We are going through difficult times for electronics. The massive shortage of Integrated Circuits (ICs) (and in general, semiconductors) is hitting all players in the electronics industry, from corporate giants like Apple and Samsung, to small companies and startups.
This is not the first time it happens. As we have learned throughout history, the economy is cyclical. But it feels like we are experiencing one of the toughest and longest shortage of electronic components of all times.
The causes of this shortage are a combination of political tensions, the COVID-19 pandemic and a set of severe weather conditions affecting some of the largest producers of semiconductors. Putting it all together, we have the perfect storm. And the worst is probably yet to come, with at least a couple years more of shortage.
This presents a serious challenge to electrical engineers and PCB designers. How to ensure that their designs will be built successfully when parts are just disappearing so rapidly? Here are a few tips that you can apply:
Order the parts before the PCBs
In the past, people used to order the fabrication of the printed circuit boards first, and then buy the components, because chances were that would find everything in stock, or you could easily find cross-references for the non-available parts. Given the extent of this shortage, it has become more difficult to find cross-references, so securing your critical components immediately after completing the design is key during these difficult times. Besides, if you find that any of your components is unavailable, you are still on time to make the necessary modifications to the PCB because you have not manufactured the boards yet. This will save you time and money.
Try to use non-proprietary components made by multiple manufacturers
Some ICs are proprietary and therefore made by a single manufacturer. But many chips, both analog and digital, are already manufactured by multiple companies. We are not talking just about LM555 timers or UA741 Op Amps. There is a wide selection of chips with multiple functionalities that are available from different choices. In many cases, you can get the same features offered by the proprietary versions at even lower cost and with greater chances of finding availability.
Use the online search tools
Tools like Octopart or Findchips can be really helpful, and in the present circumstances they play a key role in locating hard to find parts. Some of them have nice features such as inventory history that let you check how the stock level of certain components changes over time, allowing people involved in purchasing to make strategies to secure the supply chain.
If you need help sourcing components for your printed circuit board assembly, ask for our turnkey service. We have a large network of electronic component distributors and will be happy to help you find all your BOM to build your design successfully. Simply call or send us an email, we are here to help.
Phone number: (800) 208-1726