Most read articles of 2021

Most read articles of 2021

Feature articles |
By Nick Flaherty

The chip shortage has of course been a major topic across the industry in 2021, but the articles that have sen the most interest are around the response to the crisis and the plans for new capacity.

The most read article for the year was Intel’s deal to use the 5nm process at TSMC to make its Core i3 processors. This was the first time it had moved outside its own manufacturing process for processors, although it makes its FPGAs and other chips at TSMC. This came at the same time in January that the company announced former CTO Pat Gelsinger would return as CEO, so the strategy was short-lived.

TSMC is also the focus of the second most popular article, with suggestions of a 12nm wafer fab for Dresden in Germany. This runs counter to the demands for leading edge technology for ‘European sovereignty’ in the proposed Chips Act, which TSMC called unrealistic, but better meets the needs of automotive and industrial customers. This is also why Bavaria in southern Germany is in the frame as a location, closer to the car makers.

Whether the chip shortage is a result of less chips being made or higher demand was a key question through the year. Ebon Upton of Raspberry Pi was very clear in our third most popular article. All the orders had come through, but there was still a shortage of certain boards, leading to allocation and a suggestion to move to boards with newer chips. As we discussed in September, the Raspberry Pi is the most popular single board computer for industrial applications, so this was of particular interest to designers.

However the chip shortage was a boon for semiconductor companies which saw record results in our fourth most popular article.

The march of semiconductor technology continues, and the taping out of 3nm devices at Samsung, ahead of TSMC was also a popular article, highlighting the trend for 2022. That 3nm gate all around (GAA) technology will be used at the new plant in Austin, Texas announced in November. The development of 2nm process technology is also a key area of interest.

Away from the semiconductor business temporarily, and the US Patent Office was looking at the impact patents have on innovation in our sixth most popular article. The UK patent office is  following suit, having just opened a review of the role of essential patents.

UK-based Graphcore is a major global semiconductor company with double unicorn status and new design centres around the region. Our seventh most popular article was around its role in a European project working on sparsity in AI models, a key area for industrial applications. And Taiwanese contract manufacturer Foxconn became one of the newest semiconductor players with plans to buy a fab from Macronix rounding out the top ten.

Just outside the top ten was our analysis of the chip shortages and why the industry continues to struggle through 2022. Just building more capacity cannot solve the immediate problems and will create over-capacity and price crashes in 2023 in the well-established semiconductor cycle, as he most read articles in recent months are covering.

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