Before the Second Wave of COVID-19, Consider Die and Wafer Banking

By Logan Wamsley

As businesses continue to reopen and supply chains begin to gradually return to a degree of normalcy, experts have already turned their attention toward the future and where the next great disruption could come from. According to some, this disruption could come sooner than expected in the form of a second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, which if history can be believed, will be at least as devastating as the first wave (the second wave of the 1918 Spanish Flu, for example, was worse than the first wave).

With this possibility on the horizon, supply chains feel as if they are in the eye of the hurricane, experiencing a brief lull before the disruption resumes. Equipment manufacturers, especially those that rely on regular interactions with distributors to source critical electronic components to support their product lifecycles, have a brief opportunity to not only mitigate the effects of a second wave of COVID-19, but to mitigate any and all future disruptions. This means taking an opportunity to consider what other strategies could be implemented to better insulate supply chains and create a more efficient, productive process regardless of the state of the market at any given time.

One of these strategies is the incorporation of die and wafer banking into OEM product sourcing strategies. Instead of operating through a distributor who can offer product based on the supply and demand market at any given time, die and wafer banking over the course of multiple years allows OEMs to avoid the market and work directly with the component manufacturer to create customized ASICs that can be produced at high volumes in a single order. Not only does this result in a more secure supply chain, but it also allows the OEM to take advantage of the benefits ASICs offer to a product design such as improved efficiency, smaller sizing that results in less space on boards, and additional IP protection.

There is a catch, however. Die and wafer banking can only be executed with the use of highly specialized storage equipment. To acquire it, OEMs either have to purchase the equipment themselves and store them onsite — conceding warehousing space in the process — or consult the services of a third party who specializes in such processes. Should the OEM consider the latter, it is important to note that not all such offerings are alike.

For example, in Partstat’s case, we offer full use of our zeolite-infused die and wafer banking cabinets. Most similar offerings will use wafer storage desiccator cabinets infused with nitrogen, which is responsible for regulating humidity to levels suitable for raw die — typically 6-10% — and provides a recovery time between 10 and 12 minutes. In practice, this means that OEMs can only access their inventory three or four times per hour at most. Zeolite, conversely, is capable of reducing relative humidity levels as low as 0.5% and provides a recovery time well below three minutes. This enables OEMs to retrieve their inventory an unprecedented 10-12 times per hour. It is also worth noting that all of our dry cabinets are located in our custom storage vault, which provides maximum inventory protection and guaranteed business continuity.

As the future unfolds, it is imperative that OEMs make use of the limited time they have to make meaningful, effective changes to their supply chains. If you have previously considered incorporating die and wafer banking into your inventory procurement processes, now might be the time to consider following through.