Faced by IC shortage or last-time-buy ?

Faced by IC shortage or last-time-buy ?

Leuven, March 31th 2021 – The semiconductor world is shaking. In the midst of the Corona pandemic, automotive OEMs had a decline of sales and stopped ordering chips. At the same time homework policies boosted the business for PCs and consequently the ICs used therein. Now that post-Covid economies are reviving again, the just-in-time strategy of automotive Tier-1s resulted in severe shortages and forced OEMs to stop their production lines.

Fig 1: Semiconductor manufacturing lines are impacted by Covid-19 induced market shifts

The largest pure-play foundry TSMC (Taiwan …) is fully booked until 2022 on its main production lines. On top of the market shift, Taiwan is preparing for water shortages possibly further disrupting the production lines. And just last week (March 19th 2021) the Japanese manufacturer Renesas was hurt by a fire in its main semiconductor facility. Murphy is on top of its game in our industry…

In addition, different foundries and IDMs (Integrated Device Manufacturers) are heavily investing in new 5G/AI compatible technologies and as a result are downsizing their old fabs and announcing last-time-buy calls for many of their commodity products.

Fab-independency becomes more important 

Electronic system developers are anxiously looking for a way out and protecting themselves from fab closures and geopolitical risks. Being a fab-independent IC supplier, ICsense has a good sense of the market dynamics and the challenges faced by its customers. “What we experience today is unseen.” explains ICsense CBDO Wim Claes, “The last quarter we received double the amount of requests for fab-transfers. We have outstanding partnerships and nearly 20 years of working experience with the major foundries such as TSMC and UMC (Taiwan), ON SEMI (US), XFAB (Germany), GF (US) and others. The focus on longevity and finding a strategic long-term partner are stronger than before.”

As one of the few design companies, ICsense develops ICs in a fab-independent manner. This is the result of their script based design philosophy where designers develop circuits and architectures with maximum possible abstraction of technology.  IDMs (Integrated Device Manufacturers) don’t work this way because they are inherently bound to their own process and manufacturing lines. Therefore the approach of ICsense creates a lot of flexibility towards its customers on dealing with obsolescence and longevity.

Fig 2: The fab-independent design philosophy of ICsense allows efficient fab-transfer and 
minimizes long-term supply risks.

The need for a fast response

“For every design, we look into 3 parameters to select the fab process. There needs to be a technical fit, commercial fit and solid supply conditions such as longevity and small obsolescence risk” continues Claes, “In the unfortunate case a fab is closed, a technology is end of life or a production line gets interrupted, we can move quickly and redesign the IC to another foundry if needed.” ICsense can do this efficiently since all its designs are based on technology independent design scripts. See an animation of its design approach here: https://www.icsense.com/unique-design-and-verification-approach/

About ICsense

ICsense -an independent subsidiary of the TDK group- is Europe’s premier IC design company. ICsense’s core business is ASIC development and supply and custom IC design services. ICsense has the largest fab-independent European design group with world-class expertise in analog, digital, mixed-signal and high-voltage IC design. The company develops and supplies customer exclusive ASIC solutions for the automotive, medical, industrial and consumer market compliant with ISO9001, ISO13485, IEC61508-ISO26262. (www.icsense.com | info@icsense.com )

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