Saturday, October 22, 2022

Chip Wars

There is a joke in Taipei that if China invades Taiwan the best place to shelter is in microchip factories, the only places the People’s Liberation Army can’t afford to destroy. The country that controls advanced chips controls the future of technology — and Taiwan’s chip fabrication foundries (“fabs”) are the finest in the world. Successful reunification between the mainland and its renegade province would give China a virtual monopoly over the most advanced fabs. Given that Xi Jinping has made clear his intention to take control of Taiwan by 2032, it is no wonder that the American government is worried about the concentration of cutting-edge semiconductor technology on the island.

I tend to like those sort of dark humor jokes. I'm trying to develop one something like "Biden is building us back to a better stoneage". 

The idea is that with all of his attacks on energy production and now the rising tensions with both Russia and China, we may have some form of nuclear, or advanced drone, cyber, and almost certainly targeted mRNA viruses in our fairly near future.  

One statement that I often make is "The greater the efficiency in a system, the greater the fragility". It seems I ought to be able to quote someone on this fact, however it may just be too obvious for anyone with intelligence to write it down. (now we know where that leaves me)

Our supply chains are generally VERY efficient  "Just In Time" manufacturing with near zero inventory, and single source suppliers are very common. Have a pandemic, shut down a single link in your supply chain, and you can't produce your product. 

The whole article (short) is worth your time. Just consider this ... 

At present there is only one company in the world that can make lithography machines that print wafers at the five-nanometer gauge. Based in a nondescript suburb of Eindhoven in the Netherlands, Advanced Semiconductor Materials Lithography is perhaps the world’s least well-known hi-tech business. Yet it ranks just behind Shell as the fourth-largest company in Europe.

ASML’s highest tech machines use a process called “extreme ultraviolet” lithogra- phy, which makes them the only systems that can do lithography below 13.5 nanometers. The company produces approximately fifty machines a year at $150 million a pop (plus service contract). As a result, it owns that rare commodity — a market monopoly.

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