40 Comments
Jun 17, 2022Liked by Dylan Patel

A well written article, and as a retired electrical engineer I can really relate to almost every sentence. I wanted to work on semiconductors (it was the major of my MSEE degree BTW), but all my employed friends went into software because it was apparently sexier and certainly paid more. Worse, what little federal money that was available for hardware seemed to all go to military contracting companies (think "Star Wars" initiative) and that wasn't something I wanted to work on.

Finally, about the STEM engineering problem. When I turned 38 my project got cancelled. It took me a few years to find anything remotely in my field of expertise. The industry seems only interested in "a few years of experience" engineers. Meanwhile the executives of several failed companies I worked for got paid millions every year. America needs a serious attitude adjustment!

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Jun 13, 2022Liked by Dylan Patel

"Part of the lack of interest in semiconductors is due to the culture of repairing and tinkering with computing devices. [...] Unfortunately, the culture of repairing computers, game consoles, and smartphones, is dying in the western world due to a variety of legislative and company specific roadblocks."

This is SO true. I became interested in the industry decades ago because I liked to take things apart and see how they worked. This culture is critical to keep people interested in hardware!

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Jun 13, 2022Liked by Dylan Patel

As a reader from Taiwan I think the post is accurate regarding Taiwan's culture of repairing and tinkering with computing devices 😂

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Excellent work. I've covered the semiconductor industry as a journalist for nearly 30 years. Your article here highlights many of the issues I've reported with increasing alarm.

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"Most of the largest semiconductor equipment, design, and software companies are based out of the US", I *think* that this is trying to say "Most of the largest semiconductor equipment, design, and software companies are based in the US", but as written, to a UK English speaker at least, it's very hard not to read it as saying what is written, i.,e. they're based outside the US. Perhaps it'd be worth a minor revision?

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Jun 15, 2022·edited Jun 15, 2022

An excellent article with real, actionable takeaways. It would be so monumental to see the U.S. regain chip superiority (in this lifetime) before it really becomes too late.

The key is to SHARE articles like this (esp. to Congress) until policymakers listen & act!

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Funny how the author asks the government to do this and that. Isn't this a "free market" or not? Of course, it's not. The US will only play the "free market" card to others, in order to favor American businesses.

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"I got an Xbox 360 for Christmas. A few months, it broke due to a defect known as the “Red Ring of Death”."

might be 'a few months later'?

I do not believe in more grants, more tax breaks , more more more for those huge corporations that for the most part enjoy soaring profits and record low taxes (especially compared to small businesses). No matter how targeted those could be. We've been giving in on that front for 50 years and the result is the exact opposite of investment. I believe what you left out is how strong governments are in asia. TSMC SMIC UMC etc were created and steered by local govs.

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check your grammar and spelling. takes away from credibility of his article.

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Nice article and agree with all of it. One aspect that many articles of this type fail to mention is non-degreed skilled labor- maintenance and process technicians. Maybe it's my corner of the semi market (not leading edge node), but finding reliable technicians is incredibly difficult. With the capital expenditure increasing, OEMs are struggling to staff field service adequately. And the most skilled folks are nearing retirement. This happens in conjunction with OEMs removing fabs' right to repair by limiting the information given on tool purchase. (AMAT/KLA are leading, LAM is following.) It will be hard to run US fabs if there aren't enough folks to keep the tools running or processing 24/7.

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I need to add something important here. The work in a fab is extremely tedious and cumbersome. You have to work long shifts, be very alert all the time while wearing a a special suit with a mask.

Even if we educate people in the US to go to semi-conductors, most won't stay. And this spells disaster for the industry. Everyone wants to write code from home.

I see the future of semi-conductors in Asia where they have a culture of hard work and mainly in China, where individuality takes a second spot in society in favour of the collective.

Oddly it's a cultural thing.

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Well written article. I actually began my career as an engineer at a major semi firm before switching into finance. Similar to some of the other comments, I was highly incentivized to make the switch (most of my close friends were also in finance which played a factor) - not just salary-wise but also lifestyle, etc.

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For a long time cost of semiconductor manufacturing equipment was staggering. For my recollection first CD SEM Metrology tools were sold about 500-800k a piece back in 1995-2000. Currently new tool in advanced HW/SW configuration costs about 10-20mil. Ironically major SW features for new tools as well as algorithmic approach stays more or less the same. Tools are faster, penetration depth in significantly higher, resolution is lower,… but nothing is 20 times better, no precision, not a MAM time etc… Even taking in account significant inflation values it could not justify such price hike. And if you are a small company nobody from big SEMI would even think to work with you - need "credit history" for years and it does not matter if your solution will fix process issues right now.

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Great article. Working for decades in semiconductor manufacturing and tool design tend me to think that just a subsidues will not make any lasting impact. Market is totally monopolized and not just by manufacturers but mostly vendors, who drive up prices for semiconductor equipment and buy out/ eliminates any start ups. I think this part was quite overlooked in the article.

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I wish you were writing this about India and what she should do to become a tech superpower

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Long live Xi Jinping. His absolute power will corrupt and destroy everything overtime as it was in any other totalitarian country. So, I wouldn't be that worried about US semiconductor industry.

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