
    the form of some FLASH programming device, or at least a file that
    contains the memory image for a micro-controller.

    A problem comes into play if there are already manufactured units
    ready to ship when a new firmware release is issued. I would think
    the micro-controller, or EPROMs, or whatever form the firmware is
    released in would have a sticker on it with maybe the part number? Or
    should the sticker have the firmware revision number, or both?

    We also thought of forgetting about the part number scheme and just
    having some sort of list or database with the "correct" firmware
    release listed. The advantage there would be special runs of an older
    firmware release (something we have to do at times) could easily be
    made without worrying about using a part number that was obsoleted by
    a newer one.

    I know the best way can cepend on the manufacturing/part number/ECO
    system in use. But I am sure others have been down this road before
    and may have some good suggestions. I am all ears and thankful for
    those that may wish to reply.

    Mr. C, Apr 7, 2005
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  2. Mr. C

    larwe Guest

    We consider a programmed microcontroller or EEPROM to be a subassembly
    with its own bill of materials. When the firmware is revised, the part
    number gets an incrementing suffix. The downside of this method is that
    it's legal for the blank microcontroller to change, too. So it might
    not be possible to upgrade from version xxxxx1 to xxxxx2 without
    desoldering the part. This doesn't affect us much because we mostly use
    OTP devices and even when they are flash devices, we don't allow
    field-upgrades (it's RTB or no upgrade).
    Our stickers have the internal part number only. Users and factory
    workers don't normally care about the internal firmware rev#, they
    simply need to be told "if the part number is xxxxxx2 or higher, it's
    got ABC feature".

    Masked parts are laser-marked with the internal part number.
    larwe, Apr 7, 2005
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  3. If you consider that the firmware is just another component, mentioned on
    the bill of materials then you should not have much problem tracking what
    is what.

    I identify things by main functionality. If the base functions change then
    that is a different part number (and a different model dash number for the
    final product too). For upgrades that maintain the same base functionality
    the part number is the same but the revision number changes. Each item that
    has a part number has a proper drawing in the general assembly set that
    details the part (and yes, if it is an EPROM, the part is drawn with one
    view showing the labelling details).

    Keeping track of the changes is basic configuration management.

    Paul E. Bennett ....................<email://>
    Forth based HIDECS Consultancy .....<http://www.amleth.demon.co.uk/>
    Mob: +44 (0)7811-639972
    Tel: +44 (0)1235-811095
    Going Forth Safely ....EBA. http://www.electric-boat-association.org.uk/
    Paul E. Bennett, Apr 7, 2005
  4. Mr. C

    Lanarcam Guest

    This depends on what you call firmware.
    We do the same as you do for parts that can be considered
    hardware-like i.e. small MCUs that are replacements for hardware.
    But for the main functionality we cannot change the revision number
    on labels each time the customer requests a change.
    We have a hierarchical database, the top item is the equipment, the
    hardware and software are sub items each with their part/rev number.
    A document is delivered to the customer and identifies all part/rev
    numbers and reasons for change. The manufacturing process is
    not affected by main software changes.
    Lanarcam, Apr 8, 2005
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