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Facebook is going to put smart glasses on your face in 2021

You may recall that several years ago (back in 2013 to be exact), Google brought out Google Glass. This was a brand of smart glasses that used touch and voice commands to interact with online content, display directions and act as a phone. The product wasn’t a massive success, but it did kickstart a consumer-focused AR arm’s race.

When we talk about AR or augmented reality, with regards to glasses. We mean eyewear with technology that merges what you see in the real-world with an overlay of virtual information from the internet. Examples include directions to a supermarket when you walk and restaurant reviews when you look at a sign.

The AR market is predicted to be worth $100 billion by 2024 and the technology is advancing at a rapid rate. Facebook is the latest juggernaut to enter the fold, and they have plans to put smart glasses on your face by 2021.

Facebook’s move into AR

Facebook owns Oculus, the company behind some of the world’s most popular VR (virtual reality) headsets. AR goes beyond VR by adding digital elements to real life, as opposed to simulating a new environment entirely.

Oculus practically has the VR market sewn up already, so it hasn’t come as a surprise to us that CEO Mark Zuckerberg has recently revealed Project Aria, Facebook’s augmented reality research project that will deliver a product by 2021.

Announced during the fittingly remote Facebook Connect event, Zuckerberg said the goal is to “develop some normal-size, nice-looking glasses that you can wear all day, and interact with holograms, digital objects and information while still being present with the people and the world around you.”

It all sounds exciting, and though we have been here before with Google Glass, Facebook has a track record with VR. They could do the same with AR, and Project Aria is the research project that will deliver the technology needed.

The technology driving AR

To create an AR environment, you need sound, video, graphics, networking, and GPS data. AR requires good hardware and software. If Facebook intends to create “normal-size, nice-looking glasses”, the technology will also have to be refined.

Zuckerberg admits “there’s still a lot of work to be done on the foundational technologies,” but adds that “Project Aria is the first research device we’re putting out into the world to help us understand the hardware and software needed.”

To deliver the end product, Facebook has partnered with luxury eyewear giant Luxottica. It is expected that Facebook’s smart glasses will have Ray-Ban branding. This will help the glasses accommodate a wider range of styles.           

Specifications for the 2021 glasses have not been revealed. However, they are expected to be capable of overlaying directions, music recommendations, localised information (such as what’s around the corner), and integrate with some of Facebook’s features. It’s important to note, however, that nothing is certain.

Also, Facebook is working on its own 100% in-house AR eyewear, which it intends to thoroughly test before bringing any product to market. The tech giant has a reputation to uphold with eyewear (they own Oculus), and if their VR headsets are anything to go by, we are in for a treat when Facebook’s AR glasses finally land.

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Cyclops Group Brexit statement (IV) issued October 2020

Operational update

Cyclops group has robust plans in place for a variety of Brexit outcomes. Strategic Brexit planning has evolved over the last 2 years to incorporate the likelihood of several possible outcomes as well as a fully negotiated agreement. For this reason, the Business has been required to undertake a particularly extensive analysis of risk and therefore predicts no change to the essential service provided by Cyclops.

In the event of a no-deal exit, the UK Government has detailed that “The trade you carry out with the EU will broadly follow the customs controls that apply for the rest of the world.” As a business that has traded internationally for many years, we have a wide variety of country-specific trade processes in utilisation.

The most important element for undisrupted trade is the adoption and utilisation of a UK Economic Operator Registration and Identification number (EORI). This has been held by the Business for a number of years.

We have been working closely with our freight partners to ensure that they have sufficient plans in place to minimise any border disruption. We are entirely satisfied that all sensible precautions have been taken such as the recruitment of extra staff at the border. Furthermore, the Business operates from several worldwide locations and has a variety of re-deployment options available to it.

The Business continues to make adaptations as further information becomes available. The prioritization of our customer service delivery is firmly entrenched in our Business model and we seek to reassure our customers of our proactive approach.

Should you wish to discuss this further, please do not hesitate to make contact me.

David Yodaiken

Commercial Director

Davidy@cyclops-electronics.com

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What the future holds for passive and interconnecting electronic components

While the world economy is in freefall with the COVID-19 pandemic, with mass unemployment and trade plummeting, the global passive and interconnecting electronic components market is expected to continue growing thanks to demand from the developing world and the rise of 5G infrastructure.

Grand View Research has released forecasts for the passive and interconnecting electronic components market, predicting a compound annual growth rate of 5.3% from 2020 to 2027 with a slowdown from 2020 to 2021 due to COVID-19.

The future is by no means certain and we do not know exactly how badly the world economy will be impacted by the coronavirus outbreak. We do however have models that tell us demand will increase for electronics over time. This spells good news for components manufacturers and the wider electronics industry.

Changes in market demand

As the world economy is adversely impacted by the coronavirus outbreak, demand for electronic components in many verticals will slow. This can be traced back to the reality that in times of uncertainty, consumers are warier of spending money. Less demand for products means a slowdown in production and demand.

However, regardless of the world economy, some regions do have a stimulus. The United Kingdom, Japan, China, South Korea, and the US are rolling out 5G network infrastructure and this will stimulate the electronics market. Smartphones, tablets, drones, and other devices that rely on networking will be key beneficiaries.

So, it isn’t by any means doom and gloom for the global passive and interconnecting electronic components market. Growth is predicted from 2020 to 2027 and the COVID-19 outbreak will only slow down this growth temporarily.

How component sourcing has changed

In response to a fall in demand for products, passive and interconnecting electronic component production has slowed. In addition, a lot of stock hasn’t been used and is sitting in storage until such a time it is needed.

Prior to COVID-19, it was easy to think of component production as being in a state of perpetual motion for it was always present. Demand has fallen but that doesn’t mean it has ceased. Passive and interconnecting electronic components are still being sourced, albeit in smaller batches and more carefully than ever.

Another behavior we have witnessed is component hoarding. OEMs are unsure of their partner’s manufacturing capabilities in the face of COVID-19. So, they are hoarding components to ensure they can scale up demand when the time is right. This is considered normal behavior without a global pandemic, but we are seeing more extreme examples as a means to protect manufacturing output. Ultimately, this means there are fewer components to go around, which drives up the cost of certain components.

How we can help you with sourcing

The future may be uncertain but good preparation will help you through it. As your electronic component distribution partner, we can source components for you with access to all major manufacturers. We can source legacy, obsolete, state-of-the-art, and short production run components at prices that suit your margin. Visit our website or click here to use access to our component search and enquire with us. We are here to help you with your electronic component needs.

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Uncategorized

Cyclops September COVID-19 Lead time Update

As we enter another global spike in COVID-19 more uncertainty rises in its impact it could have on electronic global supply chains and manufacturers.   

Manufacture Altera has had an increase in lead times to 15-16 weeks this is due to the demand from the server market. Analog devices have reported their lead times are more than 20 weeks on some parts, this is due to low capacity of ASP materials for medical parts.

Linear Technology have reported they are extending their LTM lead times to 20-24 weeks, while their LT series lead times currently stand at 16-20. LT1 and LTC1 are also unstable. Consequently, the company reported that parts used in medical equipment are experiencing unstable lead times, like Analog this is likely due to the impact of Covid-19 and the demand for medical supplies. NXP factories are experiencing wafer shortages and lack of production capacity. Their MPX/Sensor series has spiked to 26 weeks, the market price has risen by 20% this is a result in the sensors being used in medical treatments.

Maxim Integrated has announced due to the recent lockdown of Maxims Philippines factory has caused delays and lead times are remining at 14-16 with backlog unable to be pulled in. Similarly, company Microchip lead times are stretching to 16-20 weeks this is due to the limited factory capacity due to COVID-19. OMRON Micro switches are experiencing stretched lead times and increase in pricing particularly effecting the D2FC series. Lead times are now around 14-20 weeks. ROHM plants in Philippines are currently working at 50% due to COVID-19 quarantine.

AVX tantalum caps and F series parts are expecting shortage, the lead times have increased to a staggering 30-40 weeks, this has led to AVX not accepting lead time-based orders.

Need quicker lead times?

We are experiencing an increase in lead times due to COVID-19 as seen above manufactures are struggling to produce the mass quantity due to lock downs and shortage of staff.

We at cyclops electronics are here to provide those hard to find components in these challenging times. To search for your components please click here. Or email sales@cyclops-electronics.com for enquires.

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Technology

5G Technology and drones – The future taking flight

The last decade has seen the commercial market for drones explode. The global drone market was estimated by PWC in 2016 to be worth just under £100 billion ($127bn) and that was 4 years ago before the emergence of 5G technology.

Rapid advancements in the propulsion, navigation, sensory and battery systems that power drones have brought about the likes of drone delivery services, aerial photography, and a new way to conduct mountain search and rescue operations.

These varied examples of drone applications perfectly illustrates the real usefulness of drones. Key to their adoption has been lithium-ion batteries that charge rapidly and better navigation systems that enable pinpoint control.

However, as drones have been increasingly adopted, our data transfer needs have increased and 4G technology has been shown up to be less than ideal.  

The need for 5G

5G can theoretically reach speeds of 10 gigabits per second and it is expected to reliably offer 1 Gbit/s to 2 Gbit/s in a few years.

This is much faster than 4G. For drones, it means faster data transfer and data collection, enabling real-time analysis and access to big data files quickly.

However, while much has been made about the increased speed of 5G over 4G (it is up to 100 times faster than 4G) the real value for drones is the lower latency.

Latency is the lag that occurs when resources are requested over a network. For example, you might wish to check wind speed when flying, but when you request the data, it takes a few seconds to load. This delay is caused by latency across the network.

Latency for 4G is around 30 milliseconds, whereas with 5G it’s below 5 milliseconds. In a best case scenario, the latency can be 1 millisecond.

This latency improvement is massive for drones. It makes reliable live view and live streaming possible. Real-time footage becomes a reality. Load times become imperceptible and responsiveness increases between devices.

Another area where 5G benefits drones is the 5G New Radio interface, which enables a higher number of devices to be used in one area over a wave spectrum. This means more devices can be controlled to reduce congestion.

Meeting demand for 5G component sourcing

5G is an exciting technology but it is still in its infancy, and up until now drone architecture has been designed around 4G.

5G requires different components to handle the speed increase and demands placed over the network. Drones need a new architecture to transfer data in milliseconds and transmit high-definition footage in real-time.

In short, the current technology has to evolve.

Sourcing components like ESCs, flight controllers, GPS modules, receivers, antennas and batteries for 5G drones will become more challenging as more players in the market start to evolve their products to meet demand.

Day-to-day component sourcing will require good contacts in the industry just as it always has. But the race to 5G will accelerate demand and increase competition. This is where the value of an electronic components distributor like us comes in.

We can supply active, passive and electro-mechanical components, including 5G components, working directly for you to procure the best components at the lowest prices. If the future is 5G, we’ll help you meet it.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Electronic Components

Process nodes and transistor density

There are regular news articles published claiming that the smallest ever process node has been produced. We hear all the time about how small chips are becoming. But how can we measure this progress and does size really matter?

Moore’s Law

The concept of Moore’s Law, loosely, is that the number of transistors in a microchip increases as the size decreases. Originally, when Gordon Moore observed this in 1965, it was thought that the number of transistors would double every two years, but this rapid rate has definitely slowed.

Even so, there is still a constant increase in the number of transistors that can fit on an IC. In 1971, 6 years after the advent of Moore’s Law, there were around 2.3 thousand transistors on a single chip. This sounds like a lot, but we can now fit hundreds of millions onto one.

Nowadays, as it probably always was, it is a race between manufacturers to produce the smallest, most advanced chips. And with the advancement of manufacturing technology, the stakes are higher than ever.

Process nodes

The main method of measuring electronic component progress now is through process nodes. This is the term used for the equipment used for semiconductor wafer production. It describes the minimum repeatable half-pitch (half the distance between two identical features on a chip) of a device. It seems, though, that even this node measurement is no longer accurately used, according to some sources.

Some recent node announcements come from big players in the industry, including Intel, Samsung and TSMC. Taiwan’s largest semiconductor company, TSMC, recently announced that it would be converting its 3nm process node into 1.4nm. Critics, however, were not sure how possible this would be.

Samsung also recently revealed its plans to start manufacturing 2nm process chips in 2025. Additionally, Intel is planning on producing 1.8nm chips in late 2024. Part of the process of developing smaller process nodes is changing the technology involved in production.

What is the measure of a chip?

The method of measuring chips by process nodes is not entirely accurate and can be quite ambiguous. Some people have suggested chip density within the chip would be a better indicator of advancement.

While companies compete to develop the smallest process, some companies are fitting more chips onto bigger nodes. To put it in perspective, Intel’s 7nm process has 237 million per millimetre squared. In comparison, TSMC’s 5nm chip has only 171 million per millimetre squared.

So, although certain chips may have a smaller process node, it doesn’t necessarily reflect how advanced the chip actually is. Intel often uses density to describe its chips, because that is much more beneficial to them.

It’s a process

The question is, should all chips be measured this way instead of in process nodes? If process nodes aren’t accurate to their original definition, the measurements don’t indicate of the highest power chips out there. This might be confusing to consumers when choosing a manufacturer.

It will become increasingly difficult to measure in process nodes as chips get increasingly smaller. Many manufacturers are already making plans for when they begin to measure in Angstrom rather than nanometres. If the changeover from one measurement type to another was not confusing enough, if the measurement method is inaccurate, it may get very complicated.

Apparently, though, transistor count can be just as inaccurate because there is no standard way of counting them. The number of transistors on a single chip design can vary by 33-37% which is quite substantial.

The final node

Unfortunately, there’s no definitive answer on how to measure the advancement of chips anymore. Moore’s Law is far from dead, but is very much up to interpretation these days. Those purchasing or sourcing chips will have to have their wits about them.

For those sourcing chips, contact Cyclops. We can source day-to-day or hard to find components with ease, and can guarantee our customers the best price. Get in touch via sales@cyclops-electronics.com or call us on +44 (0) 1904 415 415.

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Electronica

One week until Electronica!

This year one of the largest electronics trade fairs in the world is taking place in Munich, Germany.

Cyclops’s founder has been attending Electronica since it first began, so the convention has always been a highlight of our calendar. We have met many clients and partners through the connections provided to us by Electronica.

The convention is focusing on the promotion of sustainability this year. Bringing the industry together in one location with the aim of “Driving Sustainable Progress”, Electronica hopes to show the role the world that electronics will help, not hinder, sustainability.

The previous Electronica in 2020 was purely virtual, but having hundreds of exhibitors back in Messe München, spread over 13 halls, will be an event to remember.

 In 2018 there were more than 81,000 visitors to the trade fair from 101 countries. 3,124 exhibitors attended the event, we’re hoping for an even more enthusiastic turnout this time around.

In 2021 there was a 9.8% increase in industry revenue from the previous year, at €200 billion, which is astounding progress during the pandemic.

Electronica will have a supporting program full of knowledge and professional talks. During conferences experts will analyse market activity.

The convention has been held every other year since 1964, and has continually grown and evolved over the years.

In the final week leading up to the trade fair, we want to organise meetings with all our clients who are also attending. Whether you are a returning or new customer, we want to show you what Cyclops can do for you.

We have the expertise and drive to go the extra mile for you. Whether you are looking to buy or sell, Cyclops has a solution for you.

Whether you are a returning customer or are completely new to Cyclops, we want to meet you. If you are attending Electronica you can book an appointment with our staff to discuss your needs at Eventbrite now.

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Electronica

Keeping clean and going green for Electronica

The Cyclops staff are busy preparing for the biggest event in the Cyclops calendar: Electronica. This is the time for us to meet our customers, both returning and new. But this year, we are making sure we’re doing things the clean, green way.

Since Covid, we are paying special attention to the hygiene services we provide. There will be hand sanitiser and wipes available on our stand.

It is more important than ever to ensure we are environmentally conscious, and to that end we are taking steps to minimise our environmental impact.

As we are shipping our goods from the UK to Germany, we are making sure we are using much less disposable packaging. As far as possible we have reduced our packing and will be reducing the total volume of goods shipped to avoid unnecessary emissions.

The goods we are shipping to Electronica are also greener than in previous years. One of the OEM rewards we are giving out to our customers is the Rocketbook.

This notebook is a fusion of traditional handwriting and digitisation. The Rocketbook is a paper notebook with a QR code on each page. When paired with the phone app you can scan the code, upload pages of writing and digitize the text. Once it is uploaded, you can clear the page of the notebook and use it again.

This reusable approach to a traditional tool is something we at Cyclops are passionate about. We are looking forward to sharing this innovation with our customers!

We are also taking other steps to go green for Electronica. The disposable products that we would have taken in the past are being replaced with recyclable alternatives, like paper cups for drinks instead of plastic.

With only 2 weeks until Electronica preparation is in full swing for the event. We can’t wait to see you all there!

Come visit the Cyclops Electronics team in Hall 4, stand 126. In the meantime you can always contact us on +44 (0) 1904 415 415, or email us at sales@cyclops-electronics.com.

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Electronic Components

The benefits of flexible electronics

Flexible electronics is an area of study that has come on in leaps and bounds in recent years and is an area of interest for many electronics companies. Liquid metal circuits are being researched as a potential step-up for wearable tech and biomedical devices.

At present, there are certain elements that make the advancement of flexible electronics difficult. One of these elements is the conductive material inside. If a rigid material like copper is used in flexible circuitry, it may break.

Some researchers are looking into the use of conductive threads, like those made out of carbon nanotubes. Others are taking a different approach and developing liquid metal circuits.

Quicksilver

Liquid metal used for circuits has not been a popular concept for a long time, mostly due to the fame (or infamy) of mercury. Mercury is a liquid at room temperature, but is highly toxic and couldn’t be used in electronics for safety reasons. Gallium, however, is beginning to look like a viable alternative.

While Gallium has a slightly higher melting point than mercury, it is not toxic and can conduct heat and electricity. The metal forms an oxide layer in the open air and this was viewed as a disadvantage in the past. Now, though, it could be advantageous when creating flexible circuitry.

Soft robots

Flexible electronics could have a number of uses in everyday life, and one hoped use is for soft robotics. With soft robots food could be handled safely without the risk of cross-contamination. It also opens up a wealth of possibilities for deep-sea exploration and specimen collection.

In a different area, soft robotics could have biomedical uses. Wearable technology, drug delivery devices and artificial organs are all potential utilisations of stretchable, human-mimicking electronics.

Soft robotics are already being used for prosthetic limbs. In 2020 a prosthetic hand was created for amputees, with functioning fingers and a moving thumb. Although in the very early stages of development, the prototype could pave the way for life-changing robotics in the future.

Virtually real

Aside from the more medical or safety-focused applications, there could be more recreational uses too. The use of soft robotics in conjunction with VR could make for an even more immersive user experience.

Stretching or twisting a mesh of gallium wires by it will change the electrical current running through them. At the moment this is still being researched, but it could be used for VR in the future. If gallium mesh was used in gloves, it could detect the pressure applied and translate it into VR.

Whether it’s for recreational, medical or safety purposes, exploring the use of liquid metal circuits and researching their potential could be greatly beneficial to the electronics industry, and the industries that come after it.

Cyclops Electronics can provide a substantial range of electronic components, and we’re experts at sourcing hard-to-find components when others cannot. If you’re looking for components, whether they’re obsolete or day-to-day, choose Cyclops as your supplier. Contact us now on (+44) 01904 415 415, or send us an email at sales@cyclops-electronics.com.

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

Categories
Electronic Components Future

3D printing of electronic components

We talk a lot about the ways modern technology are a benefit to the electronics industry. There’s no better example of this than the ability to 3D print electronic components.

Print preview

The first 3D printer was invented in the 1980s, and used a technique called stereolithography (SLA). You might recognise the term from photolithography, a process used in the manufacturing of semiconductor wafers. Stereolithography is slightly different, it uses a laser to harden layers of photopolymer successively in a pre-defined shape. Photolithography is for etching patterns onto semiconductor wafers.

SLA is still the most commonly-used method of 3D printing. There are, however, other methods that have come into use, including digital light processing and liquid crystal display.

With the printing of components or circuits that can conduct electricity, special inks that contain conductive nanomaterials are required.

The process

First, a digital model of the desired component is required. This is referred to as a Computer Aided Design, or CAD model. Then a base layer of the material, usually thermoplastics, is formed using fused deposition modelling (FDM).

After this a trace is created, which is the little web of wiring you can see on a regular PCB. These traces need to be much thicker on a 3D-printed board because the nano-inks naturally carry more resistance than copper.

Once this is complete, the additional components of the board are added in layers until it is finished.

Why use 3D printing?

The process of retooling an entire factory setup versus uploading a different design to a single machine are vastly different. Retooling can be a costly and painstaking process, especially if you are manufacturing on a small scale or just prototyping.

The flexibility that comes with 3D printing is also an advantage. Where regular machinery may have limitations, 3D printing could have significantly fewer.

There would also be a reduction in the waste produced by the process. Most of the time, boards are manufactured and then the excess material is cut away. With 3D printing there would be remarkably less waste produced as it only prints what is needed.

3D printing of electronic components is currently used for small batches or for rapid prototyping, but in the future it could easily be used for more complex components and larger batches.

Just a reminder

Although Cyclops Electronics does not specialise in 3D printers, we do specialise in electronic components of all kinds, and can supply stock as and when you need it. Make Cyclops your electronic component supplier.

This blog is meant for informational purposes only and is in no way instructional.

Categories
Electronic Components

Price of semiconductor equipment increasing

The price of chip manufacturing is increasing. From skyrocketing raw material prices to continual high demand for semiconductors, it/ is an expensive business right now. Semiconductor manufacturing prices are also on the rise.

Global manufacturers are announcing price hikes to combat the expected rise in inflation, passing the cost onto the customer.

Is reshoring reassuring?

Aside from the supply chain issues and raw material shortages, the drive for reshoring will drive up the cost and demand of semiconductor manufacturing equipment.

In both the US and the UK, new legislation is in the works to provide funding for the electronics industry. It comes alongside a push to reduce reliance on semiconductors sourced from Asia, especially powerhouses like Taiwan and China.

The Chips Acts

In the west’s new legislation, funding and incentives are offered to domestic and international companies looking to build fabs. One such company was TSMC itself, which was rumoured last year to be opening a branch in Germany.

While these grants and investments will go some way to covering the cost of new semiconductor manufacturing equipment, it will only be part of the massive price manufacturers pay.

A new challenger

This may not be the only international development affecting the price increases of semiconductor equipment. New competitors are throwing their proverbial hat in the semiconductor manufacturing ring. One of the countries that is beginning to manufacture more is India.

As the US and Europe are already heavy-hitters in the industry, India will have to make hefty investments into manufacturing. Bulk-buying machinery and technology for facilities will mean more demand, and distributors putting on a bigger price tag. Taiwanese manufacturer Foxconn announced it would be setting up a fab in the country.

Other costs

The cost of making the semiconductor manufacturing equipment also comes into play. As companies are persuaded to move west, the cost of their manufacturing will increase. Many companies based in the east have access to cheaper labour but European and US labour costs will be higher.

Outside of Asia, in areas that are reshoring, there will also be the struggle of finding highly qualified employees. Since there was no need for skilled individuals when there were no fabs, there is a gap in the industry. It will take some time to catch up with industry standards of education.

Kit up

As the chip shortages continue, there’s no guarantee when the cost increase of semiconductor manufacturing equipment might slow down. As with all things, we’ll have to wait and see.

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Electronic Components Future Technology

The future of memory

Memory is an essential electronic component. Not only can it store data, but it can also process vast amounts of code. As it is so vital, manufacturers are upgrading it and adding improvements constantly. This could improve the way our computers and gadgets run but could also help people’s memories in the future.

Next-gen memory announcements

This year Samsung announced new products during the Flash Memory Summit in August. One of the products announced was the new ‘Petabyte Storage’, able to store as much data on a single server. A petabyte of storage (equivalent to 1,024 terabytes) would let manufacturers increase their storage capacity without requiring more space.

The company also announce Memory-Semantic SSD, combining flash and DRAM to to supposedly improve performance twenty-fold. This technology may be perfect going forward, suiting the increasing number of AI and ML operations with faster processing of smaller data sets.

SSD demand is increasing and other companies are vying for a share of the market. Western Digital also announced a new 26TB hard drive 15TB server SSDs earlier this year. Its new SSDs have shingled magnetic recording (SMR), which allows for higher storage densities on the same number of platters.

Market Worth

In 2021 the next-gen memory market was valued at $4.37 billion, and is expected to reach $25.38 billion by 2030. This demand is partly driven by high bandwidth requirements, low power consumption and highly scalable memory devices.

The need for scalable memory comes from the continually rising use of AI and ML. Lower-spec memory devices are causing bottlenecks in the functioning of these devices. Data centres are needed to process more data than ever before, so scalability is key for this market.

Futuristic Products

One promising product for the future of memory technology is Vanadium Dioxide. VO₂ is usually an insulator, but when it is heated to 68⁰C its structure changes and acts like a metal.

When an electrical current is applied to the circuit the metal would heat to its transition point. When it is cooled it would transition back.

Upon further study it was discovered that, when heated multiple times, the material appeared to remember the previous transitions and could change state faster. In a way, the VO₂ had a memory of what had happened previously.

The exciting discovery could mean the future of memory is brighter than ever. VO₂ could be used in combination with silicon in computer memory and processing. Especially for fast operation and downscaling, this material is an interesting prospect.

Our memories

Today our regular blog post coincides with world Alzheimer’s day. Dementia is a collection of symptoms caused by different diseases, that can result in memory loss, confusion, and changes in behaviour. If you would like to learn more about dementia or Alzheimer’s, visit Dementia (who.int)

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Electronic Components Future Supply Chain

India increasing chip manufacture

In recent years India has been increasing its share in the electronics industry, planning to become a hub in the future.

Currently India has a lot of dependence on imported chips, heavily relying on the Chinese supply chain. One of its goals is to be, in part, autonomous in its chip production. The supply chain issues brought about by covid and other global factors really highlighted this.

But it is not easy to just move production of something so complicated to another country. It would require massive amounts of funding to reshore production.

Make in India

In 2021 the Indian government announced funding equal to $10 billion to improve domestic production over the next 5 years. Several companies have put in bids for the funding, including Vedanta, IGSS Ventures, and India Semiconductor Manufacturing Corp.

The funding is part of the Government of India’s ‘Make in India’ plan, encouraging investment and innovation in the country. Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi announced the initiative in 2014, focusing on 25 sectors including semiconductors and automobiles.

Domestic reliance

One of India’s goals is to move away from reliance on imports, on which they currently spend $25 billion annually. Only 9% of India’s semiconductor needs are met domestically. If production is reshored in part, this would increase local jobs and income for the country.

As it stands, India currently has more of a focus on R&D but don’t have fabs for assembly and testing. The nearby Singapore and manufacturing powerhouse Taiwan provide most of its current stock.

A change in the air, and in shares?

The recent approval of the Chips Act in the US means there may be a shift in industry shares. At the moment America has a 12% share, but if production is re-shored this may impact the Asian market.

However, India and the US, alongside the UAE and Israel plan to form an alliance. With financial aid from the bigger players, the alliance plans to focus on infrastructure and technology.

India was the US’s 9th largest goods trading partner in 2021, with $92 billion in goods trade in 2019. India is also the EU’s 10th largest trading partner, but with domestic semiconductor industry growth this might change.

India’s end equipment market revenue was $119 billion at the end of 2021. Its annual growth rate is predicted to be 19% in the next 5 years.

India is aware of the importance of the semiconductor industry, and set up an India Semiconductor Mission (ISM) in 2021. Its goal is to create a reliable semiconductor supply chain, and to become a competitor against giants like the US.

Relish the competition

India’s potential in the semiconductor industry is increasing, and there is likely to be more investment in the future. It is difficult to tell how much further down the line it would be before India becomes a competitor, but the coming years are sure to be interesting.

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Electronic Components Future Semiconductor Technology

The effect of AI on the electronics supply chain

AI and machine learning technology is improving all the time and, consequently, the electronics industry is taking more notice. Experts predict that the application of AI in the semiconductor industry is likely to accelerate in the coming years.

The industry will not only produce AI chips, but the chips themselves could be harnessed to improve the efficiency of the electronic component supply chain.

What’s included

In an AI chip there is a GPU, field-programmable gate arrays (FPGAs), and application-specific integrated circuits (ASICs) specialized for AI.

CPUs were a common component used for basic AI tasks, but as AI advances they are used less frequently. The power of an AI depends on the number and size of transistors it employs. The more, and smaller, the transistors, the more advanced the AI chip is.

AI chips need to do lots of calculations in parallel rather than sequentially, and the data they process is immense.

Think about it

It’s been proposed by some that designing AI chips and networks to perform like the human brain would be effective. If the chips acted similarly to synapses, only sending information when needed, instead of constantly working.

For this use, non-volatile memory on a chip would be a good option for AI. This type of memory can save data without power, so wouldn’t need it constantly supplied. If this was combined with processing logic it could make system on a chip processors achievable.

What is the cost?

Despite the designs being created for AI chips, production is a different challenge. The node size and costs required to produce these chips is often too high to be profitable. As structures get smaller, for example moving from the 65nm node to the latest 5nm, the costs skyrocket. Where 65nm R&D cost $28 million, 5nm costs $540 million. Similarly with fab construction for the same two nodes, price increased from $400 million to $5.4 billion.

Major companies have been making investments into the R&D of AI chip infrastructure. However, at every stage of the development and manufacturing process, huge amounts of capital are required.

As AI infrastructure is so unique depending on its intended use, often the manufacturers also need to be highly specialized. It means that the entire supply chain for a manufacturer not yet specialized will cost potentially millions to remodel.

Beauty is in the AI of the beholder

The use of AI in the electronics industry could revolutionize how we work, and maximize a company’s profits. It could aid companies in supply forecasts and optimizing inventory, scheduling deliveries and so much more.

In every step of the electronics supply chain there are time-consuming tasks that AI and machine learning could undertake. In the sales stage, AI could assist with customer segmentation and dynamic pricing, something invaluable in the current market. It could additionally prevent errors in the manufacturing process and advance the intelligence of ICs and semiconductors manufactured.

Artificial intelligence

We’re not quite at the stage where AI has permeated throughout the industry but it’s highly likely that it will in the coming years. That said, this blog post is all speculation and is in no way to inform decisions.

Cyclops can provide all types of electronic components, no matter what you’re building. See how we can help you by getting in touch today. Contact us at sales@cyclops-electronics.com, or use the rapid enquiry form on our website to get results fast.

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COVID-19 Electronic Components Semiconductor Supply Chain Technology

Price hikes in the electronics industry

Chip prices will continue to increase, despite some component lead times improving. This is due to inflation, labour shortages, and scarcity of raw materials, among other things.

Intel was the latest company to announce price increases, which it will supposedly introduce at the end of this year. It joins firms including TSMC, Samsung, and Texas Instruments in raising the cost of its products.

As has become very clear, the pandemic contributed to supply shortages the world over. However, there have also been issues with labour shortages, material sourcing and the increasing costs of everything.

Reverse psychology?

Processors are increasing in price at Intel and other companies. It has been suggested that this actually may be due to oversupply. If the cost of the components is increased vendors are more likely to buy the stock before it occurs. As they stock up, Intel’s supply levels will decrease. This may lead to shortages in the long-term.

These increases are due to be introduced at the end of 2022, but people are suspicious it may happen sooner. If prices are instead increased in autumn, they can be discounted for events like Black Friday and Christmas.

War and price

Inflation is causing the price of materials to increase also, which inevitably would be passed down the supply chain. The price of raw materials was always going to increase over time, but the conflict in Ukraine has exacerbated this. Gases like neon, which is used in semiconductor production, is almost wholly (70%) sourced by Ukraine. Similarly, 40% of krypton gas is also from Ukraine, which is in conflict with Russia.

Aside from these materials, the price of lithium, cobalt and nickel, used for EV batteries, is also rising. The EV industry already had price hikes when the pandemic began, when the chip shortage took its toll. Now, following the 15% increase in 2021, automakers are facing another potential price increase.

Expansion

One of the largest players in the industry, TSMC, announced its price increases would take place in 2023. Despite not being as severe as first speculated, the 6% price increase will be enough that customers will notice.

Aside from the cost of raw materials, electricity and labour expenses, TSMC is also expanding. To fund this expansion it is increasing the price of fabrication.

Could we have stopped it?

Years before the pandemic, as far back as 2017, there were signs that a shortage was on its way. New technologies were mounting and other geopolitical difficulties were afoot. Even then, the best way to avoid this would have been to redesign the tech and improve the fabrication process. This would have been a time-consuming and expensive process, and whenever it happened it would result in delays and losses.

Conclusion

The amalgamation of all these factors will lead to lasting price increases for electronic components. Even if these prices are discounted in peak times like Black Friday or Christmas, suppliers will still have to deal with inflation and material shortages.

The expansion plans of some of the industry’s big players, and the cost of the tech to sustain them will also lead to price increases. How long the effects of these will last, we’ll have to wait and see.

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Active Components Electronic Components Technology

Optoelectronics

Intro

Optoelectronic devices are products relating to the detection or creation of light. Chances are you deal with optoelectronics quite often, whether it’s in the form of LEDs in remote controls, solar panels, or fibre optic broadband.

Optoelectronic devices

A lot of markets utilise optoelectronics, namely military, consumer and industrial.

Laser radars, optical sonar systems, night vision equipment that uses infrared are all integral applications of optoelectronics for the military. There is also optoelectronics tech utilised for communication systems, both in military and consumer products.

Optoelectronics all work on the principle of the photovoltaic effect. This is when electrons are ejected from the material, creating electrical signals. This can also work the opposite way when components can use electricity to generate light.

It can only detect or emit certain waves of electromagnetic radiation, usually either visible light or near-infrared (NIR).

Advantages

The utilisation of optoelectronic components in the satellite industry has meant advancement in design. Satellite-to-satellite communication could one day happen with lasers. Solar cells also convert solar energy into electrical power, which could be the power source for large satellites one day.

Optoelectronics is already integral to the communications industry. Optical fibre communication systems is sometimes called one of the “greatest engineering achievements of the past century”. Need I say more? Well, I will. Optoelectronics was at the root of both high-quality voice communication and the internet. If that doesn’t prove how advantageous it is I, don’t know what will.

Disadvantages

Optoelectronics are temperature sensitive. As a result, at extreme temperatures components and circuits are at risk of damage. For applications including CMOS sensors, digital light processors and optical transceivers, a thermoelectric cooler has to be implemented.

Precise alignment is needed for coupling, too, as well as the difficulties that come with integrating optoelectronic devices on a substrate. All of these are potential deterrents from using the devices.

Market predictions

In 2020 the market was valued at $5.14 billion, increasing to $9.83 billion by 2026 at a 10.25% CAGR.

The surge is, in part, predicted due to the increase in electric vehicles (EVs) in production, which is forecast to continue. LED displays are now more common than ever, with even wearable tech featuring high-definition screens.

According to Market Insight Reports optoelectronics market expected to grow at a CAGR of 10.25% over the forecast period of 2019 to 2024.

As with many areas of electronics, the possibilities for advancement are endless. Especially in relation to satellites, the future may hold great things.

Cyclops has a vast stock of optoelectronic components, and can source any other components you need too! Too hear how Cyclops could help you, contact us on sales@cyclops-electronics.com, or call us on (+44) 01904 415 415.

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Electronic Components Semiconductor Supply Chain Technology

PCB assembly

Circuit boards, Assemble!

We’re not quite the Avengers, but we do know a thing or two about assembly.

As an electronic component supplier, Cyclops works to get customers the electronic components they are looking for. Further down the line, manufacturers construct the printed circuit boards (PCBs) featuring our sourced components.

The assembly of a PCB is a delicate and painstaking process. Just one millimetre of misalignment could mean failure of the whole board. Here’s a brief run-down of what’s involved.

Applying solder paste

The first step in the assembly of a PCB is applying a layer of solder paste. The PCB is overlayed with a stencil, and the solder paste is applied over this. The right amount must be used, as this is spread evenly across the openings on the board.

After the stencil and applicator are removed the PCB will be left and moves on to stage two.

Pick and place

The automated placement of the surface mount devices (SMDs) is done by a ‘pick and place’ robot.

The pick and place machine will have a file containing all of the coordinates for the PCB’s components. Every component will have its X and Y coordinates and its orientation included. This information enables the robot to place components on the layer of solder on top of the PCB accurately.

Reflow soldering

From the pick and place machine, the PCBs are directly transferred to a 250⁰ oven, where the solder paste melts and secures the electronic components to the board. Immediately after this, the boards are moved into a cooler to harden the solder joints.

The alternative to reflow soldering is a process called wave soldering. Much like the name suggests, in this method a ‘wave’ of solder moves across the board instead of being pasted on to start with.

Inspection

Once the reflow solder is cooled the PCBs are checked. If anything became misaligned or any solder or components are in the incorrect position, this inspection mitigates the risk to the customer.

When it comes to inspection methods, there are a few options:

Manual inspection – The most basic form of inspection, done with the naked eye. Better for PCBs with through hole technology (THT) and larger components.

Optical inspection – Using high resolution cameras, machines can check large batches of boards for accuracy at a high speed.

X-ray inspection – Give technicians the ability to check inner layers of multi-layer PCBs. This inspection method is usually reserved for more complex boards.

What a Marvel!

Cyclops Electronics can supply obsolete, day to day, and hard to find components to PCB manufacturers. We can source components efficiently to keep your production line running. Contact us today at sales@cyclops-electronics.com, or use the rapid enquiry form on our website.

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Component Shortage Electronic Components Future Semiconductor Supply Chain Technology

Procurement executives concerned about digital innovation

Manufacturers are using digital advancements to battle current supply chain disruptions.

Almost all (97%) of those surveyed said they had significant disruptions in their direct materials supply chain.

67% said they were not confident that the technology can cope with the current or near-future challenges.

The most significant technology disadvantages seem to come with lack of visibility into supplier, ‘disjointed’ source-to-pay process with multiple systems, and a lack of spend reporting.

Even more (87%) said modernising the manufacturing procurement and supply chain takes precedence, and it is their biggest challenge yet. A further 92% said avoiding disruptions to their supply chain is their main goal for this year.

Among the main concerns for modernising the supply chain are potential disruptions during implementation, skills shortages, and scale and challenge of change management.

Around half of those surveyed (44%) predicted that the supply chain crisis would begin to calm by 2023. Significantly less (18%) thought it would reduce by the end of this year.

The study surveyed 233 senior procurement executives from US and UK manufacturing companies. It was commissioned by Ivalua, a spend management cloud provider.

See the original press release from Ivalua here.

While Covid-19 was seen as a factor in the supply chain instability, it was not the only culprit. Global supply chains had already been in a vulnerable position, partly due to factors like too much outsourcing and an overreliance on ‘just-in-time’ supply management.

What some are calling ‘outdated technologies’ are slowly being replaced in Industry 4.0. However, the implementation of tech like IoT, AI, machine learning and cloud computing is not a quick process.

The issue may be that this transition period would only further add to the current shortages rather than solving them in the short-term. Most companies are being deterred by this potential loss, and have been avoiding the change for as long as possible.

Whenever digital innovation comes, it will be a gradual and time-consuming process, but businesses will be better off for it.

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Active Components Electronic Components Future Semiconductor Technology

The importance of batteries to the future of electronics

A brief history

Batteries were first invented long before electricity was even discovered in the 1700s. Around the 1900s the first iterations of what would become modern batteries began to appear. Since then, the tech going into these batteries has improved dramatically, and other battery types are also in development.

Commonly used battery types

Lithium batteries are currently the most widely used types of battery. These are the most common for consumers to purchase, and come in AA, AAA, or 9V sizes. The cheaper alternative in commercial sizes is alkaline batteries. Both types are disposable, but lithium batteries last much longer.

Silver oxide batteries usually come in button form, the kind of batteries that are used for watches and smaller devices. Silver is an expensive material to use, hence why it’s only used for these smaller-size batteries. For hearing aids, the battery of choice is zinc air. These batteries react with the air, so require a small tab to be removed for them to function.

Nickel-cadmium (NiCd) and Nickel-metal hydride are just a couple of the other battery types available on the market. Another ubiquitous kind of battery is the Lithium-ion (Li-ion). These batteries are in most of your gadgets: phones, laptops, and other portable electronic devices.

Thanks to its low maintenance and high energy density it is usually chosen over other types of batteries like nickel-cadmium.

The rise of EVs and batteries

Li-ion batteries are commonly used in Electronic Vehicles (EVs) too. As the market for EVs increases at an exponential rate, the low maintenance li-ion batteries are a favourite among manufacturers. Companies predict li-ions will be the dominant technology for the foreseeable future, and the price was falling until last year.

NCM batteries, made up of Lithium, nickel, cobalt and manganese, and NCA batteries (nickel, cobalt and aluminium) are two current alternatives for Li-ion batteries.

But now, Lithium prices are increasing, and so are the prices of cobalt. Since Li-ion batteries and their alternatives have both elements included, the search is on for a cost-friendly environmentally conscious replacement.

One alternative that seems to be rising to the surface is the sodium-ion battery (Na-ion). As one of the most abundant elements on earth it is significantly cheaper and is easy to extract. Na-ion batteries can also be fully discharged, so there is no risk associated with transporting them.

Return of LFP

But Na-ion is not the only tech on the rise. Some EV companies have started using cobalt-free iron-phosphate (LFP) batteries, and are planning on increasing this amount going forward. The reason behind the usage could be to avoid the use of nickel and cobalt while there are supply issues.

LFP batteries first came about in the mid-90s, however early iterations were difficult to charge and had heat issues. Disposal was also an issue, which meant in the early years these batteries weren’t frequently used.

Efficiency is a sticking point when compared to li-ion, but they have improved enough for use in shorter-range vehicles.

Battery tech for the future

There are many different types of battery tech currently in development. This may end up being essential thanks to the finite nature of some materials currently used.

Some types also require lithium, like the new generation li-ion and lithium-sulfur batteries. Others, however, do not require lithium. Other varieties like zinc-manganese oxide, organosilicon electrolyte, gold nanowire gel and TankTwo String Cell batteries are also potential future technologies.

The need for high power density and longevity will only increase in the future as EVs become more widespread. Eventually irreplaceable materials could also become scarce. It is predicted that by the end of the decade many more battery plants will open to accommodate this.

Shipping costs are also an issue, so reducing the need for exports, and avoiding reliance on other countries, is imperative.

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Electronic Components Future Semiconductor Supply Chain Technology

What is fabless production?

A fab is short for ‘fabrication’, which is a facility that produces electronic components. When it comes to fabless production, it refers to when companies outsource their manufacturing. The development of fabless production is a pretty recent development, but one that has flourished since its conception.

How did it come about?

Fabless production didn’t exist until the 80s, when surplus stock led to IDMs offering outsourced services to smaller firms. In the same decade the first dedicated semiconductor foundry, TSMC, was founded. It is still one of the biggest foundries in operation to this day.

In the following years many smaller companies could enter into the market as they outsourced manufacturing. More manufacturers, each with different specialities, also came to the fore.

Advantages

One of the original reasons it became so popular was due to the cost reduction it provided businesses. With the actual semiconductors being manufactured elsewhere, companies saved money on labour and space.

With production outsourced, companies also had the ability to focus more on research and development. No doubt this gave way to many advancements in semiconductor technology that wouldn’t have been possible otherwise.

Having a choice of which manufacturers to work with is beneficial too. Depending on your requirements you can choose someone who best suit your needs.

Disadvantages

When you outsource production, you are putting part of your business under someone else’s control, which can be risky. There could be a higher chance of defects if manufacture isn’t being directly overseen.

It also means that, in terms of quantity of product and price of production, you don’t have total control. If a manufacturer decides to change the quantity they produce or the price, customers are limited to their options. They either have to accept the changes, or search for an alternative which, in a fast-paced market, would be risky.

Conclusion/Disclaimer

The fabless business model, as it is known, will probably continue long into the future. TSMC’s continued profit, among other companies, is a key indicator of its success. And with big names like Apple, Qualcomm and Nvidia working fabless, it would be safe to say it’s popular.

That’s not to say that an integrated business model, with every stage of production occurring in-house, is a bad choice either. There are many just as successful IDMs like Samsung and Texas Instruments.

For a ‘fab-ulous’ stock of both foundry and IDM components, check out Cyclops Electronics. We specialise in obsolete, day to day and hard to find electronic components. Send us your enquiry at sales@cyclops-electronics.com, or use the rapid enquiry form on our website.

This blog post is not an endorsement of any particular business model, and is purely for informational purposes.

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Active Components Electronic Components Semiconductor Technology

Thermal management of semiconductors

Too hot to handle

Every electronic device or circuit will create heat when in use, and it’s important to manage this. If the thermal output isn’t carefully controlled it can end up damaging, or even destroying the circuit.

This is especially an issue in the area of power electronics, where circuits reaching high temperatures are inevitable.

Passive thermal dissipation can only do so much. Devices called heat sinks can be used in circuits to safely and efficiently dissipate the heat created. Fans or air and water-cooling devices can be used also.

Feelin’ hot, hot, hot!

Using thermistors can help reliably track the temperature limits of components. When used correctly, they can also trigger a cooling device at a designated temperature.

When it comes to choosing a thermistor, there is the choice between negative temperature coefficient (NTC) thermistors, and positive temperature coefficient (PTC) thermistors. PTCs are the most suitable, as their resistance will increase as the temperature does.

Thermistors can be connected in a series and can monitor several potential hotspots simultaneously. If a specified temperature is reached or exceeded, the circuit will switch into a high ohmic state.

I got the power!

Power electronics can suffer from mechanical damage and different components can have different coefficients of thermal expansion (CTE). If components like these are stacked and expand at different rates, the solder joints can get damaged.

After enough temperature changes, caused by thermal cycling, degradation will start to be visible.

If there are only short bursts of power applied, there will be more thermal damage in the wiring. The wire will expand and contract with the temperature, and since both ends of the wire are fixed in place this will eventually cause them to detach.

The heat is on

So we’ve established that temperature changes can cause some pretty severe damage, but how do we stop them? Well, you can’t really, but you can use components like heat sinks to dissipate the heat more efficiently.

Heat sinks work by effectively taking the heat away from critical components and spreading it across a larger surface area. They usually contain lots of strips of metal, called fins, which help to distribute heat. Some even utilise a fan or cooling fluid to cool the components at a quicker speed.

The disadvantage to using heat sinks is the amount of space they need. If you are trying to keep a circuit small, adding a heat sink will compromise this. To reduce the risk of this as much as possible,  identify the temperature limits of devices and choose the size of heat sink accordingly.

Most designers should provide the temperature limits of devices, so hopefully matching them to a heat sink will be easy.

Hot ‘n’ cold

When putting together a circuit or device, the temperature limits should be identified, and measures put in place to avoid unnecessary damage.

Heat sinks may not be the best choice for everyone, so make sure to examine your options carefully. There are also options like fan or liquid-based cooling systems.

Cyclops Electronics can supply both electronic components and the heat sinks to protect them. If you’re looking for everyday or obsolete components, contact Cyclops today and see what we can do for you.

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Active Components Electronic Components Passive Components Semiconductor

Superconductivity

Superconductivity is the absence of any electrical resistance of some materials at specific low temperatures. As a starting point this is pretty vague, so let’s define it a bit more clearly.

The benefits of a superconductor is that it can sustain a current indefinitely, without the drawback of resistance. This means it won’t lose any energy over time, as long as the material stays in a superconducting state.

Uses

Superconductors are used in some magnetic devices, like medical imaging devices and energy-storage systems. They can also be used in motors, generators and transformers, or devices for measuring magnetic fields, voltages, or currents.

The low power dissipation, high-speed operation and high sensitivity make superconductors an attractive prospect. However, due to the cool temperatures required to keep the material in a superconducting state, it’s not widely utilised.

Effect of temperature

The most common temperature that triggers the superconductor effect is -253⁰C (20 Kelvin). High-temperature superconductors also exist and have a transition temperature of around -193⁰C (80K).

This so-called transition temperature is not easily achieved under normal circumstances, hence why you don’t hear about superconductors that often. Currently superconductors are mostly used in industrial applications so they can be kept at low temperatures more efficiently.

Type I and Type II

You can sort superconductors into two types depending on their magnetic behaviour. Type I materials are only in their superconducting state until a threshold is reached, at which point they will no longer be superconducting.

Type II superconducting materials have two critical magnetic fields. After the first critical magnetic field the superconductor moves into a ‘mixed state’. In this state some of the superconductor reverts to normal conducting behaviour, which takes pressure off another part of the material and allows it to continue as a superconductor. At some point the material will hit its second critical magnetic field, and the entire material will revert to regular conducting behaviour.

This mixed state of type II superconductors has made it possible to develop magnets for use in high magnetic fields, like in particle accelerators.

The materials

There are 27 metal-based elements that are superconductors in their usual crystallographic forms at low temperatures and low atmospheric pressure. These include well-known materials such as aluminium, tin and lead.

Another 11 elements that are metals, semimetals or semiconductors can also be superconductors at low temperatures but high atmospheric pressure. There are also elements that are not usually superconducting, but can be made to be if prepared in a highly disordered form.

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Electronic Components Future Technology

What is Raspberry Pi

If you work in the electronics industry you might have heard of the Raspberry Pi circuit board. This device is a single-board computer, originally made by the UK-based Raspberry Pi Foundation.

Raspberry Pi boards use Linux and have a set of general purpose input/output (GPIO) pins. This means the user can attach electronic components and create different circuit boards.

History

The Raspberry Pi Foundation is a charity focused on teaching computing, and aims to make the subject simple and fun. To this end, The Raspberry Pi single-board computer was released to aid students and teachers in learning electronics affordably.

The original Pi was released in 2012 and quickly became popular, not only for education but in multiple industries. Since it uses a Linux-based OS it was also used by programmers and developers.

Raspberry Pi 1 Model B had a single-core 700MHz CPU, an ARM1176JZF-S processor, a VideoCore IV GPU, and had 512MB of RAM, and sold at lower than $35 on its release in April 2012.

Components

Since 2012 there have been several generations of Raspberry Pi. The latest model can have up to 8GB of RAM and a 64-Bit quad-core processor. Additionally, the Raspberry Pi 4 has two micro-HDMI ports that support 4K at 60GHz displays, a MIPI DSI (display serial interface) display port, MIPI CSI (camera serial interface) camera port, 4 pole stereo output and composite video port.

Potential Uses

One of the attractions of the Raspberry Pi device is the 40-pin GPIO header and four USB ports. This gives the opportunity for users to connect and build various types of circuits using external components.

Pi comes with an official operating system named Raspbian OS. The OS has a GUI that can be used for browsing, programming, games, and other applications.

Batteries or solar panels can be connected to power the circuit, which at peak would only require 7.6W of power. A power supply can also be connected via the USB port. One such power supply is provided by the Raspberry Pi Foundation itself at 5.1V.

Microphones and buzzers can be connected via the GPIO pins to create simple circuits. Motion sensors, servos and more, can also be attached in any combination.

There are numerous entertaining projects to undertake for those interested, and for the people who need it there is plenty of inspiration available online.

Pi’nally…

Cyclops Electronics can supply Raspberry Pi products, customers need only get in touch! For this, and all your other electronic component needs, contact Cyclops today.

Categories
Component Testing Electronic Components Semiconductor Technology

RoHS, REACH, and dangerous substance legislation

RoHS and REACH are two pieces of legislation referring to the control of dangerous substances and chemicals. Companies manufacturing and distributing electronic equipment in Europe must comply to be able to trade.

RoHS

The Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) Directive came into force in 2004. With an aim to mitigate the effect of dangerous substances on customers, the Directive restricts the concentration of 10 substances used in Electrical and Electronic Equipment (EEE).

Acceptable levels of restricted substances in a single material are generally less than 0.1% or 1000 parts per million (ppm). For the chemical Cadmium, however, levels must be no more than 0.01% or 100ppm.

Companies must provide proof that they comply with the regulations by way of documentation. This includes a Declaration of Conformity, a record of the assessment procedure for conformity, and any other control documentation.

Since its release in ’04, there have been 3 iterations, with the latest being introduced in July of 2019. RoHS 3.0 introduces 11 new category products and four new substances.

The materials listed include products that could be harmful to not only human health, but the environment too. As such, non-compliance carries with it the potential for a heavy fine.

RoHS certification takes place in several steps:

  1. Extraction testing of the components takes place to determine the value of the RoHS substances contained.
  2. On-site manufacturing processes are inspected to ensure RoHS compliance at the facility.
  3. Review all relevant documentation, including the BOM (Bill of Materials), assembly drawings, and test reports from suppliers.
  4. Following this, if all is in order a RoHS Certificate of Compliance is issued.

REACH

REACH stands for the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals. It was introduced a few years on from RoHS, in 2006.

The scope of REACH is more inclusive than RoHS. It encompasses almost all products manufactured, imported, or sold in the EU or UK.

REACH revolves more around Substances of Very High Concern (SVCH), which includes those considered carcinogenic, mutagenic or toxic for reproduction.

Manufacturers and importers need to register the quantities of substances produced every year. Companies need to safely manage and publicise the risks associated with the substances. They’re also responsible for tracking and managing which substances are being used, and produce safety guidelines for each.

Recent changes

Due to events like Brexit in the UK, RoHS and REACH regulations became transplanted into UK law. Since many substances are imported between mainland Europe and the UK, the legislation in both remained very similar.

As part of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018, REACH was copied into UK legislation, becoming UK REACH in 2021. Although the difference is seemingly in name alone, the two REACHs operate separately, and manufacturers need to comply with both.

REACH for the stars!

Cyclops can supply products that are RoHS and REACH compliant and can provide this information to our customers. This means Cyclops customers can guarantee if they want RoHS compliant parts, they will receive them. So contact Cyclops Electronics today!

This blog post is designed to be informative and is in no way offering advice or guidance on how to interpret legislation.

Categories
Component Testing Electronic Components Semiconductor Technology

Resins and coatings for electronic components

Coating components

Printed circuit boards (PCBs) are the core of many electronic devices and contain electronic components like capacitors, transistors and fuses. As such, keeping them safe and protecting them from damage is key to the continued working of electronic devices. Resins and conformal coatings can be used for this purpose.

Resins

Resins are the more sturdy, heavier option in terms of coatings. This is a great choice when protecting a PCB from adverse conditions and insulating it from potential physical damage.

Within the range of resins used, there are three main types that are used, with each suited to certain PCBs.

Epoxy resins

This compound is well-suited for potting electronics, and protects components against moisture and mechanical damage coming from vibrations or shocks.

Depending on if there are amines (curing agent) mixed with the resin the curing time of the PCB can differ. Something to watch out for is the exothermic reaction cause by the curing. Although this can be mitigated, there is a risk of damaging the component.

Polyurethane resins

The pricier cousin of epoxy resin, polyurethane can also protect PCBs against moisture, as well as high temperatures and UV. Most resins have a maximum temperature tolerance of 130⁰C.  However, polyurethane can cope with temperatures of up to 150⁰C if formulated well.

This maximum temperature is in part thanks to the resin having a lower exothermic rate compared to epoxy. Polyurethane is also more flexible, so is favoured when it comes to potting delicate components.

Silicon resins

Silicon also protects against UV light, and so is often used in LED applications where the change in the colour of the LED needs to be minimised.

Silicon is the most expensive of the three but is not as popular as its counterparts. The material thrives when it comes to high operating temperatures and heat-sensitive components, thanks to its low exothermic temperature.

Conformal coatings

While resins are thick, durable and designed for high levels of stress, conformal coatings are thinner, lighter and are transparent.

Thanks to the tiny layer of coating, usually applied with a paint brush or spray, this kind of coating is a lower-risk alternative than a heavy resin for fragile components.

The coating can be altered or removed more easily than the resin too, and the curing time is massively reduced. However, alongside this the component is more exposed and has a lower level of protection. This makes these coatings more useful for PCBs that will face shorter exposures.

Do your own research

Any coating of a PCB should be carefully considered depending on the purpose of the circuit board, the conditions and stresses it will face, and whether it already has a coating on it. If this is the case, chances are this original coating was meant as the PCB’s primary layer of protection.

Speaking of protection, Cyclops quality checks all of the electronic components it supplies. This protects its customers from damaged parts and counterfeits. For an extra layer of protection in your electronic component supply chain, contact Cyclops today.

This blog post is designed to be informative and is in no way offering advice or guidance on how to coat electronic components.

Categories
Active Components Electronic Components Technology

Electronic Components of a hearing aid

Hearing aids are an essential device that can help those with hearing loss to experience sound. The gadget comes in an analogue or digital format, with both using electronic components to amplify sound for the user.

Main components

Both types of hearing aid, analogue and digital, contain semiconductors for the conversion of sound waves to a different medium, and then back to amplified sound waves.

The main components of a hearing aid are the battery, microphone, amplifier, receiver, and digital signal processor or mini-chip.

The battery, unsurprisingly, is the power source of the device. Depending on the type of hearing aid it can be a disposable one or a rechargeable one.

The microphone can be directional, which means it can only pick up sound from a certain direction, which is in front of the hearing aid user. The alternative, omnidirectional microphones, can detect sound coming from all angles.

The amplifier receives signals from the microphone and amplifies it to different levels depending on the user’s hearing.

The receiver gets signals from the amplifier and converts them back into sound signals.

The digital signal processor, also called a mini-chip, is what’s responsible for all of the processes within the hearing aid. The heart of your hearing, if you will.

Chip shortages

As with all industries, hearing aids were affected by the chip shortages caused by the pandemic and increased demand for chips.

US manufacturers were also negatively impacted by Storm Ida in 2021, and other manufacturers globally reported that orders would take longer to fulfil than in previous years.

However, despite the obstacles the hearing aid industry faced thanks to covid, it has done a remarkable job of recovering compared to some industries, which are still struggling to meet demand even now.

Digital hearing aid advantages

As technology has improved over the years, traditional analogue hearing aids have slowly been replaced by digital versions. Analogue devices would convert the sound waves into electrical signals,  that would then be amplified and transmitted to the user. This type of hearing aid, while great for its time, was not the most authentic hearing experience for its users.

The newer digital hearing aid instead converts the signals into numerical codes before amplifying them to different levels and to different pitches depending on the information attached to the numerical signals.

Digital aids can be adjusted more closely to a user’s needs, too, because there is more flexibility within the components within. They often have Bluetooth capabilities too, being able to connect to phones and TVs. There will, however, be an additional cost that comes with the increased complexity and range of abilities.

Categories
Electronic Components Passive Components Technology

Traditional fuses and eFuses

Fuses are an essential electronic component in most circuits, and act as a safety feature to keep the other components within the circuit safe. Billions are used today to safeguard against circuit failures.

The purpose of fuses

If a circuit is overloaded, or there is a voltage surge, the fuse essentially self-destructs to protect the rest of the circuit. A traditional fuse contains a central fusible element that, when heated to excessive temperatures, melts and stops the flow of current through the circuit.

The speed that the thermal fuse melts depends on the how much heat is being caused by the current, and what temperature the fuse is designed to react to. The fuse can be designed with different melting elements that have varying melting points and resistance, so the currents they can cope with can differ.

eFuses

The new kid on the block is the newer electronic fuse, or eFuse. This component is an updated, re-usable version of the more traditional thermal, one-use fuse.

This component comprises of a field-effect transistor (FET) and a sense resistor. The resistor measures the voltage across it, and when it exceeds a certain limit, the current is cut off by the FET. Usually, the eFuse is placed in series with a thermal fuse rather than replacing it, giving the circuit a second layer of more localised protection for components.

Often eFuses are used as a protection when components are plugged into a computer while the power is still on, also called hot-swapping. In automotive applications, programmable logic controllers (PLCs) and battery management eFuses are a great tool to protect the circuits.

An offer you can’t reFuse.

As thermal fuses have been around for so long, it’s unsurprising that there are certain things the more recent eFuse can do slightly better.

The first and most straightforward advantage is the lifespan: once a thermal fuse is activated and the element inside it fuses, it will have to be replaced. The eFuse, however, can be reset and used multiple times without requiring replacement.

The eFuse is also able to respond to a circuit overload more quickly and works in circuits with a lower current and voltage. For some eFuses the current level it reacts at is set, but for some types it can be altered by an external resistor.

It’s possible to create a homemade eFuse too, just by putting together a few FETs, a resistor and an inductor, which filters the output and acts as your sense resistor.

Reaching melting point

Both fuses have their uses, and utilised together are even more effective as a circuit failsafe. However, each designer must consider their requirements and what will best suit their clients. There are scenarios where the thermal fuse just won’t do the job, and it’s better to be safe than sorry, right?

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Electronic Components Future Technology

Could conductive ink replace conventional circuitry?

It seems like the stuff of dreams, having a pen or a paintbrush that could conduct electricity. Well, those dreams are very real, readily available to buy online, and at a relatively cheap rate, too.

Conductive ink pens and conductive paint that can be used with a pen, paintbrush, or a printer is a reality, and is already being put to work.

What is it?

Conductive ink and conductive paint are liquid materials mixed with nanoparticles of a conducting material like silver or graphite. The paint and ink are technically slightly different, in that the paint sits on the surface of a substrate, while the ink would sink into a substrate it was applied to, like regular ink on paper.

Although the metals are usually in a solid state at room temperature, if it’s in a nanoparticle form it can be mixed with a liquid. When the liquid is spread and begins to dry, the nanoparticles and electrons within them begin to form conductive chains that the current is then able to travel through.

The inks used normally work at 12V, and can be transparent which means it would be a good choice for companies to integrate it invisibly into their graphics.

Uses

One notable way silver-infused ink is currently used is to print Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tags in tickets.

Another common place to find conductive paint or ink is in the rear windscreen of cars. The resistive traces applied to windscreens to help defrost them contain conductive paint. Traces printed on the window can also serve as a radio antenna in more recently manufactured cars.

Conductive inks and paints were originally intended to be used for e-textiles and wearables. The potential for clothes that could detect temperature and heart rate, among other features, is an area receiving considerable investment.

Problems

When compared to conventional circuity and conductors, conductive inks and paints will never be able to emulate the strength of conductivity. In a way, it would be unfair to pit the two against each other, like putting boxers from vastly different weight classes in a ring together.

The reliability and connectivity of traditional conductors is much higher so is preferred for regularly used products, however conductive inks and paints would be utilised in areas that traditional means could not. So, as much as these factors are disadvantages they would be irrelevant when it comes to the product.

Layers of the ink or paint may not always be thick enough to have any conductive strength at all, and it could take several layers of it to properly form a current-conducting pathway. Additionally, the user is relying on the nanoparticles in the liquid to align correctly for conduction. The material would work only for smaller direct voltages too, probably up to around 12V.

Silver is a material that has a higher cost than other conductors like graphite, and could make the price of some paints unreasonable for some customers. The low cost alternative is graphite, but this also has a higher resistivity than metals like silver.

The future

As far as development goes, nanoparticle paint is still in its infancy. Its uses are limited and occasionally unreliable, so although it has cornered a niche conductive market it’s unlikely we’ll see it permeating the sector for a while.

If you are looking for trustworthy day-to-day or obsolete electronic components, Cyclops are here for you. Don’t paint yourself into a corner, contact Cyclops today to find what you’re looking for, at sales@cyclops-electronics.com.

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Component Shortage Electric Vehicles Electronic Components Semiconductor Supply Chain Technology

Chip shortage impact on electric car sales

Many renowned car companies have, by this point, tested the waters of the electric vehicle (EV) market. However, thanks to the roaring success of electric car sales last year, and governmental and environmental incentives, the EV market is about to shift up a gear.

Global shortage

The vehicle market was not able to avoid the semiconductor shortage that has been prolific for the past few years. Safety features, connectivity and a car’s onboard touchscreen all require chips to function.

This, combined with the work-from-home evolution kick-started by the pandemic, meant that car sales decreased, and manufacturers slowed down production. New car sales were down 15% year-on-year in 2020, and the chips freed up by this ended up being redirected to other profiting sectors.

Even without the demand from the automotive industry, it has not been plain sailing for chipmakers, who not only had to contend with factory closures due to COVID-19, but also several natural disasters and factory fires, and a heightened demand from other sectors. Needless to say, the industry is still catching up two years later.

The automaker market

Despite new car sales having an overall decline in 2020, EV sales had about 40% growth, and in 2021 there were 6.6 million electric cars sold. This was more than triple of their market share from two years previously, going from 2.5% of all car sales in 2019 to 9% last year.

Part of the reason why EV sales were able to continue was due to the use of power electronics in the vehicles. While there is a dramatic shortage of semiconductors and microelectronics (MCUs), the shortage has not affected the power electronics market to the same extent. That is not to say that an EV doesn’t need chips. On the contrary, a single car needs around 2,000 of them.

It begs the question, how many EVs could have been sold if there weren’t any manufacturing constraints. Larger companies with more buying power would have been able to continue business, albeit at an elevated cost, while smaller companies may have been unable to sustain production.

Bestsellers

The growth of the EV business in China is far ahead of any other region, with more EVs being sold there in 2021 than in the entire world in 2020. The US also had a huge increase in sales in 2021, doubling their market share to 4.5% and selling more than 500,000 EVs.

In Europe last year 17% of car sales in 2021 were electric with Norway, Sweden, the Netherlands and Germany being the top customers. Between them, China, the US and Europe account for 90% of EV sales

Predictions and incentives

Several governments have set targets to incentivise the purchase of electric cars, and to cut down on CO² emissions caused by traditional combustion engines. Many of these authorities have given themselves ambitiously little time to achieve this, too.

Biden announced last year that the US would be aiming for half of all car sales to be electric by 2030, and half a million new EV charging points would be installed alongside this. The EU commission was similarly bold, proposing that the CO² emission standard for new cars should be zero by 2035, a 55% drop from the levels in 2021.

Companies are also setting EV targets and investing in new electronic models. Some manufacturers are setting targets as high as 50% of their production being electric within the next decade, while others have allotted $35 billion in investment in their pursuit of EV sales.

Possible pitfalls

Aside from the obvious issues there have been with semiconductor production and sourcing, there are also other factors that may make the future of EVs uncertain. One of the essential components of an electric car is its battery, and the materials that are used are increasing in price.

Lithium, used in the production of lithium-ion EV batteries, appears to be in short supply, while nickel, graphite and cobalt prices are also creeping up. However, research is underway for potential replacements for these, which may help for both supply times and the associated costs.

The shortages are affecting everyone, but thankfully Cyclops is here to take some pressure off. No matter what electronic components you are looking for, the team at Cyclops are ready to help. Contact us today at sales@cyclops-electronics.com. Alternatively, you can use the rapid enquiry form on our website.

Categories
Electronic Components Future Semiconductor Technology Transistors

The Angstrom Era of Electronics

Angstrom is a unit of measurement that is most commonly used for extremely small particles or atoms in the fields of physics and chemistry.

However, nanometres are almost too big for new electronic components, and in the not-so-distant future angstrom may be used to measure the size of semiconductors.

It could happen soon

Some large firms have already announced their future plans to move to angstrom within the next decade, which is a huge step in terms of technological advancement.

The most advanced components at the moment are already below 10nm in size, with an average chip being around 14nm. Seeing as 1nm is equal to 10Å it is the logical next step to move to the angstrom.

The size of an atom

The unit (Å) is used to measure atoms, and ionic radius. 1Å is roughly equal to the diameter of one atom. There are certain elements, namely chlorine, sulfur and phosphorus, that have a covalent radius of 1Å, and hydrogen’s size is approximately 0.5Å.

As such, angstrom is mostly used in solid-state physics, chemistry and crystallography.

The origin of the Angstrom

The name of the unit came courtesy of Anders Jonas Ångström, who used the measurement in 1868 to chart the wavelengths of electromagnetic radiation in sunlight.

Using this new unit meant that the wavelengths of light could be measured without the decimals or fractions, and the chart was used by people in the fields of solar physics and atomic spectroscopy after its creation.

Will silicon survive?

It’s been quite a while since Moore’s Law was accurate. The methodology worked on the theory that every two years the number of transistors in an integrated circuit (IC) would double, and the manufacturing and consumer cost would decrease. Despite this principle being relatively accurate in 1965, it does not take into account the shrinking size of electronic components.

Silicon, the material used for most semiconductors, has an atomic size of approximately 2nm (20Å) and current transistors are around 14nm. Even as some firms promise to increase the capabilities of silicon semiconductors, you have to wonder if the material will soon need a successor.

Graphene, silicon carbide and gallium nitride have all been thrown into the ring as potential replacements for silicon, but none are developed enough at this stage for production to be widespread. That said, all three of these and several others have received research and development funding in recent years.

How it all measures up

The conversion of nanometres to angstrom may not seem noteworthy in itself, but the change and advancement it signals is phenomenal. It’s exciting to think about what kind of technology could be developed with electronics this size. So, let’s size up the angstrom era and see what the future holds.

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Electronic Components Future Semiconductor

What are GaN and SiC?

Silicon will eventually go out of fashion, and companies are currently heavily investing in finding its protégé. Gallium Nitride (GaN) and Silicon Carbide (SiC) are two semiconductors that are marked as being possible replacements.

Compound semiconductors

Both materials contain more than one element, so they are given the name compound semiconductors. They are also both wide bandgap semiconductors, which means they are more durable and capable of higher performance than their predecessor Silicon (Si).

Could they replace Silicon?

SiC and GaN both have some properties that are superior to Si, and they’re more durable when it comes to higher voltages.

The bandgap of GaN is 3.2eV and SiC has a bandgap of 3.4eV, compared to Si which has a bandgap of only 1.1eV. This gives the two compounds an advantage but would be a downside when it comes to lower voltages.

Again, both GaN and SiC have a greater breakdown field strength than the current semiconductor staple, ten times better than Si. Electron mobility of the two materials, however, is drastically different from each other and from Silicon.

Main advantages of GaN

GaN can be grown by spraying a gaseous raw material onto a substrate, and one such substrate is silicon. This bypasses the need for any specialist manufacturing equipment being produced as the technology is already in place to produce Si.

The electron mobility of GaN is higher than both SiC and Si and can be manufactured at a lower cost than Si, and so produces transistors and integrated circuits with a faster switching speed and lower resistance.

There is always a downside, though, and GaN’s is the low thermal conductivity. GaN can only reach around 60% of SiC’s thermal conductivity which, although still excellent, could end up being a problem for designers.

Is SiC better?

As we’ve just mentioned, SiC has a higher thermal conductivity than its counterpart, which means it would outlast GaN at a higher heat.

SiC also has more versatility than GaN in what type of semiconductor it can become. The doping of SiC can be performed with phosphorous or nitrogen for an N-type semiconductor, or aluminium for a P-type semiconductor.

SiC is considered to be superior in terms of material quality progress, and the wafers have been produced to a bigger size than that of GaN. SiC on SiC wafers beat GaN on SiC wafers in terms of cost too.

SiC is mainly used for Schottky diodes and FET or MOSFET transistors to make converters, inverters, power supplies, battery chargers and motor control systems.

Categories
Electronic Components Future Semiconductor Technology

Semiconductors in Space

A post about semiconductors being used in space travel would be the perfect place to make dozens of space-themed puns, but let’s stay down to earth on this one.

There are around 2,000 chips used in the manufacture of a single electric vehicle. Imagine, then, how many chips might be used in the International Space Station or a rocket.

Despite the recent decline in the space semiconductor market, it’s looking likely that in the next period there will be a significant increase in profit.

What effect did the pandemic have?

The industry was not exempt from the impact of the shortage and supply chain issues caused by covid. Sales decreased and demand fell by 14.5% in 2020, compared to the year-on-year growth in the years previous.

Due to the shortages, many companies within the industry delayed launches and there was markedly less investment and progress in research and development. However, two years on, the scheduled dates for those postponed launches are fast approaching.

The decline in investment and profit is consequently expected to increase in the next five years. The market is estimated to jump from $2.10 billion in 2021 all the way up to $3.34 billion in 2028. This is a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 6.89%.

What is being tested for the future

In the hopes of ever improving the circuitry of spaceships there are several different newer technologies currently being tested for use in space travel.

Some component options are actually already being tested onboard spacecrafts, both to emulate conditions and to take advantage of the huge vacuum that is outer space. The low-pressure conditions can emulate a clean room, with less risk of particles contaminating the components being manufactured.

Graphene is one of the materials being considered for future space semiconductors. The one-atom-thick semiconductor is being tested by a team of students and companies to see how it reacts to the effects of space. The experiments are taking place with a view to the material possibly being used to improve the accuracy of sensors in the future.

Two teams from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) are currently looking at the use of Gallium Nitride (GaN) in space too. This, and other wide bandgap semiconductors show promise due to their performance in high temperatures and at high levels of radiation. They also have the potential to be smaller and more lightweight than their silicon predecessors.

GaN on Silicon Carbide (GaN on SiC) is also being researched as a technology for amplifiers that allows satellites to transmit at high radio frequency from Earth. Funnily enough, it’s actually easier to make this material in space, since the ‘clean room’ vacuum effect makes the process of epitaxy – depositing a crystal substrate on top of another substrate – much more straightforward.

To infinity and beyond!

With the global market looking up for the next five years, there will be a high chance of progress in the development of space-specialised electronic components. With so many possible advancements in the industry, it’s highly likely it won’t be long before we see pioneering tech in space.

To bring us back down to Earth, if you’re looking for electronic components contact Cyclops today to see what they can do for you. Email us at sales@cyclops-electronics.com or use the rapid enquiry form on our website.

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Future Technology

What alternatives to WiFi are available?

WiFi has been an integral part of our life since the 90s when it first came into being. Originally created for wireless connections in cashier systems under the name WaveLAN, the trademarked WiFi name came into existence just before the turn of the century and hasn’t looked back since.

Alongside WiFi, cellular internet was also thriving, giving people the power to connect to a network through a phone signal. The current rollout of 5G shows that this method of connecting to the internet is also still very popular and getting more advanced by the year.

But since the conception of these two types of communications, several new methods have also been designed, and may be contenders to replace them in future.

How does WiFi work?

WiFi stands for Wireless Fidelity and uses radio waves to transmit signals between devices. The frequency is in the Gigahertz range, as opposed from Kilohertz and Megahertz for AM and FM radio respectively. This is why every iteration of cellular internet has a ‘G’ after it, because the frequency range for WiFi is between 2.4GHz and 5GHz.

But, as with all things, there are limitations to WiFi’s capabilities. Many current devices can’t yet use 5G as they weren’t built to support it, and 2.4G is now so congested it is almost always unusable too.

LiFi

This WiFi alternative, known as Light Fidelity, was first announced in 2011 during a TED Global Talk by Professor Harald Haas where he demonstrated it for the first time. The system uses light instead of radio waves, so lightbulbs can create a wireless type of network.

Despite the term being first coined by Haas, CSO of PureLiFi, several companies have since introduced products with strikingly similar names that also use light. This type of communication is called Optical Wireless Communications (OWC), which encompasses communications using infrared, ultraviolet and visible light.

Satellite WiFi

Starlink is just one example out of the category of satellite WiFi. The SpaceX subdivision uses a network of private satellites positioned across the globe to provide internet access. Currently the company has around 2,000 working satellites orbiting the planet.

Although this is already an established form of internet access, especially in rural areas, the investment in developing this technology and its versatility makes it a contender for the monopoly on WiFi in the future.

Mesh Networking

Mesh networks are often used as an extension to a regular WiFi home connection. The short-range network uses two modulation techniques, Binary and Quadrature Phase-shift Keying (BPSK and QPSK). This makes the mesh network devices act like high-speed Ultra-wideband ones.

The system works on the principle that you install nodes, like mini satellites, throughout your house. The nodes all act as stepping stones, which means the WiFi signal at any point in your house will be much stronger than if you only had one central router.

The fibre-optic future

With the recent advent of 5G and the increasing availability of faster WiFi thanks to tech like fibre optic broadband, it’s unlikely it will go out of fashion very soon. But it’s always nice to have a bit of choice, isn’t it?

One huge benefit that comes with the internet is being able to find electronics component suppliers at high speed. Whether you’re on satellite WiFi, cellular, or LiFi, contact Cyclops Electronics today at sales@cyclops-electronics.com to see how we can help you.

Categories
Electronic Components Transistors

How transistors replaced vacuum tubes

Electronics has come on leaps and bounds in the last 100 years and one of the most notable changes is the size of components. At the turn of the last century mechanical components were slowly being switched out for electrical ones, and an example of this switch was the vacuum tube.

A lightbulb moment

Vacuum tubes were invented in the early 1900s, and the first ones were relatively simple devices containing only an anode and a cathode. The two electrodes are inside a sealed glass or aluminium tube, then the gas inside would be removed to create a vacuum. This allowed electrons to pass between the two electrodes, working as a switch in the circuit.

Original vacuum tubes were quite large and resembled a lightbulb in appearance. They signalled a big change in computer development, as a purely electronic device replaced the previously used mechanical relays.

Aside being utilised in the field of computing, vacuum tubes were additionally used for radios, TVs, telephones, and radar equipment.

The burnout

Apart from resembling a bulb, the tubes also shared the slightly more undesirable traits. They would produce a lot of heat, which would cause the filaments to burn out and the whole component would need to be replaced.

This is because the gadget worked on a principle called thermionic emission, which needed heat to let an electrical reaction take place. Turns out having a component that might melt the rest of your circuit wasn’t the most effective approach.

The transition

Transistors came along just over 40 years later, and the vacuum tubes were slowly replaced with the solid-state alternative.

The solid-state device, so named because the electric current flows through solid semiconductor crystals instead of in a vacuum like its predecessor, could be made much smaller and did not overheat. The electronic component also acted as a switch or amplifier, so the bright star of the vacuum tube gradually burned out.

Sounds like success

Vacuum tubes are still around and have found a niche consumer base in audiophiles and hi-fi fanatics. Many amplifiers use the tubes in place of solid-state devices, and the devices have a dedicated following within the stereo community.

Although some of the materials that went into the original tubes have been replaced, mostly for safety reasons, old tubes classed as New Old Stock (NOS) are still sold and some musicians still prefer these. Despite this, modernised tubes are relatively popular and have all the familiar loveable features, like a tendency to overheat.

Don’t operate in a vacuum

Transistors are used in almost every single electronic product out there. Cyclops have a huge selection of transistors and other day-to-day and obsolete components. Inquire today to find what you’re looking for at sales@cyclops-electronics.com, or use the rapid enquiry form on our website.

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Uncategorized

Carbon nanotubes being used to develop ‘Smart Clothes’

Since the discovery of carbon nanotubes (CNTs) in 1991, the material has been utilised for commercial purposes in several areas, including anti-corrosion paints, hydrophobic coatings and engineering plastics.

CNTs were one of the materials that made it possible for two-dimensional graphene to be used and researched. On a broader scale, it allowed nanoscience to branch into its own area of study.

The material is made up of a cylindrical tube of carbon atoms, and can be single-walled or multi-walled. On a molecular level, CNTs are 100 times more robust than steel and a fraction of the weight.

But in the last ten years, there have been studies into how the material’s heat and electrical conductive qualities might be used in another everyday product: clothes.

Keeping warm

A recent study by North Carolina State University examined CNTs’ usage as a ‘smart fabric’ in 2020. The researchers investigated how its heating and cooling properties could be harnessed to make a cheaper alternative to the current thermoelectric materials being used.

The plan is to integrate the CNTs into the fabric of the clothes, rather than an extra layer, which means the flexible material has an advantage over others currently available on the market.

The low thermal conductivity of CNTs means that heat would not travel back to the wearer, and the same applies to cool air, when an external current is applied.

Heart racing yet?

 A study from seven years previously studied how CNTs could be used as a built-in electrocardiogram (ECG) within athletic wear. The nanotube fibres sewn into the clothes monitored heartrate and took a continual cardiogram from the wearer.

The Brown School of Engineering lab, who conducted the research, said the shirt would have to be a tight fit to make sure the material touched the skin, but the t-shirt was still – miraculously – machine-washable.

According to the researchers the enhances shirt actually performed better than a chest-strap monitor ECG when compared in a test, and could connect to Bluetooth devices to transmit the collected data.

Recharging…

In 2018 engineers from the University of Cincinnati, in partnership with the Wright-Patterson Air Force Research Laboratory, conducted a study into how CNT clothes could charge a phone.

This study investigated the applications of CNT clothes in the military, where it could be used to charge the electronics that form part of a soldier’s field equipment instead of weighty batteries. Using a similar technique to the other studies, where CNT fibres were sewn into the clothes.

Will it make fashion week?

Not quite yet. Despite the cheaper-by-comparison cost of the material, the quantity of material required for mass production is too high for what is currently available and is still relatively young and untested. The specialist equipment that would also be needed for CNT textile production would be an investment many manufacturers would decide against.

While CNTs may not be a hugely sought-after material just yet, Cyclops can supply you with hard-to-find electronic components when you need them most. Contact us now at sales@cyclops-electronics.com to see how we can help you.

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Electronic Components Future

The tech behind the touch screen

Ever wondered how the touchscreen on your phone actually works? It’s such an integral part of our lives and, despite the fast advancements, the technology is still relatively new.

The first touch screen was invented in 1965 by E. A. Johnson and used a type of technology that is still widely used in touch screens today: capacitive.

Different types of touchscreen technology

The two main types of touch screens used are capacitive and resistive, which work in slightly different ways.

Capacitive

This tech, normally used for devices like smartphones and tablets, by making your finger part of the circuit (not in a weird way!). There are layers of glass coated with a conductive material like copper. When a smartphone user touches the screen, your finger is used as a conductor and completes the circuit.

When the ‘touch event’ occurs, the device detects the electrical charge at the location the connection is made, and the screen’s receptors can then pass the signal onto the operating system which will respond.

This is why smartphones don’t really work when you’re wearing gloves, because the conductor is blocked by an insulator. However, devices like styluses and and specially designed gloves are designed at the same level of conductivity, which is why they will work.

Resistive

Touch screens that need more durability, like the screens on ATMs and self-checkouts, are usually resistive rather than capacitive. In this type of touch screen, a glass or plastic layer is covered by a resistive layer that conducts charge. When a point is pressed on the plastic layer, the two layers touch and change electrical charge at that point.

The downside to this type of touch screens is it won’t detect more than one touch, unlike the capacitive equivalent.

Other types

There are several other types of touch screens, including ones that use infrared LEDs and photodetectors, optical sensors, and even ones that use friction and acoustic signals. However, none of these variations are used as widespread as capacitive or resistive.

Components of a touchscreen

The touch screen technology itself is comprised of around 4 layers.

The top layer, or the layer that smartphone users interact with, is the cover lens. This top layer is what we can see and what we interact with.

The next layer is the touch sensor, which is a clear panel made from glass or plastic with an electric current running through it. When a touch is registered the current causes a voltage change, which is sensed by a small microcontroller-based chip called the touch controller, that can determine the location of the touch.

Under the touch sensor is the display, usually a liquid crystal display (LCD) or active-matrix organic light emitting diode (AMOLED) technology.

The final layer to the touch screen is the software, which interprets the signals transmitted to it and can form a response.

In front of the screen

Technology is currently being developed that will even take the ‘touch’ out of touch screen, which can predict the target a consumer is aiming at without them touching the screen. The tech uses AI and sensors to avoid a user needing to physically touch the screen, and so takes out the risk of any bacteria or pathogens being spread via the surface.

So, in a future where we may be more careful of what surfaces we touch, we will wait with anticipation for what touch screen technology could bring.

For peace of mind, Cyclops screen and quality test all the components we stock. For a trustworthy supplier with more than 30 years of experience, get in touch with Cyclops today at sales@cyclops-electronics.com

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Semiconductor Supply Chain Technology

Making silicon semiconductors

As the global shortage of silicon semiconductors (also called chips) continues, what better time is there to read up on how these intricate, tiny components are made?

One of the reasons the industry can’t catch up with the heightened demand for chips is that creating them takes huge amounts of time and precision. From the starting point of refining quartz sand, to the end product of a tiny chip with the capacity to hold thousands of components, let’s have a quick walkthrough of it all:

Silicon Ingots

Silicon is the most common semiconductor material currently used, and is normally refined from the naturally-occurring material silicon dioxide (SiO₂) or, as you might know it, quartz.

Once the silicon is refined and becomes hyper pure, it is heated to 1420˚C which is above its melting point. Then a single crystal, called the seed, is dipped into the molten mixture and slowly pulled out as the liquid silicon forms a perfect crystalline structure around it. This is the start of our wafers.

Slicing and Cleaning

The large cylinder of silicon is then cut into very fine slices with a diamond saw, and further polished so they are at a perfect thickness to be used in integrated circuits (ICs). This polishing process is undertaken in a clean room, where workers have to wear suits that will not collect particles and will cover their whole body. Even a single speck of dirt could ruin the wafers, so the clean room only allows up to 100 particles per cubic foot of air.

Photolithography

In this stage the silicon is covered with a layer of material called a photoresist, and is then put under a UV light mask to create the pattern of circuits on the wafer. Some of the photoresist layer is washed away by a solvent, and the remaining photoresist is stamped onto the silicon to produce the pattern.

Fun fact – The yellow light often seen in pictures of semiconductor fabs is in the lithography rooms. The photoresist material is sensitive to high frequency light, which is why UV is used to make it soluble. To avoid damaging the rest of the wafer, low frequency yellow light is used in the room.

The process of photolithography can be repeated many times to create the required outlines on each wafer, and it is at this stage that the outline of each individual rectangular chip is printed onto the wafer too.

Layering

The fine slices are stacked on top of each other to form the final ICs, with up to 30 unique wafers being used in sequence to create a single computer chip. The outlines of the chips are then cut to separate them from the wafer, and packaged individually to protect them.

The final product

Due to this convoluted, delicate process, the time take to manufacture a single semiconductor is estimated to take up to four months. This, and the specialist facilities that are needed to enable production, results in an extreme amount of care needing to be taken throughout fabrication.

If you’re struggling to source electronic components during this shortage, look no further than Cyclops Electronics. Cyclops specialises in both regular and hard-to-find components. Get in touch now to see how easy finding stock should be, at sales@cyclops-electronics.com.

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Active Components Electronic Components Semiconductor Technology Transistors

The History of Transistors

Transistors are a vital, ubiquitous electronic component. Their main function is to switch or amplify the electrical current in a circuit, and a modern device like a smartphone can contain between 2 and 4 billion transistors.

So that’s some modern context, but have you ever wondered when the transistor was invented? Or what it looked like?

Pre-transistor technology

Going way back to when Ohm’s Law was first discovered in 1820s, people had been aware of circuits and the flow of current. As an extension of this, there was an awareness of conductors.

Following on from this, semiconductors accompanied the birth of the AC-DC (alternating current – direct current) conversion device, the rectifier, in 1874.

Two patents were filed in the 20s and 30s for devices that would have been transistors if they had ever reached past the theoretical stage. In 1925 Julius Lilienfeld of Austria-Hungary filed a patent, but did not end up releasing any papers regarding his research on the field-effect transistor, and so his discoveries were ignored.

Again, in 1934 German physicist Oskar Heil’s patent was on a device that, by applying an electrical field, could control the current in a circuit. With only theoretical ideas, this also did not become the first field effect transistor.

The invention of transistors

The official invention of a working transistor was in 1947, and the device was announced a year later in 1948. The inventors were three physicists working at Bell Telephone Laboratories in New Jersey, USA. William Shockley, John Bardeen and Walter Brattain were part of a semiconductor research subgroup working out of the labs.

One of the first attempts they made at a transistor was Shockley’s semiconductor triode, which was made up of three electrodes, an emitter, a collector and a large low-resistance contact placed on a block of germanium. However, the semiconductor surface trapped electrons, which blocked the main channel from the effect of the external field.

Despite this initial idea not working out, the issue was solved in 1946. After spending some time looking into three-layer structures featuring a reversed and forward-biased junction, they returned to their project on field-effect devices in a year later in 1947. At the end of that year, they found that with two very close contact junctions, with one forward biased and one reverse biased, there would be a slight gain.

The first working transistor featured a strip of gold over a triangle of plastic, finely cut with a razor at the tip to create two contact points with a hair’s breadth between them and placed on top of a block of germanium.

The device was announced in June of 1948 as the transistor – a mix of the words ‘transconductance’, ‘transfer’ and ‘varistor’.

The French connection

At the same time over the water in France, two German physicists working for Compagnie des Freins et Signaux were at a similar stage in the development of a point contact device, which they went on to call the ‘transistron’ when it was released.  

Herbert Mataré and Heinrich Welker released the transistron a few months after the Bell Labs transistor was announced but was engineered completely without influence by their American counterpart due to the secrecy around the Bell project.

Where we are now

The first germanium transistors were used in computers as a replacement for their predecessor vacuum tubes, and transistor car radios were produced all within only six years of its invention.

The first transistor was made with germanium, but since the material can’t withstand heats of more than 180˚F (82.2˚C), in 1954 Bell Labs switched to silicon. Later that year Texas Instruments began mass-producing silicon transistors.

First silicon transistor made in 1954 by Bell Labs, then Texas Instruments made first commercial mass produced silicon transistor the same year. Six years later in 1960 the first in the direct bloodline of modern transistors was made, again by Bell Labs – the metal-oxide-semiconductor field-effect Transistor (MOSFET).

Between then and now, most transistor technology has been based on the MOSFET, with the size shrinking from 40 micrometres when they were first invented, to the current average being about 14 nanometres.

The latest in transistor technology is called the RibbonFET. The technology was announced by Intel in 2021, and is a transistor whose gate surrounds the channel. The tech is due to come into use in 2024 when Intel change from nanometres to, the even smaller measuring unit, Angstrom.

There is also other tech that is being developed as the years march on, including research into the use of 2D materials like graphene.

If you’re looking for electronic components, Cyclops are here to help. Contact us at sales@cylops-electronics.com to order hard-to-find or obsolete electronic components. You can also use the rapid enquiry form on our website https://www.cyclops-electronics.com/

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Component Shortage Electronic Components Future Semiconductor Supply Chain Technology

Ukraine – Russia conflict may increase global electronics shortage

Due to conflict between Russia and Ukraine, both of whom produce essential products for chip fabrication, the electronic component shortage across the globe may worsen.

Ukraine produces approximately half of the global supply of neon gas, which is used in the photolithography process of chip production. Russia is responsible for about 44% of all palladium, which is implemented in the chip plating process.

The two leading Ukrainian suppliers of neon, Ingas and Cryoin, have stopped production in Moscow and said they would be unable to fill orders until the fighting had stopped.

Ingas has customers in Taiwan, Korea, the US and Germany. The headquarters of the company are based in Mariupol, which has been a conflict zone since late February. According to Reuters the marketing officer for Ingas was unable to contact them due to lack of internet or phone connection in the city.

Cryoin said it had been shut since February 24th to keep its staff safe, and would be unable to fulfil March orders. The company said it would only be able to stay afloat for three months if the plant stayed closed, and would be even less likely to survive financially if any equipment or facilities were damaged.

Many manufacturers fear that neon gas, a by-product of Russian steel manufacturing, will see a price spike in the coming months. In 2014 during the annexing of Crimea, the price of neon rose by 600%.

Larger chip fabricators will no doubt see smaller losses due to their stockpiling and buying power, while smaller companies are more likely to suffer as a result of the material shortage.

It is further predicted that shipping costs will rise due to an increase in closed borders and sanctions, and there will be a rise in crude oil and auto fuel prices.

The losses could be mitigated in part by providing alternatives for neon and palladium, some of which can be produced by the UK or the USA. Gases with a chlorine or fluoride base could be used in place of neon, while palladium can be sourced from some countries in the west.

Neon could also be supplied by China, but the shortages mean that the prices are rising quickly and could be inaccessible to many smaller manufacturers.

Neon consumption worldwide for chip production was around 540 metric tons last year, and if companies began neon production now it would take between nine months and two years to reach steady levels.

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Electronic Components Future Semiconductor Technology

What is the Internet of Things?

EveryThing

In terms of IoT, a ‘Thing’ is anything that can transfer data over a network and can have its own IP address. They are most often ‘smart’ devices, that use processors or sensors to accumulate and send data.

These devices have little-to-no need for human interaction, except in cases where the smart device is controlled by a remote control or something similar. Due to the low cost of electronic components and wireless networks being readily available, it’s possible for most things to become, well, Things.

Technically, larger items like computers, aeroplanes, and even phones, cannot be considered IoT devices, but normally contain a huge amount of the smart devices within them. Smaller devices, however, like wearable devices, smart meters and smart lightbulbs can all be counted as IoT items.

There are already more connected IoT devices than there are people in the world, and as more Things are produced this progress shows no sign of slowing.

Applications of IoT

The automation and smart learning of IoT devices has endless uses and can be implemented in many industries. The medical industry can use IoT to remotely monitor patients using smart devices that can track blood pressure, heart rate and glucose levels, and can check if patients are sticking to treatment plans or physiotherapy routines.

Smart farming has garnered attention in recent years for its possibly life-saving applications. The use of IoT devices in the agricultural industry can enable the monitoring of moisture levels, fertiliser quantities and soil analysis. Not only would these functions lower the labour costs for farmers substantially but could also be implemented in countries where there is a desperate need for agriculture.

The industrial and automotive industries also stand to benefit from the development of IoT. Road safety can be improved with fast data transfer of vehicle health, as well as location. Maintenance could be performed before issues begin to affect driving if data is collected and, alongside the implementation of AI, smart vehicles and autonomous cars could be able to drive, brake and park without human error.

What’s next?

The scope of possibilities for IoT will only grow as technology and electronics become more and more accessible. An even greater number of devices will become ‘smart’ and alongside the implementation of AI, we will likely have the opportunity to make our lives fully automated. We already have smart toothbrushes and smart lightbulbs, what more could be possible in the future?

To make it sustainable and cost-effective, greater measures in security and device standardisation need to be implemented to reduce the risk of hacking. The UK government released guidelines in 2018 on how to keep your IoT devices secure, and a further bill to improve cyber security entered into law in 2021.

If you’re looking for chips, processors, sensors, or any other electronic component, get in touch with Cyclops Electronics today. We are specialists in day-to-day and obsolete components and can supply you where other stockists cannot.

Contact Cyclops today at sales@cyclops-electronics.com. Or use the rapid enquiry form on our website to get fast results.

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Electronic Components Future Semiconductor Supply Chain Technology

Could Graphene be used in semiconductors?

A new discovery

Graphene was first isolated at the University of Manchester in 2004. Professors Andre Geim and Kostya Novoselov were experimenting on a Friday night (as you do) and found they could create very thin flakes of graphite using sticky tape. When separating these fragments further, they found they could produce flakes that were one atom thick.

Geim and Novoselov were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for their ground-breaking experiments in 2010, and since the two had first identified the material since the 60s it had been a long time coming.

Despite its thinness Graphene is extremely strong, estimated to be 200 times stronger than steel

Is silicon outdated?

Semiconductors are inextricably linked to Moore’s Law, which is the principle that the number of transistors on a microchip doubles every year. But that observation Intel co-founder Gordon Moore made in 1965 is now losing speed.

Silicon chips will very soon reach their limit and will be unable to hold any additional transistors, which means that future innovation will require a replacement material. Graphene, with its single-atom thickness, is a contender.

In 2014 hardware company IBM devoted $3 billion to researching replacements for silicon as it believed the material would become obsolete. The company said as chips and transistors get smaller, as small as the current average of 7 nanometers (nm), the integrity of silicon is more at risk.

IBM revealed its new 2nm tech last year, which can hold 50 billion transistors on a single silicon chip, so the material is not going obsolete just yet.

Disadvantages

Graphene is nowhere close to being a replacement for silicon, it is still in the development stage and the cost of implementing it into supply chain would be extensive. A lot more research and adjustment is required, and it would have to be introduced step by step to avoid prices skyrocketing and supply chains breaking down.

Graphene is not the only contender to be the replacement for silicon either. Carbon nanotubes are fighting for prominence, and other 2D materials like molybdenum disulfide and tungsten disulfide are also vying for the position.

Another disadvantage of Graphene is that there is no bandgap, which means the semiconductor can’t be switched off. The possibly jagged edges of the material could also pierce the cell membranes which may disrupt functions.

Other applications

Thanks to its 2D properties Graphene is also being studied for its potential uses in other areas. In relation to semiconductors there has been research from Korea on the uses of graphene as a filtration device for semiconductor wastewater. The oxide-based nanofiltration membranes could remove ammonium from the wastewater created by semiconductor production so it can then be recycled. As a wider application of this Graphene could be used as a filtration device for water or to remove gas from a gas-liquid mixture.

Graphene is also being researched for its uses in the biomedical field, which include being a platform for drug deliverybone tissue engineering, and ultrasensitive biosensors to detect nucleic acids. Graphene has other sensor-based uses, because the sensors can be made in micrometre-size they could be made to detect events on a molecular level, and could be of use in agriculture and smart farming.

There is a possibility Graphene could be combined with paint to weather-proof or rust-proof vehicles and houses, and to coat sports equipment. It also could have potential within the energy field for extending the lifespan of lithium-ion batteries.

When can we expect change?

Consultation company McKinsey estimated there would be three phases to the implementation of Graphene, none of which have begun just yet. Phase one would be to use Graphene as an ‘enhancer’ of existing technology, and will simply improve other devices by extending the lifespan or improving the conduction. This phase is estimated to last for ten years, after which phase two will begin. In this step graphene will become a replacement for silicon and will be the next step in the improvement of semiconductors and electronics. After 25 years we can expect the next step in graphene applications, things we can only dream of now.

In the meantime, people will still be using silicon-based semiconductors for quite a while. If you’re on the lookout for chips, or any other day-to-day or obsolete electronic components, contact Cyclops today at sales@cyclops-electronics.com, or use the rapid enquiry form on our website.

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Component Shortage COVID-19 Electronic Components Hard to Find Components Semiconductor Supply Chain Technology

The global electronic component shortage – what happened?

Arguably the biggest ongoing crisis in the tech industry is the global semiconductor shortage. You can’t go far online without seeing news about it, and many people have seen it firsthand when trying to buy a brand-new car, or a recently released games console.

When did it start?

The obvious factor contributing to the shortage is COVID-19. The virus infected millions and sent the world into lockdown, which then led to the housebound masses logging in and going online.

At the start of lockdown in March 2020, 60% of 18-24-year-olds were increasing their use of home delivery instead of leaving the house. Amazon’s revenue also rose at a quicker pace than in previous years, with the company making $88.91 billion in Q2 2022.

Alongside the increase in online shopping came an increase in other digital activities like PC and console gaming. In the last quarter of 2020 desktop, notebook and workstation sales rose to a record 90.3 million units. Tech company Sony saw 25% of its revenue come from game and network services, and around 18% from electronics products and solutions.

In another case of bad timing, both Microsoft and Sony were about to release their next generation of game consoles, and Nintendo Switch sales were booming. All of this meant demand for components was skyrocketing.

This then led to delays in car manufacturing. Why? Because all the available chips were being bought up by computer and electronics manufacturers, so there were none left for the automotive industry. A car part may need between 500 and 1,500 chips, and are used for many parts including the dashboard display and to control the airbag.

There were other elements that contributed to the shortage before this: The US and China had been imposing increasingly high tariffs on each other for the past two years, and natural disasters and fires took out several factories in Japan, Taiwan and China.

When will it end?

The comeback from the semiconductor shortage will not be quick. Some factories that were shut down by natural disasters are still repairing the damage and trying to reopen production. But as the demand is staying high, there will need to be new facilities created to cater for the increase in demand.

The time, expertise and money needed to start a new factory will be too much for smaller firms to manage, so then the hole in the market needs to be filled by larger corporations like Intel and Samsung. Both companies currently have plans to open new fabs in America, but it will be a while before they can start production.

Intel’s ambitious plan to construct the one of the largest chip factories ever in Ohio would alleviate demand, but is not due to start production until 2025. Similarly, Samsung’s Texas fab will not be operational until 2024.

Despite smaller factories opening, the substantial backlog will not be solved by these alone. There will need to be a combination of an increase in production, time efficiency and, with the pandemic in mind, automation to decrease person-to-person contact. There will also need to be a stock of chips manufactured to avoid shortages in future.

Europe and America have both put an emphasis on increasing their domestic chip production in the next decade, in the hopes that this will prevent importing issues in the future.

The speed at which technology is currently being developed also puts manufacturers in a tight spot. Not only are more electronic devices being produced all the time, but the technology of the components within them is also advancing quickly.

While it is difficult to forecast entirely, experts say the shortage could last a few more years. Hopefully with the opening of the larger plants estimated for approximately the same time, the chip shortage might be mitigated by 2025.

We can help

The market is currently just as competitive in the case of other electronic components, but Cyclops can help. With our extensive stock of day-to-day and obsolete components we can supply you when others cannot.

For all your component needs, contact Cyclops Electronics today at sales@cyclops-electronics.com. Or submit a rapid enquiry through our website.

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Component Shortage Electronic Components Future Semiconductor Supply Chain Technology

The European Chips Act and its impact on electronic component sales

Semiconductors are vital for our day-to-day life. They are in all the electronics you own but are also in your kitchen appliances, your car, your electric shower and many more. But what if we lost access to these components?

The huge reliance on imported semiconductors was made abundantly clear last year. Europe’s current share of the global semiconductor market is only about 10%, and the continents is otherwise dependent on supply from abroad.

The need for independence and autonomy in the European chip market has been made very apparent due to factors like Brexit and COVID-19.

The European Chips Act was first mentioned in the EU’s 2021 State of Union Letter of Intent, calling the act a key initiative for 2022. The EU created the Industrial Alliance for Processors and Semiconductor Technologies alongside it, to plan and oversee progress on the act.

One of the aims of the alliance is to increase Europe’s share in global chip production to 20% by 2030, but they will first have to identify issues with the market and map out a way to improve design and production.

During the ‘State of the World’ Special Address by European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen on January 20, the chips act was mentioned once again, and they announced draft legislation for the chips act is due in February of this year.

The European Commission president said that there would be five steps taken to improve the chip sector, and that they would focus on research first, then design and manufacturing. After these there would be an adaptation of state aid rules to increase provisions in case of shortage.  Lastly, she said the EU would work to support smaller, innovative technology companies.

In 2020 the United States accounted for the largest share in the semiconductor industry, with 47%. Following the US was South Korea with 20% of the market. China’s share has also increased quickly in recent years, putting it narrowly behind Korea. Despite Japan previously having a larger share in the market, they are currently on equal footing with Europe with a share of around 10%.

Despite no longer being a member of the EU, and therefore not directly signing the Chips Act, the UK could also have the potential to increase its standing in the global semiconductor race.

According to some UK-based chipmakers, the country has an advantage in the area of research and development. If research facilities like the University of Manchester were given the right attention and funding, they could develop sustainable resources like graphene to replace mined silicon in processors.

The UK electronics sector will always be considerably smaller than huge countries like China and America, but with significant investment they would have the ability to make a difference in the current chip shortage. And Cyclops is a perfect example of a smaller company making a big difference.

Cyclops is an electronic component distributor with a wealth of contacts from all over the world. With unrivalled stock and suppliers, Cyclops will put you ahead of your competitors. Contact us today at sales@cyclops-electronics.com.

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Electronic Components obsolescence obsolete components Semiconductor Technology

Obsolete components and where to find them?

Obsolete electronic components are, despite the name, still widely used and required for manufactured products. The term obsolete often denotes something out of date or out of use. While these electronic components are classed as out of date, they are still used long after their so-called expiry date.

As companies try to keep up to date with the latest technological advancements and customer needs, many original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) will stop producing their older components and move on to manufacture the newest, high-profit electronics.

These older, no longer produced components will soon become obsolete and will be classed as end of life by their OEM, who will release a formal product change notice (PCN) for its customers.

But obsolescence does not stop companies from using a component. There will already be many products that use the component and will still require it. The demand will continue but the stock will shrink, causing the price of these end-of-life components to increase and drive competition to acquire them.

There are a few ways to bypass the need for obsolete components, but it will always be a case of balancing the cost to the benefits.

One option is a drop-in replacement, which is designed to be compatible with an existing product. This, however, can be time-consuming or costly, or both, depending on how many components need to be sourced.

There may also be the option for crossing, or cross-referencing, the obsolete electronic component. A different manufacturer may produce a component very similar to one no longer produced, or there could be an alternative part number which results in a usable substitute. There is always the risk that there is no viable substitute, though, or the alternatives are also obsolete.

Despite the high price for obsolete components, it’s likely that it would still be cheaper for companies to source these discontinued parts than to re-design their whole product around a new component. As such, people looking for obsolete components are often competing with many others and need to find reliable, trustworthy sources of stock.

Among the many companies offering to source obsolete components, there will be some that are untrustworthy. Buyers risk exposing themselves to faulty, counterfeit or overpriced products if they are unable to find a reliable, certified re-seller.

A Cyclops Excess speciality is buying obsolete components from suppliers who have ended up with slightly more than they needed. As a result, our Excess stock includes a huge variety of hard-to-find obsolete electronic components that are still sought after today.

All of Cyclops’s stock is quality checked and as an independent stockist we can buy and sell components according to our customer’s needs. If you’re on the look-out for regular or obsolete electronic components get in touch today at sales@cyclops-electronics.com, or use the rapid enquiry form available on our website here.

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Component Shortage COVID-19 Electronic Components Future Semiconductor Supply Chain Technology

Latest electronic component factory openings

We’ve all heard about the shortages in standard components like semiconductors and chips. Cars, phones and computers, items we use every day, are no longer being produced at the speedy rate we’ve come to expect. The cause of this shortage is, in part, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

This is especially noticeable in Europe and America, where production has often been outsourced to Asia in the past.

So who are the latest companies expanding operations, and how much are they spending? Check out our quick run-down of factories and when they should open:

Company: Intel

Location: Ohio, USA

Product: Chips

Completion date: 2025

Cost: $20 billion (£14.7 billion)

The latest, and possibly greatest, announcement on our list comes from Intel. The corporation revealed in January that they would be committing to building two chip manufacturing plants in New Albany, Ohio. The move is said to be due to supply chain issues with Intel’s manufacturers in Asia, and should boost the American industry with the creation of at least 3,000 jobs. Construction should begin this year.

Company: Samsung Electronics

Location: Texas, USA

Product: Semiconductors

Completion date: 2024

Cost: $17billion (£12.5billion)

The household name announced late last year that they would begin work on a new semiconductor-manufacturing plant in Taylor, Texas. The Korean company stated the project was Samsung’s largest single investment in America, and is due to be operational by the middle of 2024.

Company: Infineon

Location: Villach, Austria

Product: Chips

Completion date: 2021

Cost: 1.6 billion (£1.3 billion)

After being in construction since 2018, Infineon’s Austrian plant became operational in September last year. The chip factory for power electronics, also called energy-saving chips, on 300-millimeter tin wafers began shipping three months ahead of schedule in 2021, and its main customer base will be in the automotive industry.

Company: Northvolt

Location: Gdańsk, Poland

Product: Batteries

Completion date: 2022

Cost: $200 million (£148 million)

The Swedish battery manufacturer is expanding its operations with a new factory in Poland. While initial operations are supposed to begin this year producing 5 GWh of batteries, it hopes to further develop to produce 12 GWh in future. Northvolt has also just begun operations at its new battery factory in Skellefteå in Sweden.

Company: Vingroup

Location: Hà Tĩnh, Vietnam

Product: Batteries

Completion date: 2022

Cost: $174 million (£128 million)

The Vietnamese electric vehicle manufacturer is due to start production at its new factory later this year, where it will produce lithium batteries for its electric cars and buses. The factory will be designed to produce 10,000 battery packs per year initially, but in a second phase the manufacturer said it will upgrade to 1 million battery packs annually. VinFast, a member of Vingroup, is also planning on expanding operations to America and Germany.

Company: EMD Electronics

Location: Arizona, USA

Product: Gas and chemical delivery systems

Completion date: 2022

Cost: $28 million (£20.7 million)

The member of the multinational Merck Group is expanding operations with the construction of a new factory in Phoenix, Arizona, to manufacture equipment for its Delivery Systems & Services business. The factory is due to be operational by the end of the year, and will produce GASGUARD and CHEMGUARD systems for the company.

A bright future

These electronic component factory openings signal a great increase in business, and will aide in the easing of the component crisis. But it will take a while for these fabs to be operational.

Can’t wait? Cyclops is there for all your electronic component needs. We have 30 years of expertise, and can help you where other suppliers cannot. Whether it’s day-to-day or obsolete electronic components, contact us today at sales@cyclops-electronics.com, or use the rapid enquiry form on our website.

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Component Shortage Electronic Components Future Semiconductor Supply Chain Technology

Electronic component market to see continued growth by 2027

The electronic component market is set to see continued growth over the next five years, with projections estimating greater demand than ever.

Several forecasts have converged with the same conclusion; demand for components is set to rocket as the world adopts more advanced technologies. 

This article will explore the latest research papers and market analysis from reputable sources. We will also explore why the demand for electronic components is set to soar and the supply chain’s challenges. 

Global components market 

The market analysis covered by Market Watch predicts that the global electronic components market will reach USD 600.31 billion by 2027, from USD 400.51 billion in 2020, a compound annual growth rate of 4.7% from 2021. 

Active components market 

Another market report, this time looking at active electronic components, predicts the active electronic components market will reach USD 519 billion by 2027 (£380bn pounds, converted 12/01/22), a CAGR of 4.82% from 2021. 

Passive and interconnecting components market 

According to 360 Research Reports, the passive and interconnecting electronic components market is projected to reach USD 35.89 billion in 2027, up from USD 28.79 billion in 2020, a compound annual growth rate of 3.2% from 2021. 

Semiconductor wafer market 

According to Research and Markets, the global semiconductor wafer market is predicted to reach USD 22.03 billion by 2027, rising at a market growth of 4.6% CAGR during the forecast period starting from 2021. 

Dynamic Random Access Memory (DRAM) market

Market Reports World predicts the global DRAM market will see extreme growth, growing at a CAGR of 9.86% between 2021 and 2027. The market was valued at USD 636.53 million in 2021 and will grow to nearly USD 700 million by 2027.  

Why is component demand set to increase so much?

The world is undergoing an extreme technological transformation that began with the first computers. Today, electronics are everywhere, and they are becoming ever more intricate and complex, requiring more and more components. 

Several technologies are converging, including semi-autonomous and electric vehicles, automation and robotics, 5G and internet upgrades, consumer electronics, and smart home appliances like EV chargers and hubs. 

This is a global transformation, from your house to the edge of the earth. Electronic components are seeing unprecedented demand because smarter, more capable devices are required to power the future. 

What challenges does the supply chain face? 

The two biggest challenges are shortages and obsolescence. 

Shortages are already impacting supply chains, with shortages of semiconductors, memory, actives, passives, and interconnecting components. We are a global electronic component distributor specialising in hard to find and obsolete electronic components. Email your enquiries to us today at Sales@cyclops-electronics.com. Our specialised team is here to help.

As demand increases, supply will struggle to keep up. It will be the job of electronic components suppliers like Cyclops and electronic component manufacturers to keep supply chains moving while demanding increases. 

Obsolescence refers to electronic components becoming obsolete. While some electronic components have lifespans of decades, others are replaced within a few years, which puts pressure on the supply chain from top to bottom. 

In any case, the future is exciting, and the electronic components market will tick along as it always does. We’ll be here to keep oiling the machine.

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Component Shortage COVID-19 Electronic Components Semiconductor Supply Chain Technology

How Can Companies Combat the Electronic Components Shortage?

Electronic components shortages show no signs of abating, fuelled by growing demand for electronics, limited availability of raw materials, soaring manufacturing prices and lingering COVID-19 disruptions.

Shortages have hindered manufacturers since 2018, but things came to a head in 2020 with the COVID-19 pandemic disrupting supply chains.

The pandemic created an imbalance in supply chains, with demand for many components, from chips to actives and passives, outstripping supply. The question is, how can companies combat the electronic components shortage?

Partner with a distributor 

Electronic component distributors occupy a unique position in the supply chain, representing the manufacturer and customer. Distributors work for both parties to move components up and down the supply chain.

The benefit of working with a distributor is that your company will be in the mix for components not available through traditional channels.

For example, we specialise in the procurement and delivery of electronic components and parts for a wide variety of industries from the world’s leading manufacturers. We can help you beat allocation challenges and long lead times.

Diversify suppliers

Diversity is the key to strengthening your supply chain. You need multiple sources for electronic components. It’s a good idea to have retail and distribution channels, so you have several routes should one supplier channel fail.

Diversity can also be found in geography. A supplier in your home country is essential, but so are suppliers close to the manufacturing source.  

Expand storage capabilities 

If your company can expand its storage capabilities for essential components, this is the simplest way to combat shortages. By storing large quantities of components, you create a supply separate from the chain.

The risk with expanding storage is procuring more components than you need, resulting in oversupply problems that incur heavy losses.  

Source equivalent components  

When components are unavailable, you can specify equivalents that meet your performance and financial specifications. Equivalent components perform the same job as your original components, but another company makes them.

A simple example is Samsung, which uses its own Exynos chip or a QUALCOMM chip in the same smartphone model depending on where the smartphone is sold.

Visibility and proactive planning 

Supply chains are complex beasts that require visibility to manage. Monthly stock updates are no longer sufficient; to combat shortages, you need real-time supplier updates and an inventory catalogue to keep track of supply.

You can proactively plan component shipments and tap into price dips and new inventory when you have visibility over total supply.

Predict obsolescence

When electronic components become obsolete, manufacturers who haven’t planned for it scramble to find components that will work. This inevitably creates bottlenecks in the supply chain as many big companies compete for orders.

Obsolescence is predictable because all electronic components have a run date, and manufacturers update lifespans with inventory cataloguing. You can avoid shortages and soaring prices for rare parts by predicting obsolescence.  

Have shortages? Speak to us

We’re here to help you deal with electronic component shortages. Contact us here.

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Component Shortage COVID-19 Electronic Components Hard to Find Components Semiconductor Supply Chain Technology

Will continued global Covid measures extend electronic component shortages?

Continued global Covid measures will likely extend electronic component shortages, hindering manufacturers for several years.

The coronavirus pandemic has reshaped the global economy irreparably. Demand for electronic components has shifted, supply chains are broken, and new, more infectious variants threaten to bend normality further.  

It looks like the world is running out of electronic components, but there’s more to shortages than meets the eye.

The coronavirus pandemic is the biggest reason behind component shortages. With this single statement, we can deduce that shortages will subside when the pandemic subsides, freeing up supply chains through fewer restrictions.

However, we know the coronavirus isn’t going anywhere, and its persistence and ability to evolve means we have to learn to live with it.

Add raw material shortages, soaring prices, low investment in new manufacturing facilities, and geopolitical issues related to supply and demand. Now we have a recipe for several years of component shortages.

How covid reshaped supply chains 

In May 2020, the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic hit most of the world. Countries locked down, and most sectors of the economy suffered.

Demand for some categories decreased, while demand for others increased. For instance, demand for vehicles evaporated while demand for home computers soared, creating an imbalance in the supply chain.

Estimates suggest that vehicle sales fell by 50% or more within a single month. In response, vehicle manufacturers scaled backorders for components.  

At the same time, demand for electronics chips and parts soared as more people spent time working from home.

When demand ramped back up for vehicles, there weren’t enough components to serve them and electronics. This is a story shared by multiple industries, with supply chains broken by supply and demand imbalances.

The matter wasn’t helped by local and national lockdowns, circuit breakers, new variants, and mitigating problems like floods and climate change.

There is no easy solution or fast fix 

The pandemic has also caused prices for common and rare earth metals to explode, increasing over 70% since the start of 2021 for some metals. These prices are made even worse by soaring inflation.

Trying to build supply chain resilience during the coronavirus pandemic is like trying to build a house of cards on a jittering floor. Just when you think you have it, something comes along that knocks it down, and you have to start over.  

The simple fact is that the world needs more factories to make components, and it needs to get a grip on inflation. The Covid pandemic is not going away, although the virus appears to be getting milder, which is a good sign for the future.

You can bolster your supply chain by working with an electronic components distributor like us, increasing your inventory, and quickly moving to equivalent components when you experience shortages of active and passive components. Email us today with your component inquiries sales@cyclops-eletronics.com

Although global Covid measures are likely to extend electronic component shortages, there is no reason why they should stop you from doing business.

Categories
Component Shortage Electronic Components Passive Components Semiconductor Technology

What is causing the surge in semiconductor and passive components?

As the world becomes smarter and more connected, the components used in electronic circuits are seeing a surge in demand.

Semiconductors and passive components (resistors, capacitors, inductors, transforms) are seeing a surge in demand as chip-heavy vehicles, consumer electronics and smart, Internet of Things devices are produced in larger quantities.

This demand is creating a shortage of semiconductors, integrated circuits and passive components. The situation today is that the factories that make certain components can’t make enough of them. This squeezes supply chains and ramps up the price, creating a high level of inflation passed down the supply chain.

The surge in semiconductor and passive component demand has reached an inflexion point. Demand has outstripped supply for many components, leading to car manufacturing lines shutting down and companies delaying product launches.

Tailwinds fuelling demand  

  • Smart vehicles
  • Consumer electronics
  • Military technology
  • Internet of Things
  • Data centres
  • 5G
  • Satellites
  • Artificial intelligence and robotics

At no other point in history has there been so many exciting technologies developing at the same time. However, while exciting, these technologies are putting strain on the electronic components supply chain.

Passives surge 

Passive components include resistors, capacitors, inductors, and transforms in various specifications. There are thousands of makes and unit models. They are essential to making electronic circuits. Without passives, there are no circuits!

Cars, electronics, satellites, 5G, data centres, Internet of Things, displays, and everything else powered by electricity, depends on passives. As devices get smarter, more components are needed, creating a cycle that will only go up.

Passives shortage 

Certain diodes, transistors and resistors are in shorter supply than in 2020. This is partly because of the coronavirus pandemic, which impacted manufacturing lines. Still, many manufacturers also shifted manufacturing investment to active components with a higher margin, creating a supply imbalance.

Even without these significant bottlenecks, the supply of passive components is downward while demand goes up. For example, a typical smartphone requires over 1,000 capacitors and cars require around 22,000 MLCCs alone. We’re talking billions of passive components in just two sectors.

Semiconductor surge 

Semiconductors (chips, in this case, not the materials) are integrated circuits produced on a piece of silicon. On the chip, transistors act as electrical switches that can turn a current on or off. So, semiconductors and passives are linked.

Chips are effectively the brains of every computing device. Demand for chips is increasing as circuits become more complex. While chips are getting smaller, manufacturing output is only slowly increasing, creating a supply shortage.

Semiconductor shortage 

The semiconductor shortage was years in the making, but things came to a head when the coronavirus pandemic hit.

At the start of the pandemic, vehicles sales dived. In response, manufacturers cancelled orders for semiconductors and other parts. Meanwhile, electronics sales exploded, filling the semiconductor order book left by the automotive sector. When vehicle manufacturing ramped up again, there weren’t enough chips to go around.

Manufacturing limitations are confounding the problem. It takes 3-4 years to open a semiconductor foundry or fabless plant, but investment in new plants in 2018 and 2019 was low. So, new plants are few and far between.

Categories
Future Hard to Find Components obsolescence obsolete components Semiconductor Technology

Obsolescence Management Before It Becomes A Problem

Like the device you are reading this on, all electronic components become obsolete eventually. As a supply chain manager, it is your job to manage obsolescence and make sure it doesn’t become a problem for your company.

The three reasons for electronic component obsolescence are short product life cycles, innovation, and increased demand.

Short product life cycles fuel update cycles that demand better components, innovation fuels new component releases, and increased demand squeezes supply chains, creating new batches of components that replace the old.

The good news is obsolescence management isn’t rocket science. With planning, you can safeguard your supply chain from the inevitable. Cyclops can help you do this in various ways, working with you to keep your supply chains moving.

How Cyclops helps you manage obsolescence 

With technologies advancing rapidly, the rate of electronic component obsolescence is picking up pace. Life cycles are getting shorter for many components, and shortages are challenging obsolescence management plans.

At Cyclops Electronics, we specialise in the procurement of electronic components, working with global distributors to source tens of millions of parts. Our staff go further than most to find your obsolete parts, and if we can’t source the exact parts you need, we will work just as hard to find appropriate alternatives. 

Here’s how we help you manage obsolescence:

Proactive planning

We keep tabs on component supplies for you and provide timely reports detailing risks. By keeping you in the loop, you get a bird’s eye view of your electronic components, giving you a competitive edge and greater buying power.

Obsolete component sourcing 

Obsolete components might no longer be made, but we hold 177,232 line items in our warehouse and 14 million parts globally. There’s a strong possibility we have the obsolete, discontinued components you need ready to go.

Equivalents 

When obsolete components are unavailable, we can specify equivalents that meet your performance and financial specifications. We can cross-reference many components, such as semiconductors, to find exact equivalents.

Integrated advice 

We can help you identify and mitigate risk when parts and spares become obsolete by integrating with your mitigation plan. We can replace obsolete parts as they age, providing an automated, streamlined obsolescence solution.

Obsolescence is inevitable but manageable 

Component obsolescence occurs when an old component is phased out. Without management, this event can disrupt a supply chain, costing businesses tens of millions (or billions) in lost revenues and corporate costs.

A great example of this is any company that manufactures equipment and supports it over several years, like a boiler company. Electric boilers are supported for around ten years, so the components have to be replaceable over that time.

Obsolescence is a problem because it sends ripples through the supply chain, requiring ongoing management to foresee events and mitigate risks. Cyclops Electronics has seen all this before across all sectors.

Speak with us about obsolescence management 

We’re here to help you manage supply chain risks and deal with obsolescence before it becomes a problem. Contact us here.

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Component Shortage COVID-19 Electronic Components Future Semiconductor Supply Chain Technology

Semiconductor Supply Chain Will Remain Vulnerable Without Robust Investment in Advanced Packaging

new U.S. study has found that the advanced semiconductor packaging supply chain needs strengthening to meet the increasing demand for chips.

According to the report, without robust federal investment, the semiconductor supply chain in the U.S. faces an uphill battle to meet demand.

The study also highlights the crucial role of advanced packaging in driving innovation in semiconductor designs. At present, most of the chips in the U.S. are sent abroad for packaging and assembly into finished products. By moving packaging to North America, the entire electronics ecosystem can be improved.

“Semiconductor chips are critically important, which is why IPC supports full funding for the CHIPS for America Act. But chips can’t function on their own. They need to be packaged and interconnected with other electronic components to power the technology we all rely on, from cell phones to automobiles and beyond,” said John Mitchell, IPC president and CEO. “The data in this report shows that North America is well behind Asia in the advanced packaging of chips and in other key parts of the electronics manufacturing ecosystem.”

The big players in the U.S. include Applied Materials, Amkor Technology, Ayar Labs, Lam Research, Microsemi Semiconductor and KLA-Tencor Corporation. These companies have seen unprecedented demand for semiconductor packaging, with growth predicted to rise as the world becomes smarter and more connected.

Other report findings 

The study also found that while the U.S. can design cutting-edge electronics, it lacks the capabilities to make them. This is creating an overreliance on foreign companies, including companies in China, creating considerable risk.

Looking at the most recent data, the study highlights that North America’s share of global advanced semiconductor packaging production is just 3 per cent. In other words, at present, the U.S. is incapable of assembling its own chips.

The study concludes that the U.S. also needs to invest in developing and producing advanced integrated circuit substrates. Advanced integrated circuit substrates are crucial components for packaging circuit chips. Currently, the U.S. has nascent capabilities, putting it behind Europe, China and most other countries.

What can we deduce from the report? That the U.S. is behind in most aspects of semiconductor packaging. Decades of low investment and overseas partnerships have led to a manufacturing ecosystem devoid of domestic talent.

“The findings of this report make clear that, as a result of decades of offshoring, the United States’ semiconductor supply chains remain vulnerable, even with the new federal funding that’s expected,” says Jan Vardaman, president and founder of TechSearch International and co-author of the report. “It’s critical that the U.S. government recognises and responds to industry needs on these systemic vulnerabilities, particularly integrated circuit substrates, where domestic capabilities are severely lacking.”

As the U.S. comes to terms with its poor manufacturing ecosystem, China is ramping up assembly plants. In the face of increasing competition, the U.S. must focus on domestic investment in the near and medium-term. Without robust investment, they could fall further behind and lose out to their biggest competitors.

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Component Shortage COVID-19 Electric Vehicles Electronic Components Future Semiconductor Supply Chain Technology

A raw materials shortage is set to hit the EV battery supply chain in 2022

The automotive sector is on red alert amid speculation that raw material shortages will impact the EV battery supply chain in 2022.

The lithium-ion batteries in electric vehicles use a combination of rare earth metals like neodymium, praseodymium, dysprosium, and common and uncommon minerals like cobalt and lithium in great quantities.

Bloomberg blew the whistle in July, predicting that raw material shortages for batteries will be the next big test after the semiconductor crisis.

Recent reports back this, with the global lithium shortage giving EV manufacturers pause for concern. Sky News reports the world needs four new lithium mines per year to make supply meet demand, but the pipeline doesn’t come close to meeting this requirement.

Some EV manufacturers are hoarding raw materials, and the world’s biggest electric car maker, Tesla, is moving away from cobalt to LFP chemistry because they consider cobalt to be the biggest supply chain risk for EV batteries.

The EV industry has a battery problem 

Most electric vehicles have a lithium-ion battery pack because Li-ion has a high energy density for its weight and can charge and discharge at any state of charge. The technology is proven, and manufacturing Li-ion batteries is easy.

However, the growing demand for electric vehicles is fuelling demand for EV battery raw materials like lithium, cobalt, nickel, manganese and rare earth metals.

The mines in operation today are not sufficient to make supply meet demand one year from now, which is a cause of great concern in the automotive sector.

Additional factors could confound the problem:

  • Price volatility in raw materials (the price of rare earth metals has exploded, moving nearly 50% higher on average since March)
  • Battery composition changes (while lithium-ion is the top dog today, solid-state batteries use a lot more nickel and cobalt)
  • Trade tensions between countries (China controls 55% of global production and 85% refining output of rare earth metals).

Making supply meet demand

Accurate forecasting is crucial to making supply meet demand. Manufacturers must anticipate fluctuations in the supply chain and make allowances for events.

For instance, no one can predict the next coronavirus pandemic, but a 25% drop in raw material mining output can be incorporated into forecasts.

Manufacturers might also like to look into alternative battery chemistries. As we mentioned before, Tesla is switching the chemistry of its long-range batteries to reduce dependency on cobalt. Other battery manufacturers can do the same to fortify their supply chains.

The downside to switching chemistries is it is only possible following extensive (and expensive) research and development. The world’s leading EV battery manufacturers won’t invest in this area without proof it will turn a profit.

EV battery recycling is another important future step. Swedish company Nothvolt made the world’s first fully recycled EV battery in November. Today, however, Li-ion battery recycling is not economical on an industrial scale.

Another option is limiting EV battery production, either in total volume or in cell volume (installing smaller batteries). With EV batteries becoming more efficient, smaller capacities might not be detrimental to range in the future.

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Component Shortage COVID-19 Electronic Components Future Hard to Find Components Supply Chain Technology

Global chip shortage to impact electronic retailers holiday season

The holiday season usually marks the start of an electronics sales boon for retailers. Consumers buy more electronics in the lead up to Christmas than at any other time of the year. This year, however, things are different.

This holiday season, the global chip shortage is set to impact electronic retailers, with shortages of popular products like games consoles, graphics cards, smartphones, laptops and tablets likely to persist through to 2022.

Due to problems buying stock, most retailers are bracing themselves for low Christmas electronics goods sales. The global chip shortage means fewer electronics goods are being made, so there is a long lead time from suppliers – some retailers are waiting several months for new stock, only for it to sell out within days.

Consumers should start holiday shopping now 

Chips are in critically short supply this year, which has reduced manufacturing output at many of the world’s biggest factories.

Companies like Samsung, Apple, Intel and AMD are experiencing problems getting the chips they need. Today, some chips have delays of over a year, and inventory supplies for chips are running low, putting pressure on supply chains.

All of this means there is a shortage of in-demand electronics goods, from games consoles to smartwatches. The message is simple – consumers should start holiday shopping now to ensure they can get hold of the electronics they want.

It is also crucial that consumers don’t take stock levels for granted. What’s in stock today might be out of stock tomorrow, and many retailers have lead times of several months for new stock. So, if you need it, you should buy it while you can.

Is the chip shortage being blown out of proportion? 

We are so used to next-day Amazon delivery and seeing shiny electronics on store shelves that chip shortages appear to be a fantasy.

However, the chip shortage is real – manufacturers are struggling to create enough chips, and suppliers can’t get hold of the inventory they need.

Another fox in the henhouse is chip price increases. Companies are bidding through the roof for components, and prices are rising rapidly. Manufacturers don’t absorb these price rises – they are passed down the supply chain, and eventually, they find their way to the consumer (creating consumer inflation).

Chip prices are increasing for several reasons. The obvious reason is supply and demand economics – the less available something is, the higher the price.

Another significant reason is prices for rare earth metals have exploded over the last 12 months, moving nearly 50% higher on average since March.

Summing up the chip shortage

There is a severe chip shortage happening right now that threatens the availability of electronics goods this holiday season. Prices for chips are also skyrocketing, increasing the price of devices like smartphones and smart devices.

All of this is to say, if you plan on buying some chip-reliant electronics this holiday season, you should start shopping now or face being disappointed.

Categories
Component Shortage Passive Components

The tech industry is bracing for a potential shortage of passive electronic components

By now, everyone has heard of the global semiconductor shortage. Still, the tech industry is bracing itself for an altogether larger shortage of passive electronic components that could reduce manufacturing output across multiple categories.

Passive components do not generate energy but can store and dissipate it. They include resistors, inductors (coils), capacitors, transformers, and diodes, connecting to active elements in circuits. Passives are necessary for circuit architecture, so the shortage is bad news for the electronics industry as a whole.

The current state of the passive component shortage 

The truth is there has been a shortage of certain passive components since the coronavirus pandemic hit in 2020, particularly with multilayer ceramic capacitors (MLCCs), which can be difficult to get hold of in large quantities.

Certain diodes, transistors and resistors are also in shorter supply than they were in 2019, partly because of the pandemic and a shift in manufacturing investment for active components, which have a higher margin.

You also need to look at consumer trends (what people are buying). Smartphone and smartwatch sales are higher than ever, and smart ‘Internet of Things’ devices are growing in popularity rapidly, not to mention in availability.

These devices require a lot of passive components. For example, a typical smartphone requires over 1,000 capacitors. Cars are also huge consumers of passive components, with an electric car requiring around 22,000 MLCCs alone.

The trend for next-generation technology adoption is up across all categories, be it the Internet of Things, edge computing, semi-autonomous cars and 5G. Passive components are in more demand than ever at a time when supplies are under pressure.

Price rises are now inevitable 

The price for most passive components has risen by the largest amount in over a decade in 2021, caused by supply and demand economics and a price explosion for common materials like tin, aluminium and copper, as well as rare earth metals.

While some suppliers can afford to take a hit on profits, for most, raising prices is inevitable to ensure the viability of operations.

With higher component prices and greater shortages, it is more important than ever for companies to bolster their supply chains. Complacency is dangerous in today’s market, and no company is immune to disruption.

How to beat the passive components shortage 

The passive components shortage is likely to get worse before it gets better, but there are several ways you can bolster your supply chain:

  • Equivalents:Specifying equivalent passive components is a sound way to keep your supply chain moving. When a specific passive component isn’t available, an equivalent may be available that functions in exactly the same way.
  • Ditch outdated components:Outdated components have limited or no manufacturing output when discontinued. Upgrading to modern components that are manufactured in larger quantities can help you meet demand.
  • Partner with a global distributor:Global components distributors like us source and deliver day-to-day, shortage, hard-to-find and obsolete electronic components. We can help keep your supply chain moving in uncertain times. Contact us today SALES@CYCLOPS-ELECTRONICS.COM
Categories
Component Shortage

Global silicon chip shortage will last until at least 2023

How long will the global silicon chip shortage last? If you were to ask ten CEO’s of leading technology companies, you’d probably get ten different answers.

However, there’s one timeframe most CEO’s quote…

2023 is the date CEO’s are optimistic about 

Intel’s CEO, Pat Gelsinger, has given us a realistic timeframe for the chip shortage to end – he says the chip shortage won’t end until 2023.

“We’re in the worst of it now; every quarter next year, we’ll get incrementally better, but we’re not going to have supply-demand balance until 2023,” Gelsinger told CNBC.

Gelsinger’s thoughts echo those of Glenn O’Donnell, a vice president research director at advisory firm Forrester, who says the chip shortage will last until 2022.

“Because demand will remain high and supply will remain constrained, we expect this shortage to last through 2022 and into 2023,” O’Donnell wrote in a blog in March.

Daimler chairman Ola Källenius also believes the chip shortage could last until 2023.

“Several chip suppliers have been referring to structural problems with demand,” Källenius told reporters during a roundtable event ahead of the Munich IAA car show. “This could influence 2022 and (the situation) may be more relaxed in 2023.”

What will chip demand look like in 2022-2023?

In July, the CEO of STMicroelectronics provided insight into what we can expect in 2022-2023, “Things will improve in 2022 gradually, but we will return to a normal situation … not before the first half of 2023,” he said in an interview.

The global silicon chip shortage has led to car plants shutting down, paused manufacturing lines and delayed product launches. It isn’t a short-term problem, and no one knows for sure when supply will start catching up with demand.

All industries and companies that use chips have been affected by the shortage – even Samsung, the world’s biggest computer-chip manufacturer, has been affected by it, delaying the launch of several Galaxy and Note smartphones.

Most experts agree that 2022 will echo 2021, with moderate-extreme shortages of integrated circuits and chips, as well as certain active and passive components. Prices are also expected to rise in line with raw material costs.

2023 may be the year that supply starts meeting demand, but it will require the mass opening of foundries and factories. Investment in new plants and manufacturing lines is ongoing, with new fabs set to open in the next two years.

In 2023, we hope to see regular chip inventory levels and average delays of about three months to replenish components. At the moment, some components have delays over a year, and inventory supplies for chips are running low.

Keeping supply chains moving

The best way to keep supply chains moving is to partner with an electronic components distributor like us. We can source chips from around the world, tapping into stockpiles and inventory that isn’t available to the average company.

If you are experiencing an electronic component shortage, we can help. Email us if you have any questions or call us on 01904 415 415 to chat with our team.

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Incoterms

Incoterms Explained

Incoterms (International Commercial Terms) are a set of trade rules issued by the International Chamber of Commerce. This defines the responsibilities of sellers and buyers globally to reduce confusion in cross-border trade.

Incoterms are 11 internationally recognised rules that define things like who is responsible for managing shipment and who is responsible for customs clearance. The aim is to enable smooth trade and transactions.

This article will provide an explainer of the 11 Incoterms.

Incoterms for Any Mode of Transport

There are seven Incoterms for Any Mode of Transport:

  • EXW (Ex Works)– This Incoterm makes export clearance the responsibility of the buyer. Except when the country overrules it by law (such as the U.S.).
  • FCA (Free Carrier)– The seller is responsible for making the goods available at its own premises or at a named place. The seller is responsible for export clearance and security.
  • CPT (Carriage Paid To)– The seller clears goods for transport and delivers them for shipment. Assuming responsibility for delivery to the named destination.
  • CIP (Carriage and Insurance Paid To)– The seller is responsible for delivery and insurance of delivery, after which risk transfers to the buyer.
  • DAP (Delivered at Place)– The seller bears all risks associated with delivery but not unloading.
  • DPU (Delivered at Place Unloaded)– The seller bears all risks associated with delivery and unloading.
  • DDP (Delivered Duty Paid)– The seller bears all risks associated with customs duty and delivery, as well as unloading.

Incoterms for Sea and Inland Waterway Transport

There are four Incoterms for Sea and Inland Waterway Transport:

  • FAS (Free Alongside Ship)– The seller clears goods for export and delivers them for shipment alongside the vessel, after which the buyer assumes responsibility.
  • FOB (Free on Board)– The seller clears goods for export and delivers them for shipment on the vessel, after which the buyer assumes responsibility.
  • CFR (Cost and Freight)– The seller clears goods for export and assumes responsibility up until the goods are loaded on the vessel.
  • CIF (Cost, Insurance and Freight)– The seller clears goods for export and bears the cost of freight and insurance. Buyer assumes responsibility for unloading.

Understanding Incoterms 

Incoterms are designed to clearly define who is responsible for goods at different points of importation and exportation.

When explicitly incorporated by parties into a sales contract, Incoterms become a legally enforceable part of that sales contract.

In each Incoterm, a statement is provided for the seller’s responsibility to provide goods and a commercial invoice. A corresponding statement stipulates that the buyer pay the price of goods as provided in the contract of sale.

The limitation with Incoterms is they do not address all conditions of a sale, and they do not address liability or dispute resolution. Instead, they are a framework that importers and exporters can use to ensure smooth transactions.

To find out more about Incoterms, the ICC has an explainer article, or you can download the ICC’s free eBook for a detailed guide.

Categories
Electronic Components

Why is chip sovereignty so important?

The US and EU are planning for chip sovereignty. This is to aim 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. However, 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. Therefore, 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. This is 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.

Categories
Component Shortage

Electronic Component Shortage update

The ongoing electronic component shortage is one of the biggest challenges global supply chains face today, with demand for many components, from chips to actives and passives, well and truly outstripping supply.

A lot has happened in the last month, with new research and analyst insights pointing to when demand might ease (hint: it won’t be this year).

Here’s your latest electronic component shortage update:

Chip lead times hit all-time high

According to Susquehanna Financial Group, chip lead times hit an all-time high of 21-weeks in September. This is up from 20.2 weeks in August and 18 weeks in July. However, in a research note, Susquehanna analyst Chris Rolland said that while lead times for some chips got worse, lead times for others like power management chips saw relief.

Gartner says global chip shortage will persist until Q2 2022

Gartner predicts the global semiconductor shortage will persist through Q1 2022 but recover to normal levels by the second quarter of 2022. They rate the current shortage as moderate and the shortages of early 2021 as severe.

Chipmakers should brace for ‘oversupply’ in 2023

Analyst firm IDC predicts that the global chip shortage may well turn into an oversupply situation in 2023, sending prices diving. They say the industry will see normalisation by the middle of 2022, with a potential for overcapacity in 2023.

EU pushes for chip sovereignty

EU will legislate for chip sovereignty with the forthcoming “European Chips Act”. Bringing together the EU’s semiconductor research, design, and testing capabilities, so that EU countries can make demand meet supply as one nation. “Europe cannot and will not lag behind,” the EU said in a statement on the Chips Act.

Ford Europe predicts chip shortages could continue to 2024

In an interview with CNBC, Ford Europe chairman of the management board Gunnar Herrmann estimated the chip shortage could continue through to 2024. Herrmann also revealed a new company crisis in raw materials. “It’s not only semiconductors,” he says, “you find shortages or constraints all over the place.”

Tesla‘s China output halted on chips shortage

Tesla temporarily halted some output at its Shanghai factory for four days in August due to the chips shortage. Tesla also closed part of the production line for electronic control units (ECUs). This is a small but significant action that cost it millions in revenue.

New forecast says chip shortage to cost car industry $210 billion

Recently, the total estimated cost of the chips shortage to the car industry keeps rising. A new report from AlixPartners predicting a global cost of $210 billion. This is nearly double what their first report predicted in May ($110 billion).

Counterfeit chips penetrating the supply chain

As a result of the chips shortage, some manufacturers are turning to riskier supply channels. This is leaving themselves vulnerable to counterfeits. As ZDNet reports, this puts low-volume manufacturers whose supply chains are less established at risk.

If you are worried about counterfeits in your supply chain, read our 8 Step Guide To Buying Electronic Components With Confidence and Avoiding Counterfeits.

Struggling to find those hard to find and obsolete components? Contact Cyclops Electronics today. Call 01904 415 415, email sales@cyclops-electronics.com or visit our website https://www.cyclops-electronics.com/.

Categories
Component Shortage

Rare earth metal prices explode

Prices for rare earth metals have exploded over the last 12 months, moving nearly 50% higher on average since March.

This development could push prices of electronics components higher than ever. As a perfect storm of expensive raw materials + limited production capacity + higher demand = rocketing prices.

As we are seeing with the global semiconductor shortage, fluctuations in supply chains ripple through the electronics industry.

Electronic component shortages have, in part, been caused by reduced mining quota for raw materials including rate earth metals. But the problem now isn’t a lack of mining, but the soaring demand for rare earth metals.

The high price reflects strong demand. Rare earth metals are used in most electronic components and devices, from integrated circuits to displays, vibration motors and storage, so it’s easy to see why demand is so strong. 

For example, materials like neodymium and praseodymium used to make magnets have seen a 73% increase in demand in 2021. Holmium oxide used in sensors, terbium oxide used in displays and cobalt used in batteries have also seen increases.

Why have prices exploded?

China is the only country in the world with a complete supply chain for rare earth metals from mining, to refining, to processing. With over 55% of global production and 85% refining output, the world depends on them for rare earth metals.

In January, Beijing hinted at tightening controls for earth metal exports, triggering panic across the world and sending prices soaring.

For those of you who remember, rare earth prices exploded in 2011 when China’s export volumes collapsed. China cut export quotas of the 17 rare earth metals and raised tariffs on exports, sending prices soaring by more than 50%.

Talk about déjà vu!

Another factor for the price explosion is supply and demand. Even with China’s hints, demand for rare earth metals is outstripping supply. The world is using more electronics than at any time in its history, and rare earth metals are needed to make more of them.

It isn’t only relatively unknown materials like neodymium and praseodymium that are surging in price, but also more commonly known materials like tin, aluminium and copper, which have also surged in price in 2021.

What will happen next?

So, in a nutshell, demand for rare earth metals is outstripping supply. China (which has significant control over rare earth metals) has hinted at tightening exports, sending a shockwave through the supply chain.

The issue is bad and will take time to resolve. The United States is the second biggest producer of rare earth metals. In February, President Joe Biden announced a review into domestic supply chains for rare earths, medical devices, chips and other resources, with a $30 million initiative to secure new supply chains.

Unfortunately for the world, China’s control of 55% of global production and 85% of refining output for rare earth metals means they control the market. Missteps, problems at home, and hints about tightening controls have already sent rare earth metal prices soaring, and it stands to reason they will continue creeping higher in the near-term. 

Categories
Electronic Components

Communications including 5G will drive the components market

Communications including 5G will drive the components market

According to IC Insights, the communication sector’s share of integrated circuit sales reached 35% in 2020 and is expected to grow to 36.5% by 2025. For perspective, the automotive sector’s share of integrated circuit sales was 7.5% in 2020 and will grow to 9.8% by 2025 – significantly less than communications.

Industry tailwinds

What’s driving such high demand for ICs in the communications sector?

There are four big tailwinds:

  • 5G
  • Edge computing
  • Internet of Things
  • AI (artificial intelligence), MI (machine learning) and data analytics

5G

5G is the main driver for components demand, with 5G infrastructure rollout happening slowly, but surely. We are nowhere near a complete version of 5G, and networks are in a race against time to deliver a reliable service.

The first step for networks is replacing low-band 4G spectrum, followed by mid-band spectrum that uses 2.5, 3.5 and 4.5 GHz, enabling faster data speeds. The final step is the rollout of millimetre wave, which enables true 5G speeds. Millimetre wave also happens to be a precursor for next-generation 6G.

On top of 5G infrastructure rollout you have more 5G-enabled devices coming to market, such as smartphones, tablets and laptops. Smartphones, in particular, are leading the way for 5G adoption, putting faster data in our hands.

The rapid growth in IC demand in the communications sector also stretches to other components like modems, memory and antennas. 5G isn’t just an IC boon – it’s a boon for all the electronic components needed for 5G. 

Edge computing

Second to 5G we have edge computing, which by a miraculous twist of fate is needed to deliver a 5G experience (and needs a whole lot of components).

Edge computing puts compute capabilities relatively close to end users and/or IoT endpoints. In doing so, it reduces latency, while 5G delivers faster data speeds, providing a seamless experience on certain devices.

Internet of Things

IoT describes a network of connected smart devices that communicate with each other. For example, a vital sign monitor in a hospital could communicate with medicine dispensers and automate medicine dosages for doctors.

The Internet of Things has been talked about as a trend for several years, but we now have real applications that are useful.

AI (artificial intelligence), MI (machine learning) and data analytics

AI (artificial intelligence), MI (machine learning) and data analytics require enormous, powerful data centres to power them. These data centres require significant investment in chips, memory and other electronic components.

Also, AI, MI and data analytics need cloud computing, edge computing and in some cases 5G to deliver a real-time experience.

The future

By 2025, the communications sector is forecast to have a 36.5% usage share of integrated circuits, making it the biggest consumer of semiconductors.

Demand for integrated circuits, discrete circuits, optoelectronics and sensors will grow to an all-time highs thanks to the industry tailwinds in this article. The future is bright, but to stay ahead, a robust supply chain will be needed.

Electronic components distributors like Cyclops are helping supply meet demand, while the communications sector battles to secure chip orders. Call us today at +44 (0) 01904 415 415 or email sales@cyclops-electronics.com 

Categories
Electronic Components

Causes of IC Shortage

Categories
Electronic Components

Component Prices Rise 10% to 40% – But why?

While component price rises are expected when demand outstrips supply, the scale of recent increases has come as a shock to many businesses.

In its Q3 Commodity Intelligence Quarterly, CMarket intelligence platform Supplyframe reports that some electronic components have seen prices rise by as much as 40%, making it uneconomical for products to be made.  

In particular, semiconductors, memory, and modems are seeing 10 to 40% price increases, exceeding what most analysts envisioned for 2021.

Why are prices rising?

Price rises start with materials. There are long lead times for many raw materials, causing shortages. Add rising commodity prices and difficulties transporting products and you have a disrupted manufacturing economy.

You also have to factor in the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, which has caused labour shortages and disrupted the manufacturing economy with shutdowns.

Logistics is also a big fly in the ointment for electronic components. The industry is recovering from COVID-induced shutdowns and travel restrictions are causing problems at borders, creating delays that ripple through the supply chain.

Supply and demand

The bulletproof economics of supply and demand also rule the roost for electronic components, and demand is h