Source: Advanced MP news
Compared to DRAM, NAND Flash, and FPGA, the availability of passive components; such as resistors, MLCC, and antennas, was not of any concern within the electronics industry. These passive components are just basic building blocks within every electronic product providing minimal impact on the complexity of the design. However, the persistent shortage of passive components has created major supply chain challenges for the electronics OEMs and EMS.
Resistors are widely used to reduce current flow, adjust signal levels, divide voltages and terminate transmission lines. In addition to fixed resistors, variable resistors can be used to adjust circuit elements or sense device for heat, light, humidity, force and chemical activity.
The recent shortage of resistors began in Q3 2017 in the North America markets, where most of the resistors were sourced from suppliers in Japan and Europe The major reason was lack of capacity expansion from those Japanese and European suppliers. At that time it was not a global issue, as major resistor suppliers for the global market are in Taiwan and they seemed to be operating adequately.
However, the situation started to become critical in Q4 2017 when Taiwan resistor suppliers began increasing price and stopped taking future orders. For example:
- Dec 27, 2017: stopped taking orders on all thick film resistors (RC series)
- Jan 10, 2018: price increase 15% to 20% for thick film resistors (RC series), impacting 45% of all resistors products
- Feb 1, 2018: price increase 20% to 30% for thick film resistors (RC series), including OEMs, EMS and distributor customers
- Jan 2, 2018: price increase 15% for SMD resistor in 0402, 0603, 0805 and 1206
- Feb 22, 2018: stopped taking new orders for all thick film resistors in all sizes
- March 5, 2018: price increase over 25% for some thick film resistor products
In addition to these two major suppliers, other suppliers based in Taiwan and mainland China issued price increase notices on products and stopped taking orders for some of their products. The impact of such announcements on supply is critical because Yageo counts for 34% of global resistor monthly capacity of 3.6 trillion pieces.
The price hike in raw materials has also contributed to the price increase. Ceramic substrate, which counts for 30% of resistor raw material cost, has seen an over 30% price increase. Another raw metal material for the resistor is ruthenium, which is widely used as the resist layer that is screen printed on the resistor. The price for ruthenium has increased 275% since Feb 2017. Other materials, including corrugated paper and ink are also experiencing price increases.
On the demand side, the majority of demand growth is from the automotive sector, where most manufacturers are shifting to electronics-based products. They are consuming a substantial portion of the global capacity of resistors. ECIA reports that the average lead time for resistors has been steadily increasing from 2015, reaching over 18 weeks as of February 2018.
Passive components, such as resistors and MLCC, may not be as strategically important as memory and CPUs in the manufactured product, but they are equally as significant as other components. Lack of one resistor or MLCC will cause a line-down situation for manufacturers, delaying product delivery time.