Due to conflict between Russia and Ukraine, both of whom produce essential products for chip fabrication, the electronic component shortage across the globe may worsen.
Ukraine produces approximately half of the global supply of neon gas, which is used in the photolithography process of chip production. Russia is responsible for about 44% of all palladium, which is implemented in the chip plating process.
The two leading Ukrainian suppliers of neon, Ingas and Cryoin, have stopped production in Moscow and said they would be unable to fill orders until the fighting had stopped.
Ingas has customers in Taiwan, Korea, the US and Germany. The headquarters of the company are based in Mariupol, which has been a conflict zone since late February. According to Reuters the marketing officer for Ingas was unable to contact them due to lack of internet or phone connection in the city.
Cryoin said it had been shut since February 24th to keep its staff safe, and would be unable to fulfil March orders. The company said it would only be able to stay afloat for three months if the plant stayed closed, and would be even less likely to survive financially if any equipment or facilities were damaged.
Many manufacturers fear that neon gas, a by-product of Russian steel manufacturing, will see a price spike in the coming months. In 2014 during the annexing of Crimea, the price of neon rose by 600%.
Larger chip fabricators will no doubt see smaller losses due to their stockpiling and buying power, while smaller companies are more likely to suffer as a result of the material shortage.
It is further predicted that shipping costs will rise due to an increase in closed borders and sanctions, and there will be a rise in crude oil and auto fuel prices.
The losses could be mitigated in part by providing alternatives for neon and palladium, some of which can be produced by the UK or the USA. Gases with a chlorine or fluoride base could be used in place of neon, while palladium can be sourced from some countries in the west.
Neon could also be supplied by China, but the shortages mean that the prices are rising quickly and could be inaccessible to many smaller manufacturers.
Neon consumption worldwide for chip production was around 540 metric tons last year, and if companies began neon production now it would take between nine months and two years to reach steady levels.
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