Have you purchased any electronics components lately? Have you tried and failed to do so lately? Allocation is the word of the day and substitutions are your friend.
Many, many parts are in short supply, or unavailable with extraordinarily long lead times. Sure, that happens every now and then in this industry. It's a periodic nuisance, but what should you do for the long term? At my company, we’re getting some interesting stories from component suppliers that might help.
What we're hearing is that many passive manufacturers will be trying to move their customers to smaller sizes. They want to consolidate on as few packages as is possible. That means we may be seeing the end of 1206, 0805 and maybe even 0603 form factors for many passive values.
It kind of makes sense. Right now, there might be several dozen different varieties of 0.1 uF, 16 volt capacitor. Does the industry need that? And if there isn't enough fab capacity to make all of the variations, why not consolidate and run more of fewer variations? It won't surprise me if we start seeing fewer voltage ranges as well. In most cases, a 16 volt part will be just fine if you're calling for a 6 or 10 volt part.
The chip industry has been doing this for a while. Many of the newer components just come in BGA or QFN packages. Fewer and few leading edge parts come in large thru-hole or SOIC packages.
Consider using smaller components, like standardizing on 0402 parts. It can be a pain to use smaller parts, but any potential for future proofing your design now can prevent delays or otherwise unnecessary redesign cycles. You might just be able shrink your board size and save some money on the board fab too.
Keep approved substitutions close by, and look for newer chips that are more likely to stay in production. For microcontrollers, pick parts that have multiple memory capacity or speed range variants all in the same package.
This looks to be a pretty extreme allocation cycle, and I have a feeling that the industry will be different when we come out of it.
Duane Benson is the Chief Technology Champion at Screaming Circuits.