Solving for Silicon Shortages #ManufacturingMonday @FrameworkPuter
The Framework Laptop team has had to do what many electronics manufacturers have done in the last few months – switch gears due to the global chip shortage.
To keep ramping up production, we’ve switched to a different audio CODEC (the chip driving the speakers, headphones, and microphones) for Framework Laptops shipping starting late October.
At the start of the pandemic, companies across many industries canceled much of their production and shrunk future projections under the assumption of an extended global recession, resulting in cascading reductions and pauses through the supply base. Instead, exactly the opposite occurred. Demand increased massively, especially in computing due to remote working and remote education. This impacts silicon severely, as the pipeline is quite long, there is strong competition among different industries for the same fab capacity, and increasing capacity takes a very long time. Chips that would normally have 16-20 week lead times (meaning placing binding orders that far ahead of needing parts in hand) went up to 52 weeks or more.
In some instances, we had to take creative workarounds like picking up the last reels of RGB LEDs available anywhere for our power button from a drop shipper in Poland. In one case though, we made a design change. We were able to get enough Realtek ALC295 audio CODECs to develop the Framework Laptop and get through the first few months of production, but nowhere near enough.
Luckily, we were able to find an alternative CODEC that lets us stay in production: the Tempo 92HD95B. All in all, we consider this a reasonably neutral trade in exchange for being able to continue building Framework Laptops.
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