Supply chain woes, including semiconductor shortages, are simply frustrations that we’ve learned to live with here in 2021. No one is exactly thrilled about it, of course, but there’s not a whole lot of room for choice in the matter. While you can purchase local goods and services for some things, you can’t just get a new bike from your favorite local shop if they have no bikes on hand to sell you.
Back when everyone first started reporting on the global semiconductor shortage, the story may have seemed slightly familiar because we’ve seen similar stories play out across other sectors over time. For those unfamiliar, prior to the onset of the global pandemic, the semiconductor industry was largely centralized to just a few geographic locations. As different areas on a world map lit up with rising COVID cases and subsequent lockdowns, production was seriously impacted. Every industry relying on those semiconductors was affected as well, and that’s an extremely simplified version of how the problem reared its head.
That’s why companies like Bosch have since taken it upon themselves to increase their own investment in semiconductor research, development, and production. After all, Bosch uses a lot of semiconductors in its products—so at some point, the company reasoned that it might as well craft its own. While bringing new production facilities online takes time, Bosch hasn’t been sitting on its hands during 2021. In fact, it’s poised to invest more than 400 million Euros into its semiconductor development in two German facilities and one Malaysian facility in 2022.
In addition, Bosch has also spent its time researching ways to make its semiconductors more efficient, a process it began researching before the pandemic even started. Clearly, the urgency is greater now that the world is in its current position, so it’s a great time for Bosch to start talking about its new silicon carbide semiconductors. According to Bosch, this type of chip manufacturing allows for less energy loss than traditional silicon chips. They also allow for faster recharging and increased range when used in electric vehicles.
All of that of course sounds great, although Bosch hasn’t yet published precise numbers illustrating what kinds of increases in energy and efficiency we’re talking about. Still, it sounds promising, and at the end of 2021, we’ll take it. On the production side, Bosch also says that it plans to manufacture 200mm wafers for crafting its silicon carbide semiconductor chips, instead of the industry-standard 150mm ones.
To what end? The reason is simple, according to Robert Bosch GmbH board member Harald Kroeger. “Producing on larger wafers allows us to manufacture more chips in the same manufacturing process and therefore deliver more customers,” he said in a statement.
While that’s undoubtedly more efficient for the business, as long as the resulting chips meet the usual Bosch quality standards, customers—like motorcycle OEMs, for example—will also stand to gain. If there’s one thing that many of us have learned over the course of this pandemic, it’s that while mass centralization is great on bikes, it’s a suboptimal idea for the products and services we all depend on every day.