Electronics > Microcontrollers

Do you think it's time to wait for prices to drop?

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In this strange global semiconductor crisis, that we have been suffering for a couple of years (or more), since the COVID started I think. I have been seeing various stages, I don't know if you agree with me:

1.- Some components are beginning to be scarce, but nobody cares, prices remain the same.
2.- Now yes, the shortage is evident, some of us have already bought to have material to work with in the coming months.
3.- Total scarcity, small batches of components appear, but prices double or more.
4.- Speculators have stockpiled components and sell them at exorbitant prices. A microcontroller that I bought from the Chinese for 6 dollars, now they offer it to me for 150, 200 dollars a unit or even more. Panic is generalized, there is no stock of anything and thus it is not possible to work.
5.- The first stocks of material begin to appear, things are beginning to improve but prices remain very high, at least double what they were before the crisis began, but at least there is already material.
6.- What will happen and especially when?

What will be the next step, and above all, how long do we have to wait until prices normalize and we can buy at reasonable prices?

When supplies shrink, vendors don't *have* to keep prices the same...Some may be doing that out of courtesy.  Basic Supply & Demand says that:

* Everything else being equal, a drop in supply results in an increase in price and an increase in supply results in a drop in price.
* Everything else being equal, a drop in demand results in a drop in price and an increase in demand results in an increase in price.

Things that have ready, drop-in substitutes (like a 0.1uF 0603 MLCC) are already back in a pretty normal pricing regime. The reason is "if you're the supplier who is the odd-man out sticking to a 10x price, you'll sell approximately zero units."

Things that don't have ready, drop-in substitutes are going to be stickier high prices for a while I think.  Each time they start to nudge down, someone will express their pent-up demand and buy a reel or a year's worth of production run to make sure they get the parts. That, coupled with no ready drop in, means these prices will drop more slowly I think (and could even take another year or more).

Many threads on this, depends on the item. As mentioned above, prices for a lot of stuff is quite reasonable now. The very niche ICs, that may not even be produced, are still high in some cases.

You can see STM32F103 has a large surplus of stock now: https://octopart.com/stm32f103c8t6-stmicroelectronics-41858015?r=sp
Too bad octopart does not track prices over time.

But this puts pressure on the grey market suppliers. Why buy grey market STM32, if the distributors have lots of stock? They have to start undercutting them again. A few have already dropped the price (eg winsource), others that probably manually change their prices and its not automated at all, maybe they haven't.

And as for the consumer electronics area, GPU, CPU, SSD prices are tanking right now with low demand.

Not buying them if you can is the only message that helps sending to MFGRs, in particular as a consumer for PC parts. E.g. for PC parts we can complain about a green company making absurdly expensive heaters, but their competitor is not that much better either with 1k$ heaters. I hear a lot from people that they will stick with what they have got, some still with 5-6 year old GPUs and 8+ year CPUs. If it still works and can run e.g. Minecraft and do simple tasks, then why bother chasing the latest tech.

But private this is at most an annoyance. An old machine is slower, but it's still there (unless it's broken). For work, it's harder as you will have projects with deadlines and shipment dates, and need to buy new parts. Higher prices may be a quick buck for manufacturers short term amid shortages.. however when manufacturer ABCDEF have high prices while manufacturer G lowers them, with surplus stock, then new designs will likely not pick much from mfgr A-F. Long term it's not great and that's the best kind of "don't buy (anything)" you can get.

The shortages with redesigns has probably also required more flexibility from designers and perhaps less 'fear' to pick another part family. If you use STM32s and they are out of stock, then a LPC, PIC32, etc. part that can do the same job will at least get stuff out the door. It may even be a wise risk spread to not base every design around 1 part. I can't speak for every company, but anecdotally I've found this to be the case.


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