Author Topic: When will we return to normal microcontroller stock availability?  (Read 8361 times)

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Online luiHS

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We have been out of stock of microcontrollers and other active components for a long time, such as accelerometers, CAN FD controllers, I2S sound amplifiers and others.

Last year it was said that this year the stock would return, but it has not been like that, it is worse, there are still fewer components than last year. The distributors put some expected dates, I think theoretical, of availability, in the best case for December of this year, and in the worst case for the first half of 2023.

Are these dates credible, really by the end of the year or early 2023 we will have stock of microcontrollers again?

I was farsighted and spent money to have microcontrollers and other components with which to work, although seeing now the total scarcity of everything, I think that I should have even spent more money to buy microcontrollers and other components in quantity (CAN FD controllers, amplifiers sound I2S, accelerometers).
 

Offline T3sl4co1l

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Re: When will we return to normal microcontroller stock availability?
« Reply #1 on: February 20, 2022, 03:08:25 am »
Probably next year, as factories get back online.  Remember it's not just the disruption of supply chains and labor, but also a fab was knocked out by natural disaster.  So, spotty availability for quite a while until that gets back into operation.  Or even longer as other proposed new fabs come online.

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Offline cfbsoftware

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Re: When will we return to normal microcontroller stock availability?
« Reply #2 on: February 20, 2022, 10:57:46 am »
"These 5 Charts Help Demystify the Global Chip Shortage" IEEE Spectrum, 14 Feb 2022:

https://spectrum.ieee.org/global-chip-shortage-charts
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Offline woofy

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Re: When will we return to normal microcontroller stock availability?
« Reply #3 on: February 20, 2022, 11:53:56 am »
It's going to be well in to next year at least. I'm seeing no signs of any immediate recovery with most quotes coming back for 2023 deliveries.
The longest lead time so far is 2027 for a TI part (via distribution).
One distributor for an ST sensor chip was unable to give any delivery date but said we should place the order now and pay up front, to secure the delivery. Yeah, right!

Offline SiliconWizard

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Re: When will we return to normal microcontroller stock availability?
« Reply #4 on: February 20, 2022, 07:24:43 pm »
Of course the question is for us - small or even medium businesses.
The large corporations don't seem to have much problem with availability.
https://hypebeast.com/2021/11/apple-iphone-13-reportedly-sold-more-units-than-iphone-12
 

Offline brucehoult

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Re: When will we return to normal microcontroller stock availability?
« Reply #5 on: February 21, 2022, 12:01:28 am »
Apple is a bit different.

While they get 3rd parties to manufacture components for them, in many cases Apple pays for or supplies the equipment (or even whole factory) needed to make the components, and gets exclusive access to the items produced.

This of course means they need to predict demand years in advance.
 

Offline rpiloverbd

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Re: When will we return to normal microcontroller stock availability?
« Reply #6 on: February 22, 2022, 10:58:12 am »
I don't think this problem will end soon.
 

Offline SiliconWizard

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Re: When will we return to normal microcontroller stock availability?
« Reply #7 on: February 22, 2022, 06:28:55 pm »
Apple is a bit different.

Pretty much all large corporations are a bit different, which was my point. Can you tell me one example of a *large corporation* making eletronic devices that is truly affected by this shortage to the point of having seen both their sales and value plummet? In comparison, many smaller ones are in this case.

While they get 3rd parties to manufacture components for them, in many cases Apple pays for or supplies the equipment (or even whole factory) needed to make the components, and gets exclusive access to the items produced.

For their own processors, sure. But they are also using a lot of third-party components. And they still do not own the means of production (foundries).
But of course, one reason of the above is just that those companies have enough cash, power and influence to go through the crisis relatively unharmed. Or even, take advantage of it to get even further ahead of their smaller competitors.

This of course means they need to predict demand years in advance.

Sure. Did they predict any of what happened during the last 2 years?
 

Offline coppice

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Re: When will we return to normal microcontroller stock availability?
« Reply #8 on: February 22, 2022, 06:45:15 pm »
Apple is a bit different.

Pretty much all large corporations are a bit different, which was my point. Can you tell me one example of a *large corporation* making eletronic devices that is truly affected by this shortage to the point of having seen both their sales and value plummet? In comparison, many smaller ones are in this case.
It has less to do with size than with planning. Nobody wants to upset a really big customer, but that hasn't stopped the major car makers getting screwed, and they are a group that work very very closely with their suppliers - both the module makers, and the key component makers those module makers use - all the time. It seems most car makers cut their ongoing orders too much, so their module makers cut their ongoing orders for components too much.
 

Offline Sal Ammoniac

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Re: When will we return to normal microcontroller stock availability?
« Reply #9 on: February 22, 2022, 09:46:13 pm »
Apple are the absolute masters at managing a supply chain.
Complexity is the number-one enemy of high-quality code.
 

Offline brucehoult

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Re: When will we return to normal microcontroller stock availability?
« Reply #10 on: February 22, 2022, 10:24:04 pm »
This of course means they need to predict demand years in advance.

Sure. Did they predict any of what happened during the last 2 years?

Apple's revenues are very smooth and predictable.

https://twitter.com/asymco/status/1486870094697402368/photo/1

The "last 2 years" i.e. COVID doesn't seem to have affected that.

Many car makers apparently thought sales would fall, and made huge bets based on that, cancelling component orders. And were dead wrong.

Note that Apple's revenue increase in 2021 can probably be attributed to the introduction of the ARM-based Macs, not COVID i.e. the revenue and the associated production capacity was probably planned for.

Other PC manufacturers have had quite large sales increases, but Apple tends to be already running factories at full capacity, and selling everything they can make, so they can't take advantage of unexpected events that increase demand. Their production capacity is locked in one or two years in advance.

Horace Dediu ("asymco") sometimes publishes charts of Apple's capital expenditure (including buying equipment for their suppliers to use) vs revenue. They very clearly are in virtual lock-step, with a delay.

https://twitter.com/asymco/status/894913508034449408
 

Offline hans

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Re: When will we return to normal microcontroller stock availability?
« Reply #11 on: February 22, 2022, 11:12:07 pm »
Apple can relatively easily predict how many phones and notebooks they must produce for a given period. If they have a 1 or 2 year refresh cycle, you just look at the previous (couple of) product release cycles and add any growth and/or inventory margin on top. They have the advantage that it's a consumer item and people buy into the hype of release, the hype around presents for the holidays, or whatever yearly trends they can have in sales.

I haven't worked at a large company design team, but I imagine that a chip is not even getting anywhere close to the schematic or PCB layout if the logistics (and legal) team haven't got the supplier on contract to supply e.g. 100M units with specified delivery dates. There are only so many crucial parts that absolutely must be available to e.g. make an iPhone, like the RF chipset from Qualcomm, or their own silicon from TSMC.

But if we look at a voltage regulator. Even though it's probably not a jellybean LM317 with a classic circuit, you can still view many DC/DCs, transistors, glue logic, connectors, etc. as general purpose building blocks. Unless you're really pushing a part up to it's absolute maximum, then a substitute must be atleast "as good". But there are so many alternatives that can fulfill a general purpose task.

I've looked at some motherboard datasheets in the past, and something I've noticed is the absence of boutique chips on their designs. I bet they rather use a dozen passives and discretes to turn on a power rail with some delay time, rather than the "integrated solution" of a high-side load switch that can be enabled using some RC time constant.
« Last Edit: February 22, 2022, 11:17:22 pm by hans »
 

Offline rfclown

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Re: When will we return to normal microcontroller stock availability?
« Reply #12 on: February 23, 2022, 02:30:32 am »
Apple is a bit different.

Pretty much all large corporations are a bit different, which was my point. Can you tell me one example of a *large corporation* making eletronic devices that is truly affected by this shortage to the point of having seen both their sales and value plummet? In comparison, many smaller ones are in this case.
...

Not all "large corporations" are like Apple that sell very large volume consumer products and can make long term deals with fabs to secure parts (for which they better have figured correctly). I was at Harris (now L3/Harris) in 2018 and obsolescence/part shortages were a huge problem. In the one manufacturing facility I visited, they had Arrow using space in their building. There were two very large parts inventories in the building, their own and Arrow's; it was very impressive. They had resources to try to deal with the problem... but the problem is big. I don't know if their sales or value have "plummeted" because of the part shortage problem, but it certainly has caused them to spend a significant amount of time and money trying to deal with the situation.
 

Online peter-h

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Re: When will we return to normal microcontroller stock availability?
« Reply #13 on: February 23, 2022, 09:27:43 am »
I think the problem continues because bigger companies continue to hoard stocks.

With near-zero interest rates, hoarding is a cheap insurance.

Eventually the whole thing will blow up, and when it starts it will blow up big-time, with panic everywhere.

Re Arrow, I find that quite funny because they are among the most useless distributors I have ever used here in the UK :)
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Offline nigelwright7557

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Re: When will we return to normal microcontroller stock availability?
« Reply #14 on: February 23, 2022, 09:40:28 am »
The shortage feeds on itself.
There is a shortage so people panic buy making it even worse.

 

Online DavidAlfa

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Re: When will we return to normal microcontroller stock availability?
« Reply #15 on: February 23, 2022, 01:44:24 pm »
My company (Not my own, but where I work at) has finally come to a dead end, no way to supply lots of parts, even simple passives.
They're halting till end of the year, except very small batches.
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Offline Karel

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Re: When will we return to normal microcontroller stock availability?
« Reply #16 on: February 23, 2022, 03:39:14 pm »
Nobody wants to upset a really big customer, but that hasn't stopped the major car makers getting screwed, and they are a group that work very very closely with their suppliers - both the module makers, and the key component makers those module makers use - all the time. It seems most car makers cut their ongoing orders too much, so their module makers cut their ongoing orders for components too much.

(Electric) Car manufacturers aren't big customers for semiconductor manufacturers.


"Nope, nobody's interested in dealing with that low a volume. And with good reason. 10K/yr on 28nm for even large chips
isn't a boat of wafers. You never start less than 2 boats, and a big fab will run thousands of boats/day even when idling.
So we have to keep several sets of masks around, calibrate the machines for each set, then run them once a year, deal
with special probe cards and tester programs etc. You're a really expensive customer to keep around, and having to switch
to run just your product will slow down the rest of their production. Then top it off with all the extra paperwork aerospace
chips usually need. You think your chips are special, but to a fab, they're usually nothing but annoying noise in the overall
scheme of things.

This is the same problem we have with cars. For some reason they think they can just waltz in and demand premium treatment.
Sorry, folks, you run on the same old lines as most power electronics, and frankly even a low volume power supply run is bigger
than what a car company needs. If we have to prioritize, we'll make more money on the power supplies than we will on what they
car companies want to pay. And besides, car companies are in love with JIT delivery and as I mentioned above, JIT isn't something
you do on those very low volume runs. It's why when car companies cancelled all their orders at the beginning of the CCP flu,
then decided to reorder, we had to tell them they'd have to wait because the power guys had bought all the slots for over a year.
It's only now they're starting to get appreciable supply.

The economics of a chip fab are nasty, and they're especially bad for small run parts like aerospace or cars. It's what's driving the
incredible consolidation in the electronics industry today. Yes, my company is one of the larger car/industrial chip suppliers,
and in the overall scheme of things, that segment is about 1% of the company."


https://www.theregister.com/2022/02/04/nxp_chip_deals/
 
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Offline SiliconWizard

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Re: When will we return to normal microcontroller stock availability?
« Reply #17 on: February 23, 2022, 05:45:38 pm »
I think the problem continues because bigger companies continue to hoard stocks.

Yes, that's a large part of it. But apparently this is just because they are planning so much better than us poor chaps, not because they have loads of cash and influence. =)

With near-zero interest rates, hoarding is a cheap insurance.

This *was* also a significant part of it, but interest rates are going to ramp up...
 
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Online peter-h

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Re: When will we return to normal microcontroller stock availability?
« Reply #18 on: February 23, 2022, 09:19:38 pm »
Sadly, interest rates (below about 5-10%) are irrelevant in this, because if you can't ship your product, you are totally buggered :)

Hoarding is thus a pretty "safe" option. It just screws everybody else, because in modern times the whole supply pipeline is operated tightly.
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Offline coppice

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Re: When will we return to normal microcontroller stock availability?
« Reply #19 on: February 24, 2022, 04:23:55 pm »
Nobody wants to upset a really big customer, but that hasn't stopped the major car makers getting screwed, and they are a group that work very very closely with their suppliers - both the module makers, and the key component makers those module makers use - all the time. It seems most car makers cut their ongoing orders too much, so their module makers cut their ongoing orders for components too much.

(Electric) Car manufacturers aren't big customers for semiconductor manufacturers.


"Nope, nobody's interested in dealing with that low a volume. And with good reason. 10K/yr on 28nm for even large chips
isn't a boat of wafers. You never start less than 2 boats, and a big fab will run thousands of boats/day even when idling.
So we have to keep several sets of masks around, calibrate the machines for each set, then run them once a year, deal
with special probe cards and tester programs etc. You're a really expensive customer to keep around, and having to switch
to run just your product will slow down the rest of their production. Then top it off with all the extra paperwork aerospace
chips usually need. You think your chips are special, but to a fab, they're usually nothing but annoying noise in the overall
scheme of things.

This is the same problem we have with cars. For some reason they think they can just waltz in and demand premium treatment.
Sorry, folks, you run on the same old lines as most power electronics, and frankly even a low volume power supply run is bigger
than what a car company needs. If we have to prioritize, we'll make more money on the power supplies than we will on what they
car companies want to pay. And besides, car companies are in love with JIT delivery and as I mentioned above, JIT isn't something
you do on those very low volume runs. It's why when car companies cancelled all their orders at the beginning of the CCP flu,
then decided to reorder, we had to tell them they'd have to wait because the power guys had bought all the slots for over a year.
It's only now they're starting to get appreciable supply.

The economics of a chip fab are nasty, and they're especially bad for small run parts like aerospace or cars. It's what's driving the
incredible consolidation in the electronics industry today. Yes, my company is one of the larger car/industrial chip suppliers,
and in the overall scheme of things, that segment is about 1% of the company."


https://www.theregister.com/2022/02/04/nxp_chip_deals/
Interesting numbers. NXP has about 11% of the automotive market, which is about 4.5 billion dollars of over 40 billion dollars per annum. When did NXPs revenues expand so much that 4.5 billion was 1% of their business?

Automotive semiconductors can be a bit quirky. With 50 to 100 MCUs per vehicle. and nearly 100 millions vehicles per annum, cars consume a heck of a lot of MCUs. A single application, like radar, which is not even fitted to all cars right now, is something like a billion dollar business for the semiconductor makers. On the other hand, some part for a special feature that most cars don't have might be made in quite small numbers.

Car makers don't usually buy chips, although they have a lot of say about which ones are used. They usually buy from module makers, like Denso. There are only a handful of module makers globally, so each module maker is a huge customer for a semiconductor company. In turn, those module makers have only a few options from which to source the key semiconductors they use. Automotive customers have a laundry list of specialised requirements, especially for quality control. Only a few semiconductor vendors are prepared to engage in the discipline needed to service those requirements. Perhaps, with people like TSMC developing specific automotive grade processes, more will enter the market.
« Last Edit: February 24, 2022, 06:12:28 pm by coppice »
 

Offline SiliconWizard

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Re: When will we return to normal microcontroller stock availability?
« Reply #20 on: February 24, 2022, 06:05:45 pm »
Car makers don't usually buy chips, although they have a lot of say about which ones are used. They usually buy from module makers, like Denso. There are only a handful of module makers globally, so each module maker is a huge customer for a semiconductor company. In turn, those module makers have only a few options from which to source the key semiconductors they use. Automotive customers have a laundry list of specialised requirements, especially for quality control. Only a few semiconductors are prepared to engage in the discipline needed to service those requirements.

Absolutely.
 

Offline brucehoult

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Re: When will we return to normal microcontroller stock availability?
« Reply #21 on: February 24, 2022, 11:39:14 pm »
A single application, like radar, which is not even fitted to all cars right now

It's fitted to the vast majority.

Pretty sure AEB is going to be mandatory in the USA and Australia from 2023 and in the EU from May this year, and the vast majority of cars sold already have it.

nhtsa.gov in the USA says Audi, BMW, Hyundai, Mazda, Mercedes-Benz, Subaru, Tesla, Toyota, Volkswagen, and Volvo started fitting it to ALL new vehicles three years early, and Ford, Honda, Kia, and Nissan had it in at least 75% of new vehicles sold by August 2020.

During calendar 2020, the only manufacturers with less than 90% of vehicles fitted with AEB in the USA were Kia (75%), Porsche (55%), Maserati (48%), GM (47%), Mitsubishi (39%), Fiat Chrysler (14%), and Jaguar Land Rover (0%).

Admittedly, that's not all "radar". Subaru and Tesla, for example, both use camera-based systems.

Not that this reduces the number of CPUs needed :-)

My 14 year old 2008 Subaru, by the way has camera-based dynamic cruise control, lane departure warning, automatic braking when in cruise control and a "you better brake now!" alarm when not in cruise control.
 

Offline coppice

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Re: When will we return to normal microcontroller stock availability?
« Reply #22 on: February 24, 2022, 11:41:24 pm »
A single application, like radar, which is not even fitted to all cars right now
It's fitted to the vast majority.
Globally? Its becoming widespread in some countries, but I doubt it has gone global.
 

Offline brucehoult

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Re: When will we return to normal microcontroller stock availability?
« Reply #23 on: February 25, 2022, 03:15:47 am »
A single application, like radar, which is not even fitted to all cars right now
It's fitted to the vast majority.
Globally? Its becoming widespread in some countries, but I doubt it has gone global.

Mandatory in North America, Australasia, Europe. India has been considering making it mandatory from 2023, but I don't know if that has been enacted.

China is letting it grow organically. They are expecting 36% of vehicles to have AEB by 2025, and it's already compulsory for commercial vehicles since 2021.

At some point it costs more for manufacturers to leave it off.
 

Offline VK3DRB

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Re: When will we return to normal microcontroller stock availability?
« Reply #24 on: February 25, 2022, 09:55:50 am »
2024.
 


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