From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Semiconductor, Rare earth elements
Mains level : Semiconductor industry
Chips or processors power every possible product on the market from high-end cars to washing machines. There is a worldwide shortage of semiconductor chips.
What are Semiconductors?
- A semiconductor sits between a conductor and an insulator and is commonly used in the development of electronic chips, computing components, and devices.
- It’s generally created using silicon, germanium, or other pure elements.
- Semiconductors are created by adding impurities to the element.
Giants of global chip industry
- Semiconductor manufacturing is now dominated by Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) in Taiwan and Samsung Electronics in South Korea.
- American chipmaker Intel now plans to spend $20 billion to build two new chip factories in Chandler, Arizona.
- These new fabs will also manufacture chips designed by Amazon, Qualcomm, and other customers.
Why is there a semiconductor shortage?
- During the pandemic, manufacturing came to a standstill impacting the supply chains of products that need one or more of these.
- As the automotive sector almost shut down last year, chip makers shifted capacity to cater to increased demand for electronics items such as cell phones and laptops.
- Since orders for advanced chips are placed well in advance, manufacturers have not yet been able to come back to pre-pandemic production schedules to cater to all sectors.
- The automotive chips are of medium-level complexity, compared to the really small and extremely complicated ones on smartphones and personal computers.
- Building something this small, featuring billions of transistors is an expensive process.
Has India missed the bus in setting up chip factories?
- There is a lot of risks involved in setting up a chip plant.
- Past initiatives to set up chip manufacturing units in the country never took off due to lack of long-term vision, lack of government incentives, and poor planning.
- Now the government is keen to promote manufacturing and has even proposed tax incentives under Production Linked Incentive Scheme.
- Things are progressing slowly, but the recent announcement of Tata Group entering semiconductor manufacturing is being seen positively.
How is the chip crisis playing out in geopolitics?
- The global chip crisis and geopolitical tensions with China have shifted focus back on semiconductors.
- The US, which was once a leader in chip manufacturing, wants the crown back.
- The protectionist US is looking to bring manufacturing back to America and reduce its dependency on a handful of chipmakers mostly concentrated in Taiwan and South Korea.
- China’s renewed aggression on Taiwan is also being seen in light of the chip crisis.
- The crisis is expected to cost the global automotive industry $210 billion in revenue in 2021.
- The global semiconductor shortage has affected many industries for more than a year and because of that, they are either forced to pay more for products or being asked to wait a little more.
- The consumption of integrated circuits in products is ever increasing and a large manufacturing sector for these kinds of integrated circuits are a part of the supply chain.
- The shortage has affected smartphones, personal computers, game consoles, automobiles, and medical devices.