Aardvark Daily

New Zealand's longest-running online daily news and commentary publication, now in its 25th year. The opinion pieces presented here are not purported to be fact but reasonable effort is made to ensure accuracy.

Content copyright © 1995 - 2019 to Bruce Simpson (aka Aardvark), the logo was kindly created for Aardvark Daily by the folks at

Please visit the sponsor!
Please visit the sponsor!

Are we running out of capacity?

20 January 2021

Semiconductor fabrication is a tricky business.

Wafers of silicon must be turned into intricately detailed chips in a complicated process that involves many stages and a great deal of very expensive equipment.

Given the complexity and cost associated with setting up a manufacturing plant, it's little wonder that there are so few of them and why, right now, they're working to capacity.

In fact, the world's semiconductor manufacturing plants seem unable to keep up with demand, and that's hurting a lot of companies dependent on their outputs.

It's not just computers, game consoles, GPUs and other products that are now suffering long lead-times, it's also more mundane products affected by this bottleneck.

A raft of car-makers, including Ford, Honda, Nissan, Subaru and Toyota have all had to suspend manufacturing for lack of the semiconductors used in their increasingly complex vehicle systems.

According to this BBC report, there are "large scale supply shortages" and the bottlenecks are expected to continue "well into 2021, causing major disruptions".

Even if you're not in the market for a *new* car, the flow-on effects may also impact the used-car market. If people can't buy new ones, they won't be selling their existing ones into that market will they?

The semiconductor manufacturing crisis has also coincided with a resurgence of interest in crypto-currency mining, as Bitcoin hits record new highs. Undoubtedly this has meant that the latest generation of GPUs are now being keenly sought by those who wish to capitalise on the rising values, putting us back to where we were some years ago when demand drove the price of GPUs well above the MSRP.

I can't help but wonder whether we're going to see a significant investment in new and more sophisticated manufacturing capacity by the Chinese in coming years. This will be prompted not only by demand by world markets but also by the USA's increasingly harsh attitude towards supplying Chinese manufacturers with US-made semiconductor technologies.

Given that semiconductors, often in the form of tiny microcontroller devices, are now an integral part of everything from toasters to televisions, any hiccups in the manufacture or supply of modern integrated circuits can have significant and often unexpected flow-on effects. This is worsened by, as discussed in yesterday's column, the transition away from the "repair and reuse" culture to one of "just replace it". If the parts needed to build new devices are in short supply, replacing a faulty device may no longer be an option, or at least not an affordable one.

I can't help but feel that with the world in such a precarious position right now, those folk who have an old Morris 1000 in the garage, a "dumb" toaster, a well planted home-garden, solar power and very little reliance on microcontroller-based appliances may turn out to be in a very enviable situation.

Please visit the sponsor!
Please visit the sponsor!

Have your say in the Aardvark Forums.

PERMALINK to this column

Rank This Aardvark Page


Change Font

Sci-Tech headlines



The EZ Battery Reconditioning scam

Beware The Alternative Energy Scammers

The Great "Run Your Car On Water" Scam


Recent Columns

Why no penalties?
Lockdown levels around the country were raised again on Sunday morning after further community spread of Covid 19...

Time for an upgrade?
It's 5:30am in the morning...

Watch for colds and flu this winter?
According to at least one report, the winter of 2021 could be a bad one for coughs, colds and flu...

There are nice people out there
There is a big smile on my face this morning...

The rise of Bitcoin
Hands up everyone who once had a Bitcoin...

Global warming failure?
Well here we are in the last week of the 2021 Southern summer...

Damn it... I support Facebook
Oh how I wish I was a younger man...

Goodbye free speech
China makes the news here on Aardvark for the second day in a row...

China strikes back
The USA has been conducting something of a trade war against China...

Do we have enough broadband capacity?
Chorus, the main supplier of broadband in New Zealand has a network capacity of 3.5Tbps...

Another sage reminder
The fact that Auckland is now in L3 lockdown and the rest of the country has been elevated to L2 is a sage reminder of just how vulnerable we remain to the CV19 pandemic...