Showing posts for April 2021
28 April 2021
Electronics Counterfeiters Capitalize on Component Shortages
The electronics industry is experiencing a components shortage which is bad news for everyone except counterfeiters who are seeing greater demand than ever.
The total available market for counterfeit electronic components is billions of pounds, so it makes no wonder this illegal activity is seeing rapid growth.
What is a counterfeit part?
A counterfeit part is an unauthorised copy, imitation, substitute, or modification of an original component. Counterfeit components are a misrepresentation of the real thing but can be extremely convincing they are legitimate.
Giveaways that components are counterfeits include:
- Colour variances
- Misspellings and incorrect labelling
- Mismatched date codes
- Duplicate date codes and labels
- Missing items
- Poor packaging and quality control
- Font variances
- Country of origin problems
- Signs of “resurfacing”
- Failure in tests and performance issues
How are counterfeiters capitalising on component shortages?
Electronics counterfeiters are capitalising on component shortages by penetrating weakened supply chains, taking advantage of inadequate quality control processes and taking advantage of inadequate reporting.
Demand is exceeding supply for many electronic components, exasperating the issue. The semiconductor shortage is the current big one.
As lead times get pushed out, buyers are faced with a dilemma: should they stick with trusted suppliers and put up with delays or look for another supplier? The risk is the ‘other supplier’ being a counterfeiter or not having the necessary controls in place to ensure that shipments do not get intercepted and changed.
This dilemma is when counterfeiters strike to take advantage. The wrong decision can have significant financial and economic consequences.
Another area of focus for counterfeiters is the scarcity of parts caused by end-of-life designations. There is significant demand for end-of-life components, but they can be very hard to find. Counterfeiters pray on this weakness with illegitimate copies.
There’s also a grey market for used electronic components that are refurbished or reconditioned and sold as new. The danger with this is using components that are spent and not repaired properly. When you buy “new” the components should be exactly that. Buying used is never a good idea, unless you want used parts.
How can I protect myself from counterfeiters?
First of all, you should read our 8 Step Guide To Buying Electronic Components With Confidence and Avoiding Counterfeits.
Secondly, you should only work with electronic component suppliers who have a compliance program in place. A good benchmark is suppliers who are ERAI (Electronic Resellers Association International) members. We are ERAI members, so we are on the ERAI database and use ERAI supply chain risk mitigation solutions.
Secondly, it’s really important that you have adequate inspection and testing processes in place to verify the components you receive. If your supplier tests components for you, what testing facilities do they use, and which services are performed?
Electronics counterfeiters are capitalising on component shortages by taking advantage of inadequate quality control and reporting processes and weakened supply chains.
A robust supply chain and trusted parts suppliers are the two keys to protecting your organisation. If you are concerned about counterfeit components in your supply chain we’re happy to provide advice. Call us on 01904 415 415 for a chat.
22 April 2021
Why We're Facing a Global Semiconductor Shortage
The world is experiencing a semiconductor shortage at a time when demand for semiconductors is at an all-time high. Manufacturers can’t make enough of them and we’re now seeing this affect the availability of products.
You probably remember last year Sony released the PlayStation 5 and Microsoft released the Xbox Series X. AMD released the Big Navi GPU (RX 6000) and Apple released the iPhone 12 range. What all these products have in common is they were all directly affected by the semiconductor shortage. Demand well and truly exceeded supply.
What’s causing the shortage?
A perfect storm has hit the semiconductor market. It isn’t one thing but a combination of different things that’s causing the shortage today.
The COVID-19 pandemic
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, car and commercial vehicle sales took a hit. Estimates suggest that sales fell by 50% or more within a single month. In response, car manufacturers scaled back orders for semiconductors and other parts.
At the same time, demand for electronics chips soared as more people spent time working from home and on furlough.
Laptops, smartphones, drones, smartwatches, tablets, kitchen appliances - everything has a semiconductor nowadays. Then you have IT, data centres, internet infrastructure and cloud and edge computing. All are powered by semiconductors.
And so, the factories that were at capacity making semiconductors for cars switched to making semiconductors for electronics. This was a blessing in disguise for factories because semiconductors for electronics have a higher margin. However, it has caused a problem for car manufacturers who now need to ramp up production.
The situation now is this - car sales are picking up and car manufacturers are fighting for orders against electronics manufacturers. Factories are at capacity and can’t make enough to go around. This is feeding through to nearly every sector.
Ultimately, this is the result of poor planning from car makers who cut orders too deeply last year at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Even before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, there weren’t enough factories to meet semiconductor demand. There were long lead times in 2019 because semiconductor demand outpaced the ability of factories to make them. This problem has persisted through to 2021 and has been compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic.
With most factories running at 99-100% capacity, there is very little room for boosted output. You would think that the solution is to build more factories, but this would not solve the problem today or even a year from now because semiconductor fabs take at least a year to build with another 6-12 months in setup time.
Semiconductor manufacturers are investing in new factories, expansion and more efficient technologies, but short-term solutions these are not.
The US is attempting to bring semiconductor manufacturing to US soil to remedy this or at least reduce dependency on foreign suppliers.
US and China trade war
Calls for domestic manufacturing are heating up in the US and China, the result of a trade war brought about mostly by supply chain disruptions related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Reports in May 2020 that the Trump administration was in talks with Intel, TSMC, and Samsung about building US chip factories proved true. In 2021, with a new president and Biden administration, these talks are persisting.
The reason a technology trade war broke out between the US and China is because the US imposed a 25 per cent tariff on $34 billion of Chinese imports in 2018. There has been bad blood ever since with threats and action on both sides.
This eventually affected the semiconductor supply chain because in 2020 the US turned to export restrictions targeting the semiconductor supply chain to safeguard critical infrastructure in the telecommunications sector. This followed a 2019 ban on the Chinese company Huawei for “national security reasons”.
For example, one of the consequences of export restrictions was that American firms were cut off from chips made by China's Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation - the third largest chip maker in the world with 11% market share.
Local production problems
Factory shutdowns due to natural disasters, bad weather and the COVID-19 pandemic have caused semiconductor supply chain issues.
Most of the world’s semiconductors are manufactured in Taiwan. Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co., the world's largest contract chipmaker, has a 28% market share. The second largest, UMC, also based in Taiwan, has a 13% market share.
Taiwan is experiencing serious water droughts in 2021. Millions of tonnes of water are required to manufacture semiconductors every week. Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing is having to bring water in on trucks and UMC are doing the same. This has caused significant drops in manufacturing efficiency.
The US is also experiencing shutdowns. NXP Semiconductors had to shut its plant in Austin, Texas, due to winter weather in February 2021.
Factory shutdowns cause order backlogs and extended lead times. Orders persist and pile in whether a factory is down or not. This squeezes supply chains, causing a shortage.
How long will the semiconductor shortage persist?
We expect the semiconductor shortage to persist through 2021 but ease towards the end of the year as demand for electronics chips decreases as COVID-19 lockdowns end. This will cause a shift in supply from electronics semiconductors to automotive semiconductors which will provide the industry with a much-needed equilibrium.
The world’s largest semiconductor manufacturers - TSMC, UMC, SMIC, Samsung, Intel, SK Hynix - are investing in increased output. Many investments were in the pipeline as early as 2019 and are expected to yield results at the end of 2021.
Right now, there is a serious imbalance in the demand for semiconductors, one that our existing infrastructure is not built to cope with. This imbalance will ease over time.
How can supply chains continue to meet demand?
If you have been impacted by the semiconductor shortage you can meet demand by partnering with an electronics components distributor like us.
We specialise in the procurement and delivery of semiconductors and parts for a wide variety of industries from the world's leading manufacturers. You can find out more about what we do here. Email us if you have any questions.
14 April 2021
Anglia goes solar with new photovoltaic cell range
Anglia Components has announced a new PCB-mounted photovoltaic solar cell line for electronics applications in collaboration with Anysolar, offering a new way for electronics manufacturers to harness light energy.
The Anysolar PCB-mounted photovoltaic solar cell range can replace battery and mains power for low-power applications. It can be reflow soldered onto PCBs and parts compatible with traditional hand soldering processes.
The advantages of using Anglia’s photovoltaic cells include:
- Clean energy for sensors
- Low cost
- Long lifespan
- No cell degradation
- No emissions from energy production
- Replaces batteries and mains
- Discreet design
- Powered by indoor and outdoor light energy
The technology is based on monocrystalline silicon free from impurities, so the cells do not degrade like traditional solar cells do. This enables a longer lifespan and peak performance, to reduce recycling rates and keep electronics in service.
Anglia has invested in a profile of all the most popular cell sizes and formats of Anysolar’s Gen 3 solar cells. The cells offer a viable alternative power source to battery and mains power for simple sensors. The cell range offers power from 5.5 mA to 1.02 A so is suited to a variety of low-power sensor applications.
Commenting on the partnership, David Pearson, Technical Director at Anglia said, “Anglia is delighted to partner with Anysolar for this new product range which complements many of our established lines, such as low power MCU’s and sensors.”
“Anysolar provides a viable alternative power source for many of our customers applications such as remote IoT sensor nodes.”
KY Choi, President of Anysolar, added, “We are delighted to partner with a distributor that is so well-respected in the UK and Ireland industry. We really value our relationships with our customers and look for partners that share that value. Our solar modules offer Anglia customers an environmentally friendly new power source for their designs.”
How it works
A photovoltaic (PV) cell, also known as a solar cell, generates electricity when exposed to light particles (photons). The Anysolar PCB-mounted photovoltaic solar cell line optimises this process with a large surface area and monocrystalline silicon.
The photovoltaic effect is a physical and chemical phenomenon. When applied to electronics, it can be used to power low-power sensors. This reduces energy draw on a device’s core power source to optimise performance and efficiency.
For devices to become autonomous, PCB-mounted photovoltaic solar cells will also be necessary for energy. IoT devices are a good example. These devices require a self-sufficient power source to run separately from the grid.
In the future, it’s expected that IoT devices will be able to run without wires or batteries and light energy provides the best possible solution.
Anglia’s PCB-mounted photovoltaic solar cell line is capable of powering a wide range of sensors in IoT devices, including robots, drones and consumer electronics. Remote IoT sensor nodes (nodes that collect data and information related to objects passing by, such as in autonomous cars) are a good example of components prime for PV cells.
07 April 2021
NXP Announces i.MX 9 and i.MX 8 processor line for Intelligent Multi-sensor Applications
NXP Semiconductors has announced a new line of edge processors that deliver a giant leap in performance and security at the edge.
As edge computing rapidly evolves around us and demand for edge computing soars, performance demands are increasing at an exponential rate. This requires a new approach to security, power consumption and performance. Existing edge processors offer a solution now but are not ready for the next generation of real-time data.
Technologies like machine learning, artificial intelligence, robotics, autonomous driving and next-gen wireless infrastructure all depend on the edge. NXP Semiconductors is meeting the challenge with new i.MX 9 and i.MX 8 processor lines.
i.MX 8ULP and i.MX 8ULP-CS
The ultra-low power i.MX 8ULP and i.MX 8ULP-CS (cloud secured) Microsoft Azure Sphere-certified processors have the EdgeLock secure enclave, a pre-configured security subsystem that simplifies complex security technologies and helps designers avoid costly errors. It automates the following security functions:
- Root of trust
- Run-time attestation
- Trust provisioning
- Secure boot
- Key management
- Cryptographic services
The i.MX 8ULP-CS is Microsoft Azure Sphere-certified with Microsoft Pluton enabled on EdgeLock for highly secure hardware. With Azure Sphere, it has chip-to-cloud security built in, enabling use in a wide range of applications.
Both i.MX processors utilise Energy Flex architecture, which delivers as much as 75% improved energy efficiency compared to previous generations.
They have heterogeneous domain processing and 28nm FD-SOI process technology, making them among the most advanced edge chips in the world. The processors have one or two 1GHz Arm Cortex-A35 processors, a 216MHz Cortex-M33 real-time processor and a 200MHz Fusion DSP for low-power voice and sensor hub processing.
Every Azure Sphere-certified i.MX 8ULP-CS device also gets ongoing OS and security improvements for over ten years.
The i.MX 9 series is NXP Semiconductors’ range-topping high-performance edge processor for intelligent multi-sensor applications.
The i.MX 9 debuts a new generation of processors that have an independent MCU-like real-time domain and dedicated multi-sensory data processing engines for graphics, image, display, audio and voice. The i.MX 9 series also features EdgeLock secure enclave, Energy Flex architecture and hardware neural processing.
The i.MX 9 is for the next generation of edge computing applications including machine learning and artificial intelligence. It’s the first NXP line to use the Arm Ethos U-65 microNPU which enables low-power machine learning.
Importantly, Azure Sphere chip-to-cloud security is enabled within the i.MX 9 line, providing a clear upgrade path from the i.MX 8 series.
EdgeLock secure enclave is the big ticket item of the new processor lines, combining complex security technologies into a single pre-configured platform. With device-wide security intelligence, it provides a simplified path to certification, enabling non-stop trusted management services and applications.
With the release of these new processors, organisations of any size can now pursue IoT development and real-time technologies with the confidence that NXP and Microsoft have laid out a foundation of security via Microsoft Azure. The low-power requirements and chip-to-cloud security deliver innovation in the right areas.
You can find out more about the processors here.
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