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Electronic Components

Semiconductors in space

Blast off

A post about semiconductors being used in space travel would be the perfect place to make dozens of space-themed puns, but let’s stay down to earth on this one.

There are around 2,000 chips used in the manufacture of a single electric vehicle. Imagine, then, how many chips might be used in the International Space Station or a rocket.

Despite the recent decline in the space semiconductor market, it’s looking likely that in the next period there will be a significant increase in profit.

What effect did the pandemic have?

The industry was not exempt from the impact of the shortage and supply chain issues caused by covid. Sales decreased and demand fell by 14.5% in 2020, compared to the year-on-year growth in the years previous.

Due to the shortages, many companies within the industry delayed launches and there was markedly less investment and progress in research and development. However, two years on, the scheduled dates for those postponed launches are fast approaching.

The decline in investment and profit is consequently expected to increase in the next five years. The market is estimated to jump from $2.10 billion in 2021 all the way up to $3.34 billion in 2028. This is a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 6.89%.

What is being tested for the future

In the hopes of ever improving the circuitry of spaceships there are several different newer technologies currently being tested for use in space travel.

Some component options are actually already being tested onboard spacecrafts, both to emulate conditions and to take advantage of the huge vacuum that is outer space. The low-pressure conditions can emulate a clean room, with less risk of particles contaminating the components being manufactured.

Graphene is one of the materials being considered for future space semiconductors. The one-atom-thick semiconductor is being tested by a team of students and companies to see how it reacts to the effects of space. The experiments are taking place with a view to the material possibly being used to improve the accuracy of sensors in the future.

Two teams from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) are currently looking at the use of Gallium Nitride (GaN) in space too. This, and other wide bandgap semiconductors show promise due to their performance in high temperatures and at high levels of radiation. They also have the potential to be smaller and more lightweight than their silicon predecessors.

GaN on Silicon Carbide (GaN on SiC) is also being researched as a technology for amplifiers that allows satellites to transmit at high radio frequency from Earth. Funnily enough, it’s actually easier to make this material in space, since the ‘clean room’ vacuum effect makes the process of epitaxy – depositing a crystal substrate on top of another substrate – much more straightforward.

To infinity and beyond!

With the global market looking up for the next five years, there will be a high chance of progress in the development of space-specialised electronic components. With so many possible advancements in the industry, it’s highly likely it won’t be long before we see pioneering tech in space.

To bring us back down to Earth, if you’re looking for electronic components contact Lantek today to see what they can do for you. Email us at sales@lantekcorp.com or use the rapid enquiry form on our website.

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Electronic Components

Upskilling and STEM investment: how to combat the semiconductor worker shortage

Noticed that you’re waiting longer than usual for your electronic parts these days? You’re not the only one.

The lack of chips is considerably noticeable, but it’s also drawn attention to how desperate we are for more electronics workers. There’s a lack of highly skilled people in the tech sector right now, and with the States aiming to increase its share of semiconductor production, we’ll need to fill out this workforce fast.

But the experts have a few ideas up their sleeves, here’s what they think:

It’s a BIG industry

The Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA) released a report in 2021 that said for every US worker directly employed in the semiconductor industry in 2020, another 5.7 jobs were supported. This means that two years ago at least 1.85 million jobs were supported, either directly or indirectly, by the sector.

The 277,000 people that work specifically in the sector, in manufacturing, design, testing and research, are enabling around 300 downstream sectors, according to the report.

Upskilling/Reskilling

As the electronics industry is constantly changing and evolving it might be difficult for longer-serving employees to be equipped with currently relevant skills. The increasing automation of production lines, while efficient for manufacturers, requires highly skilled workers for operation and maintenance. Therefore, the upskilling and reskilling of employees is essential.

In another SIA report, in collaboration with Oxford Economics, the association said that only 20% of employees in the semiconductor industry actually attended university in 2019. To add to this, the higher-skilled members of the STEM sectors were more likely to go on to work for consultancy or investment firms. Giving the current workforce the option to upskill, and the potential extra wages that would come with it, might be an easy and enticing way to bulk up the thin-on-the-ground areas of employment.

Similarly, giving skilled workers the chance to re-specialize within their areas of expertise could ease the shortage relatively simply.

International talent

Joint workforce development may also be an avenue for investment. The US’s international partners could well help bridge the gap in the electronics industry, something that the 2019 European METIS initiative explored.

The electronics industry project, co-funded by the student exchange programme Erasmus+, looked to fund the education, professional mobility and recognition of electronics industry qualifications. The project aimed to encourage international students to study and work in the sector in different countries.

Employees and Incentives

It’s probably no surprise that there are more men in electronics manufacturing, with the US Bureau of Statistics saying that women made up less than 30% of the sector in 2021. The majority of women were white, with approximately two in five women being Asian or Hispanic. Black or African American females were the most underrepresented at about 4%

Students are another source of untapped potential. Thankfully, the new semiconductor legislation that could soon be signed into law will increase funding for STEM students. The US Innovation and Competition Act, passed by the Senate last year, promised $5 billion in scholarships for STEM-specializing students, $8 billion for workforce programs and almost $10 billion for university technology centers and innovation institutes.

These employee groups might be ideal targets for recruitment and development in the industry, and since the CHIPS Act promises so many additional jobs in the next four years, employers better get on it!

But you don’t need to worry until then. Thankfully when it comes to electronic parts, Lantek always has your back. Talk to us today at sales@lantekcorp.com and we’ll help you find what you’re looking for.

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Technology

What is the Internet of Things?

EveryThing

In terms of IoT, a ‘Thing’ is anything that can transfer data over a network and can have its own IP address. They are most often ‘smart’ devices, that use processors or sensors to accumulate and send data.

These devices have little-to-no need for human interaction, except in cases where the smart device is controlled by a remote control or something similar. Due to the low cost of electronic components and wireless networks being readily available, it’s possible for most things to become, well, Things.

Technically, larger items like computers, aeroplanes, and even phones, cannot be considered IoT devices, but normally contain a huge amount of the smart devices within them. Smaller devices, however, like wearable devices, smart meters and smart lightbulbs can all be counted as IoT items.

There are already more connected IoT devices than there are people in the world, and as more Things are produced this progress shows no sign of slowing.

Applications of IoT

The automation and smart learning of IoT devices has endless uses and can be implemented in many industries. The medical industry can use IoT to remotely monitor patients using smart devices that can track blood pressure, heart rate and glucose levels, and can check if patients are sticking to treatment plans or physiotherapy routines.

Smart farming has garnered attention in recent years for its possibly life-saving applications. The use of IoT devices in the agricultural industry can enable the monitoring of moisture levels, fertiliser quantities and soil analysis. Not only would these functions lower the labour costs for farmers substantially but could also be implemented in countries where there is a desperate need for agriculture.

The industrial and automotive industries also stand to benefit from the development of IoT. Road safety can be improved with fast data transfer of vehicle health, as well as location. Maintenance could be performed before issues begin to affect driving if data is collected and, alongside the implementation of AI, smart vehicles and autonomous cars could be able to drive, brake and park without human error.

What’s next?

The scope of possibilities for IoT will only grow as technology and electronics become more and more accessible. An even greater number of devices will become ‘smart’ and alongside the implementation of AI, we will likely have the opportunity to make our lives fully automated. We already have smart toothbrushes and smart lightbulbs, what more could be possible in the future?

To make it sustainable and cost-effective, greater measures in security and device standardisation need to be implemented to reduce the risk of hacking. The UK government released guidelines in 2018 on how to keep your IoT devices secure, and a further bill to improve cyber security entered into law in 2021.

If you’re looking for chips, processors, sensors, or any other electronic component, get in touch with Lantek today. We are specialists in day-to-day and obsolete components and can supply you where other stockists cannot.

Contact Cyclops today at sales@lantekcorp.com. Or use the rapid enquiry form on our website to get fast results.

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Electronic Components

Latest electronic component factory openings

We’ve all heard about the shortages in standard components like semiconductors and chips. Cars, phones and computers, items we use every day, are no longer being produced at the speedy rate we’ve come to expect. The cause of this shortage is, in part, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

To combat this shortage many electronic component manufacturers have announced the opening or development of new factories. This is especially noticeable in Europe and America, where production has often been outsourced to Asia in the past.

So who are the latest companies expanding operations, and how much are they spending? Check out our quick run-down of factories and when they should open:

Company: Intel

Location: Ohio, USA

Product: Chips

Completion date: 2025

Cost: $20 billion (£14.7 billion)

The latest, and possibly greatest, announcement on our list comes from Intel. The corporation revealed in January that they would be committing to building two chip manufacturing plants in New Albany, Ohio. The move is said to be due to supply chain issues with Intel’s manufacturers in Asia, and should boost the American industry with the creation of at least 3,000 jobs. Construction should begin this year.

Company: Samsung Electronics

Location: Texas, USA

Product: Semiconductors

Completion date: 2024

Cost: $17billion (£12.5billion)

The household name announced late last year that they would begin work on a new semiconductor-manufacturing plant in Taylor, Texas. The Korean company stated the project was Samsung’s largest single investment in America, and is due to be operational by the middle of 2024.

Company: Infineon

Location: Villach, Austria

Product: Chips

Completion date: 2021

Cost: 1.6 billion (£1.3 billion)

After being in construction since 2018, Infineon’s Austrian plant became operational in September last year. The chip factory for power electronics, also called energy-saving chips, on 300-millimeter tin wafers began shipping three months ahead of schedule in 2021, and its main customer base will be in the automotive industry.

Company: Northvolt

Location: Gdańsk, Poland

Product: Batteries

Completion date: 2022

Cost: $200 million (£148 million)

The Swedish battery manufacturer is expanding its operations with a new factory in Poland. While initial operations are supposed to begin this year producing 5 GWh of batteries, it hopes to further develop to produce 12 GWh in future. Northvolt has also just begun operations at its new battery factory in Skellefteå in Sweden.

Company: Vingroup

Location: Hà Tĩnh, Vietnam

Product: Batteries

Completion date: 2022

Cost: $174 million (£128 million)

The Vietnamese electric vehicle manufacturer is due to start production at its new factory later this year, where it will produce lithium batteries for its electric cars and buses. The factory will be designed to produce 10,000 battery packs per year initially, but in a second phase the manufacturer said it will upgrade to 1 million battery packs annually. VinFast, a member of Vingroup, is also planning on expanding operations to America and Germany.

Company: EMD Electronics

Location: Arizona, USA

Product: Gas and chemical delivery systems

Completion date: 2022

Cost: $28 million (£20.7 million)

The member of the multinational Merck Group is expanding operations with the construction of a new factory in Phoenix, Arizona, to manufacture equipment for its Delivery Systems & Services business. The factory is due to be operational by the end of the year, and will produce GASGUARD and CHEMGUARD systems for the company.

A bright future

These electronic component factory openings signal a great increase in business, and will aide in the easing of the component crisis. But it will take a while for these fabs to be operational.

Can’t wait? Lantek is there for all your electronic component needs. We have 30 years of expertise, and can help you where other suppliers cannot. Whether it’s day-to-day or obsolete electronic components, contact us today at sales@lantekcorp.com, or use the rapid enquiry form on our website.

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Electronic Components

How Can Companies Combat the Electronic Components Shortage?

How Can Companies Combat the Electronic Components Shortage?

Electronic components shortages show no signs of abating, fuelled by growing demand for electronics, limited availability of raw materials, soaring manufacturing prices, and lingering COVID-19 disruptions.

Shortages have hindered manufacturers since 2018, but things came to a head in 2020 with the COVID-19 pandemic disrupting supply chains.

The pandemic created an imbalance in supply chains, with demand for many components, from chips to actives and passives, outstripping supply. The question is, how can companies combat the electronic components shortage?

Partner with a distributor 

Electronic component distributors occupy a unique position in the supply chain, representing the manufacturer and customer. Distributors work for both parties to move components up and down the supply chain.

The benefit of working with a distributor is that your company will be in the mix for components not available through traditional channels.

For example, we specialize in the procurement and delivery of electronic components and parts for a wide variety of industries from the world’s leading manufacturers. We can help you beat allocation challenges and long lead times.

Diversify suppliers

Diversity is the key to strengthening your supply chain. You need multiple sources for electronic components. It’s a good idea to have retail and distribution channels, so you have several routes should one supplier channel fail.

Diversity can also be found in geography. A supplier in your home country is essential, but so are suppliers close to the manufacturing source.  

Expand storage capabilities 

If your company can expand its storage capabilities for essential components, this is the simplest way to combat shortages. By storing large quantities of components, you create a supply separate from the chain.

The risk with expanding storage is procuring more components than you need, resulting in oversupply problems that incur heavy losses.  

Source equivalent components  

When components are unavailable, you can specify equivalents that meet your performance and financial specifications. Equivalent components perform the same job as your original components, but another company makes them.

A simple example is Samsung, which uses its own Exynos chip or a QUALCOMM chip in the same smartphone model depending on where the smartphone is sold.

Visibility and proactive planning 

Supply chains are complex beasts that require visibility to manage. Monthly stock updates are no longer sufficient; to combat shortages, you need real-time supplier updates and an inventory catalog to keep track of supply.

You can proactively plan component shipments and tap into price dips and new inventory when you have visibility over total supply.

Predict obsolescence

When electronic components become obsolete, manufacturers who haven’t planned for it scramble to find components that will work. This inevitably creates bottlenecks in the supply chain as many big companies compete for orders.

Obsolescence is predictable because all electronic components have a run date, and manufacturers update lifespans with inventory cataloging. You can avoid shortages and soaring prices for rare parts by predicting obsolescence.  

Have shortages? Speak to us

We’re here to help you deal with electronic component shortages. Contact us here.

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component shortage Electronic Components

Semiconductor Supply Chain Will Remain Vulnerable Without Robust Investment in Advanced Packaging

new U.S. study has found that the advanced semiconductor packaging supply chain needs strengthening to meet the increasing demand for chips.

According to the report, without robust federal investment, the semiconductor supply chain in the U.S. faces an uphill battle to meet demand.

The study also highlights the crucial role of advanced packaging in driving innovation in semiconductor designs. At present, most of the chips in the U.S. are sent abroad for packaging and assembly into finished products. By moving packaging to North America, the entire electronics ecosystem can be improved.

“Semiconductor chips are critically important, which is why IPC supports full funding for the CHIPS for America Act. But chips can’t function on their own. They need to be packaged and interconnected with other electronic components to power the technology we all rely on, from cell phones to automobiles and beyond,” said John Mitchell, IPC president and CEO. “The data in this report shows that North America is well behind Asia in the advanced packaging of chips and in other key parts of the electronics manufacturing ecosystem.”

The big players in the U.S. include Applied Materials, Amkor Technology, Ayar Labs, Lam Research, Microsemi Semiconductor and KLA-Tencor Corporation. These companies have seen unprecedented demand for semiconductor packaging, with growth predicted to rise as the world becomes smarter and more connected.

Other report findings 

The study also found that while the U.S. can design cutting-edge electronics, it lacks the capabilities to make them. This is creating an overreliance on foreign companies, including companies in China, creating considerable risk.

Looking at the most recent data, the study highlights that North America’s share of global advanced semiconductor packaging production is just 3 per cent. In other words, at present, the U.S. is incapable of assembling its own chips.

The study concludes that the U.S. also needs to invest in developing and producing advanced integrated circuit substrates. Advanced integrated circuit substrates are crucial components for packaging circuit chips. Currently, the U.S. has nascent capabilities, putting it behind Europe, China and most other countries.

What can we deduce from the report? That the U.S. is behind in most aspects of semiconductor packaging. Decades of low investment and overseas partnerships have led to a manufacturing ecosystem devoid of domestic talent.

“The findings of this report make clear that, as a result of decades of offshoring, the United States’ semiconductor supply chains remain vulnerable, even with the new federal funding that’s expected,” says Jan Vardaman, president and founder of TechSearch International and co-author of the report. “It’s critical that the U.S. government recognises and responds to industry needs on these systemic vulnerabilities, particularly integrated circuit substrates, where domestic capabilities are severely lacking.”

As the U.S. comes to terms with its poor manufacturing ecosystem, China is ramping up assembly plants. In the face of increasing competition, the U.S. must focus on domestic investment in the near and medium-term. Without robust investment, they could fall further behind and lose out to their biggest competitors.

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Electronic Components

Why is chip sovereignty so important?

The US and EU are planning for chip sovereignty, aiming to defend domestic chip supplies and move manufacturing back home.

At first glance this is a tall order, considering most chips are manufactured in China and China controls 55% of rare earth metal production, but it is no less crucial to ensure that the Western world has access to the chips it needs.

The need for chip sovereignty

As the electronics industry battles on with chip shortages, we are seeing car plants cut production and companies delay product launches.

These are only a few examples of measures being applied like a band aid over a supply chains that have been bleeding for years.

We are in a situation where electronic components manufacturers are running at 99-100% capacity. Demand has soared for all types of components, from chips and memory to diodes and displays, squeezing supply chains.

Quite simply, demand is outstripping supply.

Many of the problems in the supply chain are geopolitical and logistical in nature, so by moving manufacturing back home, nations like the US and the EU will be able to control the supply chain (or most of it) and make supply meet demand.

What’s happening?

The EU will legislate to push for chip sovereignty with the forthcoming “European Chips Act”. It aims to stop European countries from competing with each other for chips, instead having them work together to compete globally.

The US isn’t legislating for chip sovereignty, but the Biden administration used its first budget proposal to Congress to call for domestic funding to fight semiconductor shortages with figures up to $50 billion being touted.

The UK is at odds with the US and EU with no chip sovereignty in sight.

Simply put, the UK is selling off chip firms, with $42 billion sold since 2010 (figures from US research). For example, In July, the UK’s largest chip plant was acquired by Nexperia – a Dutch firm wholly owned by Shanghai-based Wingtech.

This raises concerns over the future of UK chip manufacturing. Industry funding is seriously lacking too, putting the UK firmly behind the US and EU.

Companies are a successful case study 

As countries continue to struggle to meet demand for chips, some companies have taken matters into their own hands.

Apple produces their own chip called the M1 for the MacBook Air and iMac, and Google is doing the same with the Tensor chip, used in the Pixel 6 smartphone.

By moving away from Intel and Qualcomm respectively, Apple and Google have taken greater control over their supply chains, cutting out many geopolitical and logistical issues and unlocking greater pricing power.

With the global chip shortage showing no signs of abating and rare earth metal prices soaring, supply chains are only going to get squeezed more in the near future.

Chip sovereignty will be important for nations to meet demand and reduce reliance on China, Taiwan, and other countries a very long way away.

However, while the EU legislates for chip sovereignty, and the Biden administration pushes Congress for domestic chip funding, the UK continues to sell off chip firms to foreign investors. This will bite down hard when chip imports take a hit.