M0RZF Amateur Radio Station
Updated 20220530
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My email - rob@@@m0rzf.co.uk (you know hat to do with the at’s)

The semiconductor (chip) shortage - an engineer’s view
There are worldwide shortages of many things now, but none more damaging than undersupply of electronic parts and especially microcontrollers.

The access media and company bosses who listen to it are not seeing reality. The shortage of semiconductors will never end, and large companies are cashing in. There is no reason to think they will stop. The shortage is showing no sign of ending, in fact it’s getting worse. Many parts listed for Delivery in 2023 are now moving to 2024. Its not just COVID-19, droughts, or factory fires responsible.

I think the senior bosses of semiconductor companies are fixated on their own profits and it will stunt innovation, and drive many small companies out of business. If you can 10% undersell in volume it generates huge demand. The part cost can then be doubled, or tripled. Result is the semiconductor companies can double their profits, while shafting their customers. It was only a matter of time before this happened, the pandemic just sped things up and created a convenient excuse. For microcontrollers, customers are “over a barrel”. Parts like commodity diodes and transistors is where most growth comes from, that were never in short supply anyway.

In the medium term killing small/medium companies and slowing innovation doesn’t concern big companies. Their bosses get paid partly on profits, and can’t lose. The undersupply business plan has the problem of trying to not undersupply too much, apart from that it’s plain sailing.

Even worse ‘old’ parts (e.g. ATXMega, PIC24) are unavailable yet similar but incompatible ‘replacements’ are turning up. Even the replacements are constrained on quantity. Why bother designing (spending money on) slightly different new parts when the handle can just be cranked to turn out some more old parts?

In the long term we all lose, including the big companies as their markets get smaller, and the underselling tactic will eventually backfire. But that doesn’t matter for the next few years, while they live a champagne lifestyle and their customers starve. But things will come home to roost eventually. Competition will catch up in some classes of parts, witness MPS and Texas Instruments in power management.

It will never be the same
We had all better get used to the new world order where the old “conveyer belt” of engineering has a hole in the middle. Where new parts take many years to become available and then are tightly constrained in volume. Back in pre-Internet days where data on new parts took 6 months or more to get through to design engineers.

As an engineer in design life is now much more difficult. Redesigns are commonplace but the end products are not improving. An industry that promotes itself as innovative is stagnating. We can pick on many large players like NXP, Microchip, or Analog Devices. The latter having bought Maxim in 2021, in another move to push up part costs, that in the case of Analog were already making engineers design them out.

The technology to do many things in electronics exists, but we can’t buy it. Large semiconductor companies are making every excuse, but the truth is the blame lies squarely at their feet.

My amateur radio details are listed at
QRZ.com. The Maidenhead locator in the world is IO90LU, Cosham near Portsmouth, and FYI I buy from Mick’s Monster Burgers twice a year, as shown in this map:

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The other website that I manage is:
This website founded 1997.