Categories
Electronic Components

EU Chips Act developed further

Following a vote on Tuesday 24th of January, the latest drafts of the EU Chips Act and the Chips Joint undertaking were adopted by The Industry and Energy Committee.

Proposals for the EU Chips Act were first published in February of 2022, and has since developed through committee discussions. The European Commission said the Act was developed in response to the industry chaos catalysed by the pandemic in 2020.

Now, after so long, the final vote is just around the corner.

There are three main elements to the Act:

The Chips for Europe Initiative is aimed at supporting capacity building and large-scale innovation. This is hoped to strengthen the EU as a player in the semiconductor manufacturing industry. It will increase funding for R&D, training and tech start-ups, among other things.

The Act also plans to secure the supply of semiconductors to the EU by way of investment. They also plan on increasing capacity in manufacturing, packaging and advanced testing. Alongside that, it hopes to enable the opening of integrated production facilities and open EU foundries.

Another purpose of the Act is to coordinate a crisis response between EU member states and monitor supply of semiconductors. If supply is watched, shortages and demand can be anticipated and trigger countermeasures.

Funding

The EU claims that the initiatives and funding within the Chips Act will aid it in its goal of doubling its global market share by 2030. Going from 10% market share to 20% is quite a leap, and the Act in total only mobilises €43 billion.

The European Commission said they hoped the Act’s funding would be boosted, or even ‘matched’  by private investment. This would immensely boost what the Act could be capable of, well beyond 2030.

Provisions

Article 11 of the Act details the concept of the new Open EU Foundries. These new ‘first-of-a-kind’ facilities will design and produce electronic components for other industry players. There will also be Integrated Production Facilities, which design and produce components for their own market. For these facilities to qualify for funding they have to fit certain criteria, including committing to innovation.

Something else the Act addresses is the training of industry staff. It has been a continuous challenge for the sector in Europe to attract highly-skilled persons to work in semiconductors. The Chips for Europe Initiative will support education, training and skilling, while also providing placements and apprenticeships.

The vote in plenary is due to take place in February. From there it would be the last step before European Commission, Parliament, and Council negotiations.

Why not act now?

Despite the electronics industry changing every day, Cyclops Electronics is a safe, reliable choice to source all your electronic components. We have a dedicated sales team and an extensive stocklist to make sure you get everything you want. Contact Cyclops today at sales@cyclops-electronics.com, or call us on +44 (0) 1904 415415.

Categories
Electronic Components Future Semiconductor

The future of semiconductor manufacturing, is it digital twins?

What is a digital twin?

The concept of digital twins has been around since the early 90s. Since then, it has been further developed and become a time and money saver for many manufacturers.

The purpose of a digital twin is to mimic a physical system exactly. It gives those using it the ability to simulate what they want to do, and the twin predicts the outcome.

These twins are not to be confused with a simple simulation or a digital thread. A simulation can only replicate the outcome of one process, while digital twins can run multiple simulations for different processes. A digital thread, although similar, is more a record of everything occurring in a product or system over time.

There are several varieties of digital twins, all with different use cases. The purposes range from basic, with component twins, to more complex process twins which can represent an entire production facility.

The timeline

Semiconductors can take around 3 months to manufacture from a silicon wafer to multilayer semiconductors. Not only that, but semiconductor fabs themselves take years, and millions in funding, to build. Because of this, it is hugely time-consuming to open any new facilities and start production there.

The issue that arises, then, is there would be time between demand increasing and when it can be met. Alongside this, any new facility will need trained staff and assurances any new equipment is working.

Digital twins give manufacturers the ability to test the workings of a facility before production begins. This may not seem like a big deal but it means that any mistakes or issues can be detected much earlier, and won’t affect the real production.

Even in a working fab, a digital twin can conceptualise new processes, without interrupting production. Finding working systems before changing the physical process can save time and money too.

And if you need skilled employees? No problem. By combining digital twins with training software or VR, you can train new staff before they touch the real equipment. Employees can then be qualified to work in a facility with no prior experience and no disruptions to production.

Sustainability

An alternative concept is using digital twins to become more environmentally friendly. Users can test ways to cut emissions and energy use to reach sustainable goals. Any problems or errors can be discovered before implementing them in real time. One study found that 57% of organisations agree digital twins are pivotal to improving sustainability.

Something to be mindful of is that it needs to be up-to-date to mirror the conditions of the physical version. This is especially important with system twins and process twins, where several interlocking systems work together.

Advantages

With the huge amounts of data that can be collected through a digital twin, products can be developed much further. Since digital twins offer so much insight into potential outcomes, it can boost a company’s research and development much faster.

Once a product has been developed, a digital twin can monitor the manufacturing process, overall increasing efficiency. Once a product reaches the end of its life a twin can help decide the best outcome for it too.

A safe prediction

Digital twins can simulate processes and products to help manufacturers make assured choices. For those looking for electronic components, Cyclops Electronics is the best choice. We have an extensive stocklist of day-to-day, obsolete and hard-to-find components, and a dedicated sales team to source every component you need. Contact Cyclops at sales@cyclops-electronics.com or call us on +44 (0) 1904 415 415.

 

Image Source: SumitAwinash

Categories
Electronic Components Uncategorized

The inner workings of a flexible screen

Flexible screens that the consumer can fold or roll were once a complex novelty. Now, they are becoming increasingly more commonplace.

More and more phones and electronic devices are offering flexible screens. Only recently were the newest Samsung Galaxy phones released with folding screens. Oppo, LG and other providers are also beginning to offer flexible screens for their devices.

The first phones with curved displays were produced in 2014 when plastic joined glass as a screen substrate option. The flexible plastic could be bent without breaking, and was much more durable than a thin fragile sheet of glass.

Any kind of screen needs to be durable, but the necessity is increased when flexibility and folding is considered. The other layers of the device have to be just as flexible and durable, which is a factor that has led to a much longer development time.

I don’t believe my eyes!

OLED is currently the display of choice on flexible screens, often being chosen over the LCD alternative. Unlike the backlit LCD screen, the pixels themselves are what emit light in OLED. Thanks to this OLED screens can be much thinner and lighter.

Aside from the cover layer, the glass or plastic layer we interact with, and the OLED, there are two other layers in a flexible touchscreen device:

The substrate layer, which is the bottom layer of the screen, supports the layers that follow. This is usually made of plastic or metal. The most common substrate used for flexible devices is polymide, which has a high mechanical strength and thermal stability. This is also usually used for the cover layer as well.

Powered pixels

The thin film transistor (TFT) layer is between the substrate and the OLED layer. It controls the power delivery to each pixel individually, allowing for high contrast rates and lower power consumption.

Within the TFT layer itself there are also several components that go into its construction. The first layer is glass, metals and polymers and is only microns thick.

Next, there is a gate electrode made of aluminium, gold or chromium. The gate electrode provides a signal to the TFT which begins the contact between the source and drain.

The third layer, an insulator, is used to stop electrical shorting in between the two layers. After that there is another electrode layer and is deposited over the semiconducting surfaces.

Welcome to the fold

As a specialist in day-to-day and obsolete electronic components, Cyclops Electronics can help you source the components you’re looking for. With an extensive stocklist and a dedicated team of account managers, we can guarantee to go above and beyond our competitors. Contact Cyclops today to see what we can do for you on sales@cyclops-electronics.com, or call +44 (0) 1904 415 415.

Categories
Electronic Components

Is it possible to make compostable PCBs?

Decades ago we wouldn’t have thought it possible to create printed circuit boards (PCBs). Now, in 2023, we’re discussing the possibility of biodegradable ones.

A research group from the Johannes Kepler University in Austria developed the biodegradable base for the PCBs. The mix consists of beech wood shavings, organise full-grain spelt flour, fine plaster (CaSO4) dust and beech wood-based inoculum.

After storing the mixture in a flat plastic box in a cupboard for a few weeks a tissue grew. The fungal fibres, called mycelium, formed a kind of soft white skin, similar to paper.

A layer of copper or gold is then vapour-deposited onto the mycelium ‘skin’. Then, a laser will cut away the metal where it’s not needed.

A ‘grow-your-own’ circuit

Storing something in a cupboard for a few weeks has significantly lower production costs than regular PCBs. It also bypasses the need for chemicals and minerals that are hazardous to the environment.

With the use of these, too, there is no need to create specialist manufacturing equipment, unlike with biopolymers. They are made from renewable raw materials like starch or milk protein, but have to use an industrial composting plant that operates at a high temperature.

These ‘skins’ can then be mounted with electronic components like a regular PCB.

The mycelium has a very strong structural integrity, while it remains thin and flexible. It has so far been able to withstand about 2,000 bending cycles, it only shows moderate resistance when folded, can insulate electrical currents and can sustain temperatures that reach 250⁰C.

Early days

So far the concept can only be used in simple electronic devices. A multi-layer circuit or more complex electronics are slightly further in the future. Even at this early development stage, though, a prototype has already been attached to a moisture sensor, a Bluetooth chip that sends the sensor signal to a laptop or smartphone, and a special battery.

In the future it is hoped that production of a smoother mycelial skin through a refined formula could increase the possibilities. It could lead to multi-layer PCBs with smaller components.

Once the circuit has been used, it can be unsoldered and put in the compost. The metal used I the conductor paths will be a biproduct left in the soil, but will be nano-particles in unharmful quantities.

Looking for a fun-guy?

Whether you’re ‘growing’ or manufacturing your PCBs, Cyclops has the electronic components for you. We specialise in obsolete, hard-to-find and day-to-day electronic components, and can source components from trusted sources globally. Contact us today to see what Cyclops can do for you on sales@cyclops-electronics.com, or call +44 (0) 1904 415 415.

 

Categories
Electronic Components Uncategorized

Improvements to smart materials in the works

A team of scientists and engineers has developed a new way of producing thin film perovskite semiconductors.

This ‘smart material’ can adapt depending on stimuli like light, magnetic fields or electric fields.

This could lead to the material being combined with other nano-scale materials to produce sensors, smart textiles and flexible electronics.

Thin films are usually made via epitaxy: atoms are placed on a substrate one layer at a time.

However, with this method the films stay attached to the host substrate and are less easily utilised. If it can be separated from the substrate it is much more useful.

The team, based at the University of Minnesota, has found a way to create a strontium titanate membrane without several of the usual freestanding membrane issues.

Making freestanding ‘smart’ oxide material membranes comes with certain challenges. Unlike 2D substances like graphene, smart oxide materials are bonded in 3 dimensions.

The method

One way to make them is using remote epitaxy. Graphene is used as an intermediary between the substrate and the membrane. This allows the thin film material to be peeled off the substrate. One issue with this is when using the technique with metal oxides the graphene becomes oxidised and ruins the sample.

A new technique pioneered by the University of Minnesota is hybrid molecular beam epitaxy. This stops the oxidation process by using titanium that is already bonded to oxygen. The team has also been able to introduce automatic stoichiometric control, which no one else has been able to do.

The hope is in future to combine these thin film membranes to create more advanced smart materials. There are certain products already using thin films like gallium-oxide. Other alternatives to thin film include carbon nanotubes, which can be used in layers of only 0.06nm thickness.

A ‘smart’ choice

Cyclops Electronics can provide a huge range of specialist, day-to-day, and hard to find electronic components. We work with our customers to make sure we find what they need and deliver in the quickest time possible.

Contact Cyclops for all your electronic component needs. Call us on +44 (0) 1904 415 415, or email us at sales@cyclops-electronics.com.

Categories
Component Shortage COVID-19 Electronic Components Electronica Supply Chain

Cyclops Electronics – Looking back on 2022

Cyclops Electronics has had a monumental year. With a hugely successful Electronica, an exciting business acquisition, and plenty of special team moments to remember. 2022 has made its mark in style.

 

Team wide fun and games

This year we have initiated a weekly delivery of fresh fruit for all of the office to enjoy. It has proved to be a big hit and a great boost of natural goodness into the working day. It’s the perfect antidote to our regular pizza days.

For Stress awareness month in April, we organised picnic lunches for everyone and raffled off a wellness hamper.

At Halloween we stirred up a right cauldron of treats, a quiz curated by a staff member, and a Mummy wrapping game to get everyone in the spooky spirit.

We also celebrated Valentine’s Day, Wimbledon, and most recently the World Cup with full office decoration and goodies on tap. To mark the festive period hot chocolate and mince pies are now a permanent fixture in our kitchen.

Christmas fundraising has been great fun, supporting ‘Save the Children’ with Christmas jumper day and producing a sizeable contribution to a worthy cause.

 

Halfin

In April the Cyclops Group officially announced the acquisition of Belgium-based company Halfin Electronics. Shared values of collaboration, family values and dedicated professionalism made it a natural fit for the Group.

Halfin has enabled Cyclops to add Belgium to its list of international offices, including USA, China, Canada, Italy and Portugal.

The business was established in 1946, and has since built a global clientele and a speciality in vacuum tubes and other niche electronic products. It has been a wonderful addition to the Cyclops family.

Electronica

Electronica was the event of the year for all of us here at Cyclops. A team of nine staff from a range of departments attended the event. Aside from meeting a plethora of new customers, we also caught up with a lot of returning customers. The event was very important to us, since there hasn’t been an in-person Electronica since 2018. We were eager to reconnect with clients and businesses.

Not only did the team make lasting connections with businesses there, but were able to bond as a team and successfully run a trade fair stand. We’re so proud of them for continuing a Cyclops tradition that has been in place for decades.

And finally… 

A few words from our Sales and Marketing Manager, Ros Shaw:

“2022, what a year it has been… looking back at heatwaves, weather extremes, component shortages, supply chain disruption, political turmoil, economic uncertainties and more shortages, it’s been another eventful one. But one constant remains and that is that the Cyclops Team have delivered, day in and day out.

It was a real highlight of our year to chat with many of our appreciative customers at Electronica in Munich. Sharing plans for the New Year, developing strategies for sourcing in 2023 and discussing upcoming projects has enabled us to prepare. And that’s what it’s always been about, preparing and equipping the business to best serve the needs of our customers. Now more than ever we strive to adapt, evolve and innovate to keep stride with this fast-paced world.

We look forward to ranking highly on your ‘most useful’ list this time next year. Thank you for including us in your team. Here’s to 2023 and all of its adventures.”

 

Categories
Component Shortage Uncategorized

How electronics shortages may affect Christmas

Christmas is just around the corner, and while many shortages have calmed there are some that persist and will have an impact on the usual holiday festivities.

Despite reports that shortages are ending, more than half of semiconductor industry leaders (56%) are expecting them to continue into 2023.

There are shortages that we have been prepared for as the months counted down to the holidays. However, other shortages may catch some unawares.

Much of the news regarding shortages has revolved around the difficulty producing new, smaller nodes. These are the semiconductors going into new consumer electronics, often purchased as Christmas gifts.

What was expected:

As semiconductor shortages persist, next-gen consumer electronics will be in limited supply. Demand always spikes around the holidays, as consumers prepare for the gifting season. But some will be out of luck since electronics have also been affected by the shortages.

While consumer electronics, including smartphones, smart home devices, and games consoles have become slightly more stable, there will still be shortages in the face of holiday buying and events like Black Friday.

This also affects the manufacture of new cars, both fuel and electricity-powered models. Many car companies have lowered the number of vehicles produced. Although they haven’t been able to meet the increased demand, semiconductor shortages mean they cannot produce more.

What you didn’t expect:

New electronic components are not the only ones that are in short supply. Older components and obsolete electronic parts have also become scarcer.

Embedded flash microcontrollers are one component that has long been used in automotive manufacture. Most of the ones used are still using older nodes, like 90nm. So while new cars are being affected, older cars in need of repair will also be impacted.

Industrial electronics are also at risk due to shortages, since they similarly rely on legacy nodes. Traditionally these would be the more stable of options for electronic components. However, the reserves that have taken years to build are now being drained.

Although companies are planning on investing in legacy nodes, the shortages are expected to last until at least 2024, if not 2025.

The shortages show no sign of stopping, and manufacturers will be dealing with the effects of it for years to come. There are surely plenty of electronic components and markets affected that have not been mentioned here, so this overview is by no means exhaustive.

What to expect

As shortages persist, there’s no better time to get in touch with us.

Cyclops Electronics have an extensive supply of day-to-day and obsolete electronic components. If you have been struggling to source components elsewhere, Cyclops Electronics is there for you.

Let us provide your Christmas miracle this year, call us on +44 (0) 1904 415 415 or email us at sales@cyclops-electronics.com.

Categories
Electronic Components Semiconductor

Should we be investing in GaN fabs?

The wide bandgap semiconductor Gallium Nitride (GaN) has many advantageous properties, but it has been difficult to scale up production.  

During such an invigorating period in the industry, silicon semiconductors have been in massive demand. And in short supply. It has not been the best time to consider switching to a new wafer material. Not that there ever will be a quiet moment in this sector.

Where it all beGaN

GaN has only really been in the picture since the mid-90s, when its top uses were military. Since then it has seen growth, with a revenue of $1 billion in 2020 according to Strategy Analytics. Silicon wafer revenue, in comparison, was $11.2 billion. GaN is still a small fry.

Despite GaN production being a much smaller endeavour currently, there are several companies currently manufacturing GaN devices. GaN is currently used for power electronic devices thanks to their high electron mobility and high breakdown voltages.

A survey was undertaken by Microwave Journal, wherein they contacted major GaN suppliers around the world. Of the 8 that responded, there were 36 variants available, with gate lengths ranging between 0.5ɥm to 40nm. The GaN variants included GaN-on-SiC, GaN on Si and GaN on diamond substrates.

The potential future of semiconductors

We’ve talked before about how GaN could be a future replacement for the aging silicon semiconductors. This would not only benefit consumers because of its fast performance, but would also benefit the environment.

The first and most obvious factor, is that with more efficient semiconductors less of them would be required. GaN requires less raw material and because of the reduced size there can be more units per wafer.

Aside from this, the actual manufacturing emissions for GaN are much lower. Gallium metal is a by-product of aluminium smelting, and nitrogen is readily available in the atmosphere. GaN, then, has a minimal carbon footprint and is easily sourced.

If GaN could be used globally, it could make a difference against climate change, more than silicon or silicon carbide. It is also non-toxic and includes no conflict materials. GaN power IC devices can also be manufactured using already-established CMOS processing equipment.

So GaN could well be a great alternative for silicon in years to come, however the problem comes with up-scaling production and transitioning. Changing the semiconductor material would undoubtedly incur several design and logistical changes, and would cause disruptions and delays.

Some industry experts have suggested investing in mega-fabs to produce GaN-on-Si wafers for manufacturers. This would help even out the disparity between GaN and silicon stock, and encourage more manufacturers to produce GaN devices.

It’s estimated that the GaN-based power IC management market will grow by about 70% each year from 2020 to 2026. This is just one use of GaN, but demonstrates how profitable the material may be in the future.

It’s not GaNna be easy…

Cyclops has a huge range of stock which includes both brand new electronic components and obsolescent stock. Whatever you may need Cyclops can provide it. Get in touch with us today to see what we can do for you! Contact us on sales@cyclops-electronics.com, or call us on +44 (0) 1904 415 415.

Categories
Electronic Components

Electronics to measure climate change

Semiconductors are being used to track and combat the effects of climate change. Their use could help scientists better understand the impact and process global warming has on the planet.

Climate change and global warming are topics that are often discussed in modern society, both by governments and individuals alike. There are certain industries that are thought to be larger contributors to the current situation. However, the electronics industry may be able to help rather than hinder the battle against climate change.

Accelerometers

These electronic components have been used to measure the effects of climate change through trees.

Accelerometers measure the vibration or acceleration of motion of a structure. Inside is a piezoelectric material, which makes an electrical charge proportional to the force caused by the motion.

The electronic device can be used for a variety of things, from spaceships to smartphones. But recently, researchers have been tying them to trees.

These so-called ‘tree fitbits’ can track the timing of tree activities like blooming or the leaves changing. Two ash trees in East Boulder were fitted with high-resolution accelerometers which tracked how they responded to the changing seasons.

The hope is that in the future tree phenology (the study of periodic events in biological life cycles) can be studied in relation to climate change. The accelerometers measured the amount that the trees swayed and the high frequency vibrations of the tree itself. This helps scientists track the phases of the tree (phenophases) as the seasons progress.

The data means that the start and end of each season for the tree, for example flowering in spring, can be measured and compared to data from previous years. The differences can be indicative of climate change and could be used as a warning sign.

Sensors

Miniscule sensors inspired by dandelion seeds could be scattered to track climate change indicators as well. The sensors were produced by a team from the University of Washington in Seattle. The electronic devices are made from polyimide films, and were manufactured using a laser-powered tool. Throughout its structure there are tiny holes, which aids it in floating like a dandelion seed.

The benefit of these tiny sensors means researchers can reach dangerous places without putting themselves at risk. Tracking temperature, humidity and other environmental signals across a large area would be beneficial to climate change research.

On board there are tiny solar panels and a capacitor that can store energy overnight when conditions are not optimal.

Indicators of change?

The future of the planet is not set in stone, and electronic devices can make a difference. Both in prediction and prevention, electronics are aiding us in our efforts. Cyclops Electronics can provide electronic components for you to make your own change. Trust Cyclops to supply you, contact us on sales@cyclops-electronics.com or +44 (0) 1904 415 415.

This blog is purely for entertainment and informational purposes, it is in no way instructional.

Categories
Electronic Components

Supply chain adaptability

Connectivity within our supply chain is a positive thing. It has given us access to resources from all over the world, boosting production and sourcing. However, covid and other factors have highlighted the risk that comes with having a globally connected supply chain.

If covid was the only concern, though, the supply chain would have recovered by now. The general increase in supply and demand has also left the industry struggling to catch up.

If there is a disruption to one area of the supply chain, this is then passed down the line to customers. At every step of the supply chain, the delays are exacerbated and impacts the economy.

Connectivity and interdependence have always been essential in the electronics industry, whether it is relying on other countries for materials or working with international foundries on production.

Certain countries had, and some still have, covid-related restrictions in place to stop the potential spread. This means that plants in those countries have had difficulty keeping up with demand. As one of the biggest exporters of electronics is also in this position, some countries are choosing to transition away from working with them.

Some large companies have already made the decision to move their base of operations to mitigate this risk in the future. This has the potential to massively shift industry dynamics and encourage other businesses to make similar moves.

Funding is being allocated by some governments to facilitate nearshoring or reshoring of companies, which would bolster the supply chain. Many countries, including the US, UK and India, are increasing the budget and support of domestic chip production. There will be several ongoing effects from this, including an increase in skilled workers, R&D and more in-house production.

Although this would be beneficial there would still need to be materials sourced from countries including places in turmoil. Even relocating a percentage of the supply chain will not resolve these sourcing conundrums. However, it would reduce shipping times and customs charges for the finished product, especially if production is closer to customers.

As much as it would be beneficial to reshore or nearshore production, it comes with certain risks. The cost of labour varies largely depending on location, as does the number of skilled workers. Additionally, the delay or difficulties associated with moving production halfway around the world will also be numerous.

Many countries have put measures and funds in place to encourage moves, but financial aid will only reach so far.

More than a long-term static solution, the supply chain needs to be flexible and adaptable. Supply, demand, and the world in general is very volatile right now. As such, suppliers and manufacturers will have to alter their ways of working accordingly.

Cyclops has the rare advantage of being able to source electronic components from all over the world. This, combined with our keen eye and careful inspection processes, means we can find and supply the components you need.

Call today on +44 (0) 1904 415 415 to speak to a member of our sales team, or contact us at sales@cyclops-electronics.com

Disclaimer: This blog is meant purely for educational or informational purposes and is in no way instructional.

en_GBEnglish