How and When the Chip Shortage Will End, in 4 Charts @IEEESpectrum
IEEE Spectrum looks at the current chip shortage, noting that fabs using older process nodes are the key:
The supply relief will not be coming from the big, national investments in the works right now by South Korea, the United States, and Europe but from older chip fabs and foundries running processes far from the cutting edge and on comparatively small silicon wafers.
But no one will be clamoring to build production using older technology on smaller silicon wafers.
One potential hiccup on the road to ending the shortage is that some of the skyrocketing demand appears to be from customers that are double-ordering to bulk up on inventory, says Jim Feldhan, president of Semico Research. “I don’t know of any product that needs twice the amount of analog” as the year before, he says. But manufacturers “don’t want a 12-cent part to hold up a 4K television,” so they’re stocking up.
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The issue is with something called “Process of Record” or POR, which ties into the reliability and performance specifications for a particular semiconductor product. The POR specifies how the device is manufactured and even specifies the particular tool in a fab that the device visits in it’s manufacturing process. As such fabs are reluctant to upgrade device processes to newer equipment because the manufacturer would have to re-qualify the device based on the change in the Process of Record.
Some fabs are running some devices through production equipment that is over 25 years old precisely for this reason. Fabs go through extraordinary lengths and expense to keep this old equipment running.