Integrated Circuits and the Music Industry


April 29, 2022

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Even though vinyl records have made a bit of a comeback, it’s safe to say that the music industry relies on the power of integrated circuits (ICs). All forms of digital audio need the computing power that these devices supply.

Today, we’ll discuss everything that members of the music industry need to understand about wafer manufacturing. This includes providing a brief explanation of ICs, as well as discussing the impact that the IC industry has on music companies.

Understanding Integrated Circuits

Music tech companies need many integrated circuits to power their devices. That said, it’s useful to understand that ICs require a long production cycle before they’re ready to provide computing power to products.

First, semiconductor materials need to be mined, then the wafers need to be cut into chips. The semiconductor material creates a wafer, and then integrated circuits are cut from that wafer.

  • Semiconductors are materials that have both conductive and insulating properties. Silicon, germanium, and GaAs are three common examples.
  • Wafers are thin sheets of semiconductor material, which are cut into many individual integrated circuits.
  • Integrated Circuits are a combination of transistors, resistors, and capacitors. They’re cut from wafers and made of semiconductor material.

People use the term chip and circuit interchangeably. Circuits got the “chip” nickname because of their shape, just like wafers were named after their shape.

There are many components required to create an effective circuit. These are three of the most important ones:

  • Resistors counter the flow of current.
  • Capacitors store current.
  • Transistors control the flow of current throughout a device.

How Music Tech Uses ICs

At the most basic level, integrated circuits are necessary for any kind of digital recording. This makes them essential to the music industry. However, they’re also present in many pieces of music technology, including:

  • Amplifiers
  • Auto-Tune
  • Loop Pedals

Purchasing Power

It’s important for music technology companies to partner with a reliable wafer manufacturing partner. These close relationships are especially important during supply constraints, since music tech companies don’t have the purchasing power of major cellphone or car companies.

the Wafer Manufacturing process impacts the music industry

How Long Are the Lead Times to Receive ICs?

At the height of the shortage, some IC manufacturers were requiring customers to book their orders more than a year in advance, while agreeing to not refund any ICs they could no longer use. This level of scarcity has ebbed, although there are several factors that still make the market precarious.

If you’re confident you’re going to need a set number of integrated circuits, it makes sense to order them as soon as possible.  

How the Music Industry Can Adjust to IC Supply Chain Issues

If you’re having trouble getting the integrated circuits necessary to manufacture a product, you have a few different options:

Manufacture What You Can and Wait for the ICs

The easiest answer is to simply wait for ICs to come back in stock. This doesn’t necessarily mean stopping production. Some companies choose to build the rest of their product and wait for the essential integrated circuits to reach them.

While this is the easiest solution, it can also:

  • Negatively affect cashflow.
  • Force you to miss out on potential sales.
  • Put your employees out of work.
  • Erode consumer confidence.

Redesign the Product

If you’re unable to get the integrated circuits you need for your product, you may need to redesign it. On the one hand, this permanently solves any issues you’re having with the shortage, provided your new design requires ICs that are easier to access. However, it also comes with several major difficulties to consider:

  • Redesigns are expensive.
  • The software needs to work for both the current design and the redesign.
  • You need to hire more designers or accept that your ability to design new products will be radically reduced.
  • You may need to find new vendors to provide certain parts.

It’s also important to note that recent IC shortages have been seen across the board. While previous shortages, like the one precipitated by Tamagotchi, typically only affected a specific kind of semiconductor, the current shortages have been much more widespread.

It’s important to ensure that your redesign allows you to properly react to shortages. This could mean procuring all the semiconductors you need and then redesigning around their computing power.

Partner with Trustworthy Suppliers

At the end of the day, the best way to find the ICs you need is by pairing with trustworthy suppliers. They’ll have built strong relationships with their suppliers, which means you can understand what to expect when working with them.

How Long Are Supply Chain Issues Expected to Last?

As the last few years have taught us, the IC supply chain is reliant on many different players. While these devices are impressive, they’re vulnerable to many disruptions taking place throughout the world, including:

  • Fluctuating silicon prices – While they’ve stabilized, silicon prices were going through the roof at the tail end of 2021.
  • A potential neon shortage – Neither Russia nor Ukraine are major semiconductor suppliers, but Ukraine supplies the neon necessary for production.
  • Transportation issues – The logistics industry is having trouble reliably transporting all kinds of goods, including ICs.  

One of the best ways to mitigate these concerns is by partnering with reliable suppliers. That said, it’s also advisable to make as accurate an estimate of your needs as possible. It can take years for manufacturing capacity to be fully set up. The farther out you’re able to predict the needs, the better placed you’ll be to get the necessary ICs.

While just-in-time shipping is still possible, it also leaves your company vulnerable to market shocks. Buying what you need ahead of time is the best way of ensuring you’re able to make your products for customers reliably.

Wafer Manufacturing process

Looking for a Wafer Manufacturing Facility?  

You’ve come to the right place! Wafer World has stayed on the cutting edge of wafer manufacturing for decades, working hard and smart to ensure that our clients get the wafers perfectly suited to their needs. We supply wafers designed to service the needs of a variety of different industries.

Have any questions about what we can do for you? Want to get a free quote on a wafer that you can’t already find on our site? We work with a variety of different materials, including silicon, germanium, GaAs, and more. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to us today!

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