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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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Electronic Components

Semiconductor Production Capacity Expected To Hit Records Highs in 2021

As you probably know, we are in the middle of a global semiconductor shortage. Auto manufacturers are cutting jobs, brands are delaying the release of new products, and people are struggling to buy things like games consoles.

It’s a grim situation predicted to last a few years, but behind the scenes, semiconductor companies are preparing to come out of the chip shortage swinging.

In fact, it’s predicted that semiconductor production capacity will reach a record high in 2021 so long as additional production lines are completed. This is reliant on production lines coming online following investments made at the beginning of 2018.

According to industry forecasts, next year, another 10 production lines for 300mm silicon wafers will be added worldwide. These will contribute millions of semiconductors each year, helping to release some pressure on demand.  

IC Insights also provides the following forecasts for chips: “By 2024, the average annual growth rate of semiconductor production capacity will be 5.9%. Compared with the average annual increase rate (5.1%) of semiconductor production capacity in the past 5 years (2014 ~ 2019), the growth rate slightly increased.”

Record demand for chips

The semiconductor market is experiencing record demand across all sectors. Chip manufacturers are struggling to keep up, but they are investing in new production lines to meet predicted demand several years from now.

The latest report from IC Insights’ McClean Report says that the semiconductor market will shake off the Covid-19 pandemic with 13% growth in 2021.

Semiconductor unit shipments are expected to hit 1,135.3 billion in 2021, fuelled by chips that target connected devices, VR and AR, network and cloud computing systems, contactless payment systems, automotive electronics including autonomous systems and consumer electronics including smartphones.

As technology advances and the world becomes more digital and more connected, chip demand will increase ten-fold over the next few years.

Semiconductor manufacturers are struggling to keep up with demand now but there are signs of life as the IC Insights’ report demonstrates.

The world’s biggest chip companies, including TSMC, UMC, SMIC, Samsung, Micron and SK Hynix are going to play a leading role in how technologies roll out long into the future. There should be no doubt these companies will power our future.

What next for semiconductors?

The prices of semiconductors are expected to increase by 20% in 2021 due to a shortage in production capacity and higher silicon prices.

However, the future may not be silicon at all. Graphene chips are 100 times smaller than silicon chips and thousands of times faster. This technology is in its infancy but it’s showing great promise. We expect big things in the next decade.

We also expect the semiconductor shortage to persist until 2022. Shortages should lift beyond this as production capacity increases from new production lines. Chip makers will need to manage supply and demand better in the future. The current shortage is bad news for everyone. Thankfully, it won’t last forever. Of this we’re certain.

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Electronic Components Semiconductor

Who are the biggest players in the semiconductor industry?

Over the next decade, demand for semiconductors is going to go supersonic thanks to secular and cyclical tailwinds.

Semiconductors are the building blocks of the information age; every device that will be ‘connected’ needs a semiconductor. The companies that manufacture semiconductors are the unsung heroes of the future. But who are they?

In this article, we will briefly cover the biggest players in the semiconductor industry.

Foundries

Foundries concentrate on manufacturing and testing physical products for fabless companies. Some companies, like Intel, are both fabless and foundry, meaning they design and make their chips. Foundries often serve as a non-competitive manufacturing partner for fabless companies. The following list contains the biggest foundries:

TSMC

TSMC (Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company) is the world’s largest semiconductor manufacturer by a significant margin. They are expected to capture 56% of the semiconductor market in 2021 (up from 54% in 2020). 

UMC

UMC (United Microelectronics Corporation) is a Taiwanese company. They are the second largest semiconductor foundry in the world behind TSMC. UMC specialise in mature nodes, such as 40nm nodes and other speciality logic.

SMIC

SMIC (Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation) is a Chinese company. They are the third largest semiconductor manufacturer in the world. They specialise in process nodes from 0.35 micron to 14 nanometres.

Samsung

Samsung Electronics is a South Korean company. They are the world’s largest manufacturer of DRAM and the world’s fourth largest semiconductor manufacturer. They are expected to occupy 18% of the semiconductor market in 2021.  

Micron

Micron is an American company. They are the second largest manufacturer of DRAM (dynamic random-access memory) behind Samsung. DRAM is semiconductor memory used in consumer electronics, computing equipment and IoT devices.

SK Hynix

SK Hynix is a South Korean company. They are the world’s third largest manufacturer of DRAM and a leading manufacturer of NAND flash memory. In 2019, they developed HBM2E, the world’s fastest high bandwidth memory.

NXP Semiconductors

NXP Semiconductors is a Dutch-American company. They manufacture ARM-based processors, microprocessors and logic across 8, 16 and 32-bit platforms. Their products are used in automotive, consumer, and industrial markets.

Powerchip

Powerchip Technology Corporation is a Taiwanese company. They manufacture DRAM and memory chips, semiconductors and integrated circuits. They use a 300mm wafer production technology which can produce advanced and mature chips.

ON Semiconductor

ON Semiconductor is an American company. They design and fabricate chips and microprocessors for automotive, aerospace, industrial, cloud and Internet of Things devices. They have over 45 years’ of experience in the foundry business.

Fabless companies

“Fabless” means outsourced fabrication. Fabless companies concentrate on the research and development of chips and semiconductors. They then outsource the manufacturing of the product to a foundry. This relationship is non-competitive, and the foundry is normally a silent partner. The following list contains the biggest fabless companies:

MediaTek

MediaTek is a Taiwanese company. By market share, they are the world’s leading vendor of smartphone chipsets. They are also a leading vendor of chipsets for other consumer electronics including tablets and connected TVs.

Qualcomm

Qualcomm is an American company. They are the world’s biggest fabless company. Their product catalogue includes processors, modems, RF systems, 5G, 4G and legacy connectivity solutions. They are best-known for Snapdragon Series processors.

Broadcom

Broadcom is an American company. Depending on which figures you read, they are either the first or second largest fabless company in the world. Broadcom’s products serve the data centre, networking, software, broadband, wireless, and storage and industrial markets.

NVIDIA

NVIDIA is an American company. They are the market leader for high-end graphics processing units (GPUs). In 2020, NVIDIA GeForce GPUs accounted for 82% of GPU market share. This is significantly more than AMD Radeon graphics cards, which accounted for 18%.

AMD

AMD is an American company. They design high-performance GPUs and processors for computers, where they command the second biggest market share behind Intel. Their GPUs compete against NVIDIA’s but are not considered as powerful.

Himax

Himax is a Taiwanese company. They are a leading vendor of automotive chips and semiconductors for connected devices. Their semiconductors are used in TVs, monitors, laptops, virtual reality headsets, cameras and much more.

Realtek

Realtek is a Taiwanese company. They are a fabless semiconductor company focused on developing IC products (integrated circuits). They are best-known for SoCs (System-on-Chips) network (Ethernet) and wireless (Wi-Fi) interface controllers.

Integrated device manufacturers

Some companies have foundry and fabless arms. These companies often design and fabricate their own products or design and fabricate chips for others. These integrated device manufacturers (IDMs for short) blur the line between foundry and fabless with an in-house production process that utilises little if any outsourcing. IDMs include:

Intel

Intel is an American company. They design and manufacture their own chips which they package into CPUs. Intel’s market share in the CPU market has declined in recent years, but they remain one of the top semiconductor manufacturers.

Analog Devices

Analog Devices is an American company. They have a 150mm wafer fab and a 200mm wafer fab. They have fabless production facilities and have made numerous fabless acquisitions over the years, such as OneTree Microdevices in 2017.

Texas Instruments

Texas Instruments is an American company. They have 14 manufacturing sites including silicon foundries. They specialise in the production and manufacture of wafers, digital signal processors, integrated circuits and embedded processors.

Overall

You may have noticed that the US and Taiwan dominate the semiconductor industry on the foundry and fabless side. Among the biggest semiconductor companies, the largest proportion are based in the United States. However, Taiwan is the foundry king, with the two biggest players based there (TSMC and UMC).

Semiconductors are used in all electronics that require computing power, including smartphones, PCs, and data centres and cars. A surge in demand for chip-based products will fuel the need for more semiconductors in the future. It will be up to the big players on this list to meet that demand and power our future.

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