Wafer woes could drag out chip shortage

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Wafer woes could drag out chip shortage

Major vendors not meeting demand.

Two silicon wafer vendors, which together represent more than 50 percent of global supply, have warned that they won’t be able to meet demand during 2022.

That’s grim news for anyone hoping the global semiconductor shortage would ease this year.

Wafers are the basic building blocks of semiconductors, and the two companies, Sumco (with 25 percent of the global market in 2020, according to Statista) and Shin-Etsu (32 percent in 2020) have both recently warned demand is outstripping supply. 

Releasing its 2021 full-year result [pdf], Sumco said supply failed to meet demand for 200mm and 300mm wafers throughout 2021, with demand from data centres, Covid-driven teleworking, electric vehicles, along with consumer and industrial products all growing.

The company also cited the Covid-19 pandemic, and rising US-China tensions as warranting close attention.

While the company committed to building new facilities in Japan and Taiwan, it predicted supply shortages throughout the first quarter of 2022, and it regards the semiconductor market as too volatile for longer-term forecasts.

Shin-Etsu announced its results at the end of January, and in its Q&A [pdf], it made similarly grim forecasts.

Shin-Etsu is pessimistic for the whole of 2022, saying its customers have been accumulating inventory to try and keep their own production as high as possible.

The company added that it has limited opportunities to expand existing facilities, and that any greenfield investments would not come online until 2024 or beyond, a problem exacerbated by the rising costs of building products.

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