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Showing posts tagged 'chip shortages'


27 October 2021

Why is chip sovereignty so important?

chip

The US and EU are planning for chip sovereignty, aiming to defend domestic chip supplies and move manufacturing back home.

At first glance this is a tall order, considering most chips are made in China and China controls 55% of rare earth metal production, but it is nether the less crucial to ensure that the Western world has access to the chips it needs.

The need for chip sovereignty

As the electronics industry battles on with chip shortages, we are seeing car plants cut production and companies delay product launches.

These are only a few examples of measures applied like sticky plasters over supply chains that have been bleeding for years.

We are in a situation where electronic components manufacturers are running at 99-100% capacity. Demand has soared for all types of components, from chips and memory to diodes and displays, squeezing supply chains.

Quite simply, demand is outstripping supply.

Many of the problems in the supply chain are geopolitical and logistical in nature, so by moving manufacturing back home, nations like the US and the EU will be able to control the supply chain (or most of it) and make supply meet demand.

What’s happening?

The EU will legislate to push for chip sovereignty with the forthcoming “European Chips Act”. It aims to stop European countries from competing with each other for chips, instead having them work together to compete globally.

The US isn’t legislating for chip sovereignty, but the Biden administration used its first budget proposal to Congress to call for domestic funding to fight semiconductor shortages, with figures up to $50 billion being touted.

The UK is at odds with the US and EU with no chip sovereignty in sight.

Simply put, the UK is selling off chip firms, with $42 billion sold since 2010 (figures from US research). For example, In July, the UK’s largest chip plant was acquired by Nexperia - a Dutch firm wholly owned by Shanghai-based Wingtech.

This raises concerns over the future of UK chip manufacturing. Industry funding is seriously lacking too, putting the UK firmly behind the US and EU.

Companies are a successful case study 

As countries continue to struggle to meet demand for chips, some companies have taken matters into their own hands.

Apple produces their own chip called the M1 for the MacBook Air and iMac, and Google is doing the same with the Tensor chip, used in the Pixel 6 smartphone.

By moving away from Intel and Qualcomm respectively, Apple and Google have taken greater control over their supply chains, cutting out many geopolitical and logistical issues and unlocking greater pricing power.

With the global chip shortage showing no signs of abating and rare earth metal prices soaring, supply chains are only going to get squeezed more in the near future.

Chip sovereignty will be important for nations to meet demand and reduce reliance on China, Taiwan, and other countries a very long way away.

However, while the EU legislates for chip sovereignty, and the Biden administration pushes Congress for domestic chip funding, the UK continues to sell off chip firms to foreign investors. This will bite down hard when chip imports take a hit.

Tags: chip sovereignty china rare earth metal chip shortages chips memory diodes displays supply chain european chips act


20 October 2021

Memory suppliers to benefit from strong demand and supplier shortages

DRAM

While the downsides to electronic components shortages are well known, business is booming for smaller memory suppliers.

Sales of Samsung DRAM grew 26% in Q2 2021 without meaningful production capacity growth, and as supply-demand imbalances grow, memory suppliers like Samsung, Micron and others are turning to smaller suppliers to fill gaps.

As chip shortages continue, demand grows. Order books get filled off the page, creating longer lead times (up to 40-weeks) and extending standing orders. This is bad news for the end-product manufacturer but great news for suppliers, who see sales rise and bids increase to fuel record turnover and, in some cases, net profits.

The sector as a whole is booming, but no better example of taking the bull by the horns exists than Alliance Memory.  

Alliance Memory is a US-based 30-year old DRAM manufacturer, billed as a legacy SRAM supplier and a leading domestic supplier of DRAM and flash memory. The company’s run rate in 2021 is double what it was in 2020.

In an interview with EPS News, Alliance Memory CEO David Bagby explains why: “we went out to customers struggling to get Samsung. Now we have maybe the best representation of DRAM and SRAM product of anybody out there.”

Memory upturn forecast to continue

IC Insights, the foremost authority on memory and chip demand, has predicted a new record high for memory demand in 2022.

Stronger DRAM pricing is expected to lift total memory revenue 23% in 2021 to $155.2 billion. The memory upturn is forecast to continue into 2022 to $180.4 billion, surpassing the all-time high of $163.3 billion set in 2018.

Demand for memory, including DRAM, SRAM and flash, is being driven by economic recovery and the transition to a digital economy. Unlike other technological cycles, the current cycle of digitalisation has weight behind it, fuelled by innovations in data centres, 5G and space networks, AI, robotics and IoT.

Sequentially, the average price of DRAM rose 8% in the first quarter of 2021. Another increase of 18-23% in Q2 sent memory suppliers into a spin. Demand is outstripping supply, creating a perfect storm for continued price increases.

Price increases expected to continue until late 2022

The price of memory is more sensitive to other electronic components because supply is controlled by a few big players. Smaller memory suppliers fill in gaps in supply, but the big guns like Samsung and Micron rule the roost.

When demand outstrips supply at the big guns, prices explode. We’ve seen it several times before, such as the memory price increase of 2018. Prices fell again in 2019, recovered a little in 2020, then soared again this year.

Memory is a commodity and companies are willing to pay big to get a hold of it. Bidding wars are not uncommon and 40-week lead times are normal today.

However, while the memory upturn is predicted to continue into 2022, Gartner says memory prices will dive at the end of the year, predicting that an “oversupply” of memory chips will develop as demand eases and supply increases.

Tags: electronic components shortages samsung micron chip shortages dram manufacturer sram supplier dram sram flash digital economy


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