Categories
Technology

Does ChatGPT understand semiconductor shortages?

For something slightly different this week, we had a little chat with ChatGPT about the semiconductor industry.

AI has been prolific in recent years, and ChatGPT specifically has been all over the news since its release in late 2022. So we were curious what the AI chatbot thought of the industry we are all so invested in.

So, here’s what we asked:

What caused the semiconductor shortages in 2020?

We specified a year because the scope of simply “semiconductor shortages” is endless.

ChatGPT first responded by saying it was brought on by a “combination of factors”. Possibly predictably, it listed the COVID-19 pandemic as the first cause. People moving to home-working and home-schooling, combined with the factory shutdowns and logistics headaches heavily impacted the industry.

Next, ChatGPT said the trade relations between China and the US affected the market. Restrictions and tensions led to China purchasing less from the US, while American manufacturers moved to concentrate on the automotive industry.

Thirdly, increased demand in electric vehicles (EVs) and other high-tech products was also a factor.

Lastly, ChatGPT said that the industry’s reliance on a “just-in-time” model was only sustainable when demand is stable.

All of ChatGPT’s full responses will be available at the end of this blog for full transparency.

What are the main challenges facing the electronics industry today?

Once again, COVID-19 was at the top of ChatGPT’s list.

According to the chat bot, the pandemic showed the “vulnerability” of global supply chains and risk mitigation is now higher on companies’ priorities list.

Next, the “ripple effect” caused by the shortages continues to affect prices and electronic component shortages.

Increasing labour costs and raw material price increases were also on ChatGPT’s list. The bot additionally, brought up regulatory compliance being an issue for companies, specifically small and medium businesses.

Finally, it said the constant need for innovation and the “growing problem” of e-waste as other challenges facing the industry.

What do you think?

How do you feel about ChatGPT’s responses? Do you think it is accurately representing what is going on in the electronics industry or is there something that it missed?

We’d love to know your opinion on ChatGPT and its perception of the electronics market. Chat with us on LinkedIn and share your thoughts with us!

 

Disclaimer: ChatGPT does not reflect the views of Cyclops Electronics, for transparency all of our questions and ChatGPT’s full responses are listed below.

Categories
Electronic Components Technology

Edible batteries

Researchers in Italy have made a rechargeable battery from edible materials like almonds and capers.

What’s the recipe?

The Milan-based researchers made the rechargeable prototype’s anode from riboflavin, a vitamin found in almonds. The cathode of the battery was made from quercetin, found in capers and is also sold as a food supplement.

The researchers, from the Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia, mixed activated charcoal into the electrode materials to increase electrical conductivity.

Nori seaweed was used for the separator, while a mixture of sodium hydrogen sulphate and water made up the electrolyte. Two food-grade gold foil contacts were on a cellulose-derived support, and the device was covered in beeswax.

Cooking time

Previously, research has shown the feasibility of edible circuits and sensors, but there is more research needed into power sources.

The battery operated at 0.65V, and sustained a current of 48µA for 12 minutes.

When further developed, the device could be used for medical diagnostics and treatments, and food quality monitoring. Regular batteries like Li-ion types cannot be used in edible devices because of the toxic chemicals contained in them.

Au naturale

The research team states in their report that they drew inspiration from living organisms for their battery.

In a previous study, a different team of researchers made a non-rechargeable battery from melanin and manganese oxide. While the battery operated, manganese oxide decreased and the melanin oxidised. Unfortunately manganese oxide can only be consumed in very small amounts, so the battery’s charge is pretty limited.

Aside from the melanin battery’s charge having limitations, the fact that it is not rechargeable also mitigates its effectiveness.

As edible electronics is still a relatively new field, it’s not surprising that many designs are still in their infancy. But, with the potential uses in the medical and food safety fields, one day they could be life-saving.

Food for thought

Although Cyclops Electronics doesn’t have a huge stock of edible components, we do have a massive inventory of other hard-to-find and everyday electronic components. We can stock or source almost anything you want, staying ahead of other distributors out there. Contact Cyclops Electronics today at sales@cyclops-electronics.com, or call us on +44 (0) 1904 415 415.

 

Disclaimer: this blog is purely for informational purposes, please do not eat batteries!

Categories
Technology

Celebrating women in tech/electronics

In celebration of International Women’s Day, we have made a list of some of the amazing women in tech. Of course, there are hundreds more so please don’t worry if your favourite lady doesn’t feature!

Edith Clarke

Born in 1883, Clarke studied mathematics and astronomy before becoming a civil engineering student at the University of Wisconsin. After also earning a master’s in electrical engineering, Clarke filed a patent for her ‘graphical calculator’. The calculator was used to solve electric power transmission line problems. The engineer also made history by becoming the first female electrical engineering professor in the US in 1947.

Yoky Matsuoka

Before working for big names including Apple, Google and Nest, Matsuoka received awards for her work in robotics and neuroscience. With the grant she went on to found a non-profit organisation. The NGO focused on removing reading barriers for children with physical and learning challenges.

Matsuoka also founded the Centre for Sensorimotor Neural Engineering and Neurobotics Laboratory. This centre works to create devices that can restore sensation and movement in human bodies. Since then she has gone onto work in innovation and health, and now run independent Panasonic subsidiary Yohana.

Kristina M Johnson

Among other achievements, Johnson is known for her research in optoelectronics. While working with Empire State Development, she signed many industry partnerships with companies including IBM and Applied Materials.

Since then, she has co-founded organisations including ColorLink, which later became part of RealD, responsible for the Real3-D system using in hundreds of movies, including Avatar. Johnson has also done a lot of revolutionary work in clean energy and sustainable infrastructure.

Caroline Haslett

Haslett was instrumental in opening the world of engineering up to women. The women’s right campaigner was born in 1895, and only 19 years later she was working for an engineering firm that made steam boilers. In the following years she joined the Women’s Engineering Society, then the Director of the Electrical Association for Women.

Later in life Haslett was made a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire.

Melonee Wise

As CEO of Fetch Robotics, Wise spent her days researching, developing, and delivering robotics for the logistics industry. Since then, Fetch has been acquired by Zebra Technologies, and Wise has become VP and General Manager of Robotics Automation.

She has featured in Business Insider and the Silicon Valley Business Journal for achieving so much at a young age. Wise’s speciality is in Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMRs) for warehousing and logistics.

Lisa Su

Dr Su is chair and CEO of AMD. She joined the company in 2012 as senior VP and general manager. Prior to this, Su worked at Freescale Semiconductor Inc. in the areas of global strategy, marketing and engineering.

Before this, Dr Su spent years working for Texas Instruments and IBM. In 2018 she received the Global Semiconductor Association’s Dr Morris Chang Exemplary Leadership Award.

Lalitha Suryanarayana

Recently Suryanarayana has joined the Global Semiconductor Alliance Women’s Leadership Council. Alongside that, she is VP, Strategy, Mergers & Acquisitions at Infineon Technologies. Previously, Suryanarayana was senior director for Qualcomm Technologies, and before that worked at AT&T.

Debora Shoquist

Shoquist is executive VP of operations at NVIDIA, and is responsible for the company’s IT, operations and supply chain functions. She is also overseeing construction of the company’s new building at its Santa Clara headquarters, worth $360-380 million.

After joining NVIDIA in 2007, it only took her two years to move from senior VP to executive VP. Before that she worked at Quantum, Coherent, and JDS Uniphase.

Ann B Kelleher

As executive VP and general manager of Technology Development at Intel, Dr Kelleher is responsible for research, development and deployment of next-gen silicon logic, packaging and test technologies.

Kelleher started her electronics leadership journey in Ireland working for Intel’s Fab 24. She later moved to the US to manage the company’s Fab 12 facility in Chandler, Arizona.

Recognition

We know how important it is to recognise all of our staff, both male and female, and the contributions they make to the company and society. That is why International Women’s Day, and other celebrations like it, are so important to us. To find out more about International Women’s Day, follow this link.

Categories
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)

Categories
Electronic Components Future 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.

Categories
Electronic Components 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.

Categories
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.

Categories
Electronic Components 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.

Categories
Component Shortage Electronic Components Future 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.

Categories
Electronic Components Future 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.