When the chips are down: how to ride out the supply storms

In the November 2022 issue of E&T – the serious business of semiconductor shortages, and our columns turned into videos and podcasts to lighten your mood

It hit the car manufacturers first and hard but then spread to other parts of industry during the worldwide pandemic. The shortages became so sharp that manufacturers were taking them out of other products for their own. I’m talking, of course, about semiconductors and the supply chain problems of the last few years.      

Chips are now a commodity, to be found in the humblest of items we use every day. That we take them for granted became clear only when we missed them. Now the shortages have eased, but what will the supply chain disruption mean for the electronics industry in the future? In our cover story, Chris Edwards looks at what happened, why, whether it could have been avoided, and what’s happening now. Is it the end of offshoring?.

Where there’s a shortage of almost anything, there’s a black market. And where there’s a black market there are counterfeits. We often hear about counterfeit clothing or accessories but not so much about components. Yet the market for fake parts is huge and they end up in the most surprising places. Over half a million counterfeit aircraft parts are installed in planes each year. Check out a clever new way to authenticate vital components.

Are you metric or imperial? How do you think? Like most of the UK population, in fact just about everyone who isn’t retired, I grew up thinking in metres, pence and kilos. I sometimes still think in miles for driving and stone for body weight but I wouldn’t like to routinely think in any measurement system that’s not based on tens. It seems some people prefer the old ways, though. Could imperial measures still have a place in engineering? Or would it be a recipe for literal disaster? Hilary Lamb takes stock of the history, the international politics and the arguments for and against metrication.

The 10th of November is a date for your diaries. That’s when I’ll be co-hosting the Innovation Awards along with Dr Shini Somara, the mechanical engineer who is also an author, broadcaster, TEDx speaker and much more. I first saw her on BBC2 doing experimental archaeology in Orkney. This month’s issue reveals the finalists, including the Young Pioneer of the Year which will be the people’s choice – readers can vote for their favourite to take the trophy.

We’ve turned Hilary Lamb’s award-winning Evil Engineer column into a podcast (search for it in your favourite podcast place) and with animation on Youtube. I also went to the IFA consumer electronics show in Berlin last month along with our staff writer Becky Northfield and a camera operator from IET.tv to video a special edition of her Bizarre Tech column.

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Original Source: https://eandt.theiet.org/content/articles/2022/10/introduction-to-semiconductor-shortage-coverage/

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