REASONS FOR SEMICONDUCTOR SHORTGAGES

The reason for the semiconductor shortgages is driven by several factors. In 1990, the US produced about 37% of the worlds semiconductors.

silicon-wafer
Silicon plate with processor cores isolated on white background

RAM is carved up with Samsung, SK Hynix and Micron. The industry consolidated due to the stupendous cost of smaller feature size lines.

The problem with the new smaller feature lines is the slower pace of wafer production. Intel was making upwards of 300,000 wafers per month at 14nm. The 10nm line makes barely 30,000 wafers at present. The 7nm line is not even at risk production yet. Intel has been working to ramp up wafer production at 10nm on 3 lines in Arizona, Oregon and Israel.

TSMC also is having wafer production issues at 7nm and 5nm. They have barely got 7nm up to 100,000 wafers per month. This is why they are 6 months back in orders.

The governments of Taiwan, South Korea, Singapore and China each invested tens of billions of dollars each year in their semiconductor industries and it shows. These investments include not just the facilities themselves but also the R&D and tool development necessary to move to the next generation of fabs. Such incentives in the U.S. remain minimal.

Aggravating the problem is some factory fires have caused supply line disruptions. Container shortages are another problem.

No question that more investment in the US is needed to improved domestic needs and many changes in the supply lines are needed to prevent disruptions. The US would be wise to invest $50 billion annually to develop US based fabrication facilities.