You’ve surely heard about the electronic chip shortage even if you’re not in the electronics industry. TV news tells us how auto production is being slowed because of delayed microcomputer chip deliveries.
I just read an article that says Apple is facing shortages and delays of radio frequency (RF) ICs (integrated circuits), and chips for brightness and color control and power management. Production of Macs and iPads is already being impacted, and they expect it to start slowing production of iPhones in the 4th quarter of 2021.
Well, it’s hit SRQ Technology, too. Not as directly – we don’t manufacture anything other than occasional prototypes, but we’re sometimes asked to help find alternative parts. Elsewhere on this site you’ll see examples of things we’ve designed for other companies. Sometimes these companies use Harry’s former company, JH Technology, for production. JH turns to us for help when they run into parts problems.
The latest – a simple, low-cost 8-bit Microchip PIC microcontroller. They needed only a handful for a short run but the chip was unavailable from several distributors. Deliveries were projected anywhere from October 2021 (I’m writing this in August) out to next year. The design uses an 8-pin surface mount (SOIC) industrial grade version; however, it was unavailable in other versions, too.
We searched for other 8-bit, 8-pin PIC microcontrollers. We found one, similar but not identical, with enough in stock at one distributor to meet the need. Unfortunately, the differences will require some reprogramming. JH bought some. Problem solved – maybe. We’re waiting to hear if their customer (our former client) wants to pay for reprogramming or will just wait until the part they need is available. A second IC also was short, but we found a substitute.
By the way, it’s not just ICs or chips. We in the industry have known for some time about capacitor shortages; especially ceramic multilayer chip capacitors (MLCCs). Simple, basic parts but one cell phone or one car can use hundreds. Resistors and other parts, too. The Covid-19 impact on shipping is part of the problem – they’re mostly produced in China and elsewhere overseas. This all is projected to continue well into 2022.
(Photo by Chris Ried on Unsplash.com)