The United States has conducted an extensive study of the chip shortage affecting all electronics markets. The resulting report, published on 25 January 2022, explains how the manufacturers got there and why it will continue until at least the end of the year… or even longer.
We started talking about the problem shortage of components at the end of 2020, when the Xbox Series S / X and PlayStation 5 were released. At the time, it was impossible to find them in stores. The reasons were announced in three ways: the impossibility of processors, the difficulty of finding a place on ships to supply consoles, and a global epidemic leading to temporary shutdowns of production lines.
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15 months later, it is always very complicated to buy the next generation of consoles. In an interview with the New York Times, Phil Spencer mentioned one of the reasons he believes explains the purchase of the Xbox Series X: demand far exceeds supply. In addition, he claims that his latest console sells better than all his predecessors. Is he still able to produce enough to supply distributors? At least.
The chip shortage is due to strong growth in demand for semiconductors
In September 2021, therefore, the U.S. Department of Commerce launched an investigation to understand the problems that prevent a return to normal. And the conclusions of the report were published 1/25/2022. Three problems were identified. The first is the significant increase in demand for semiconductors. Many industries have started to use processors heavily, especially in the automotive industry, with the increase in electric cars. Just look at Tesla’s rave sales figures for 2021 to be convinced. But the electric car is not the only culprit.
Another key point is the pandemic that has led consumers to walk home to work and play. They bought computers, televisions, game consoles and tablets. Not to mention smartphones and other electronic products. Everyone uses chips. According to the founders, demand for processors in 2021 will be 17% higher than in 2020.
Chip manufacturers are a bottleneck that is causing a shortage
The third point raised in the American report concerns component manufacturing plants. That is, those who make silicon wafers and convert them into processors or transistors. As a reminder, when Apple, AMD, or Qualcomm develop a component, they do not manufacture it. They are called “fabless founders” (without a factory in VF). They entrust this task to a factory like TSMC, Global Foundries or Samsung. Intel has its own factories.
These factories are therefore a bottleneck. Why ? Because their production lines are not always adapted to demand. These are gradual reduces their ability to produce etched components at 40 nm and above. It particularly affects the medical, automotive and telecommunications sectors. Consequence: foundry stocks have run out of certain product lines 40 days ahead in 2019 and only 5 days in 2021. This is a division by 8. There is a risk of a shortage of stock, leading to the closure of its customers’ factories.
There will be no improvement in 2022 and certainly not even in 2023
Respondents to the survey believe that the problem will not be solved immediately. Not for at least the next six months. Indeed, component manufacturers have invested heavily to increase their production capacity by setting up new plants. Global Foundries moves to New York. Samsung has begun construction of the plant in Texas. Intel also plans to develop one in Ohio. But some plants will not be ready until the second half of 2022. And others only in 2024!
This is partly in line with statements by AMD’s technical director, who confirmed last November that the component shortage will not be resolved before 2023, and confirmed half a word that getting an Xbox Series X or PS5 will always be difficult. year and next year.