Scarce chips are chips of which there just aren't enough of at a certain moment in time.
It can be because:
Some more definitions:
- Too little are produced:
- The manufacturer stopped producing them.
- The follow-up manufacturer (like Lansdale) hasn't managed to take over yet.
- The demand was underestimated.
- Technology hasn't caught up with (sudden rissen) demand yet.
- Too many are demanded:
- Products using these chips live longer than estimated.
- A certain chip gets popular at once (new processor, bigger memory).
- Old products need to be repared after a long while.
- Obsolete chips are chips that are no longer produced
- 'Chips on allocation' are chips that can't be produced in large enough numbers yet,
so chip manufacturers try to divide them between the several interested parties.
If everything else fails:
- Don't use too obscure chips.
- Some companies don't use chips that aren't second sourced.
- Some companies try to produce all their key chips themselves.
- Let the manufacturer know when you will need large amounts of their chips.
(They have to schedule these processes anyway, since they're generally made
- Have your distributor keep enough stock of the chips you regurarly need.
- When a chip is discontinued, order enough during the final ordering phase!
(Difficult of course ;-) (Perhaps you can find a chip broker or bank to
- If you're using small amounts of chips, choose popular ones, so you'll
always be able to get the leftovers of the regularly made batches.
- Interest a secondary chip manufacturer to take over the production of the chip.
Another function of chip brokers:
- Chip brokers try to help companies to locate missing chips, which isn't easy
with about 1.5 million different chips out there!
- Some (the so called 'stocking brokers') buy left-over stocks from OEM's,
smaller distributors, retailers or whoever has chips left and stock them, until
there is a demand for them.
- These brokers and also the non stocking brokers try to help their clients
by finding large enough amounts of the missing chips.
- To this end they are in constant contact with other (stocking) brokers.
- This is of course done via telephone, fax, email and the WWW.
- Some brokers also take care of getting ALL the chips their clients need.
- When you have a production company and want to focus on getting or keeping
the production going, it's easy when you can leave the buying part to someone
else, because getting 80% of the parts is very easy, getting 95% of the
parts is still fairly easy but costs more time, but getting 100% is a LOT of work!
- And in the mean time you may also have to be setting up a production line,
hiring people, arranging packaging materials and arranging silly things like
heating in the production halls etc.
- Developing and maintaining such a network of chip contacts is a lot of work
and you may only need it several times a year when you're a small production
- Brokers can also drive a much harder bargain for you, although they will need
their percentage of course.
- In conclusion: Viva El Chip Broker! ;-)
Obsolete part production
When a (big) company stops production of a part the production rights are
sometimes sold to a smaller company. Lansdale specializes in this.
What is the difference between a distributor and a chip broker?
Distributors generally represent one or more manufacturers and keep stock
of their products, but of nothing else and only as long as they are stocked by
the manufacturers. They represent the manufacturers more or less and help them
in distributing their products over the globe.
Brokers represent the client and try, by consulting with (stocking) colleagues and
distributors, to get the chips their clients need.
Is the distinction really that clearly? No, distributors will also do brokerage
sometimes when they 'smell' a profit. They'll even buy from their competing
distributors without telling you and take a loss just to keep you as a client. ;-)
Are there fixed prices for chips? No, these people are all traders and there
isn't a constant flow of the 1.5 million kinds of chips, so offer and demand
determine the prices. They won't systematically sell under their buying price
of course and yes they charge more to clients that don't complain much...
List of chip brokers
To give you even more insight in how the trade in scarce chips goes.(The following may be shocking to the unexperienced.)
(Names are changed to protect the innocent.)
At 22:40 1997-06-17 -0400, 'firstname.lastname@example.org' wrote:
I am stil seeking the LM9999. I had a note from someone that had some, but
If that was from 'Chips Broker, Inc.' (which helps me with these issues)
the price was way high. I would buy 1,000 pcs now at $1.75.
I can't do much more...
When things get scarce the prices go up. It's either buying the obsolete
components at the price the offerer wants (not 'Chips Broker, Inc.', but the source
they have found for you) or redesign your product.
There is unfortionately no magical warehouse somewhere over the
rainbow that stocks all 1 million (?) obsolete chips in abundance...
You can also wait for a long time or forever (?) until new (old)
stocks of these chips are discovered, but when you're looking for
these chips others may be to. Brokers (not 'Chips Broker, Inc.', but
the ones acting for the seller) know these things. It's a real market...
and I'd take
another 1,000 (guaranteed) in September, if the price is the same.
This is not an impressive argument. There is no steady flow of
these components and no broker will stock them on your behalf
unless there is a very big reward...
It's better to buy as much as you can at once and have a bank
finance the stock (if possible), but I'm just guessing...
I'm just a simple publisher of chip information on the WWW. ;-)
And I fully sympathise with the many buyers in this market
(as does 'Chips Broker, Inc.') but scarce chips are really scarce...
We daily have to disappoint people that search for a small amount
of obsolete chips for example, which REALLY breaks our hearts,
but these are the harsh realities unfortunately...
Forgive my frankness...
And 'Chips Broker, Inc.' confirmed this (privately):
The parts I quoted him in March are long gone.
The only ones I have been able to locate are 500 pieces of a 1981 date
code and my cost is over $2.50 so of course I would have to charge him
well over $3 to make it worth shipping.
It is very normal to see parts double and even triple in price when
they go obsolete. The $2.65 I quoted in March was actually a very good
Sorry that he didn't like it. Now he can't get what he needs at any price.
'Harsh realities' is correct.
Ah well, you win some and you lose some!
(Names were changed...)
Another striking insight
From: Chips Broker, Inc.
To: Jaap van Ganswijk <email@example.com>
Subject: (Fwd) Re: TDA9999X
Hi, Jaap here is an example of someone who just doesn't get it.....
I believe I started this correspondence with him in June. At the Time
I had over 7,000 available and since we have been going back and
forth we have lost stock, etc.etc. He keeps asking for more parts
but never buys. Somehow he thinks there is a supermarket in the
sky that keeps millions of obsolete parts around just for him!
Believe me I do understand your dilemma. But here is the
To: Chips Buyer, Inc.
Subject: Re: TDA9999X
With reference to the chips, we are waiting for the official order from our
However, whilst accepting that you cannot commit to exact price and
quantity for future orders, I do need to know what is the current
availability for chips beyond the original 1800.
Can you do some investigation and ascertain how many you may be able to get
your hands on in the coming weeks. As you know, our client requires 10,000
with the first order being for 5k. If all you can ever get your hands on is
1800, I need to know so that some contingency in the form of manufacture
can be considered.
Best regards, James Chips Buyer
Our database is updated weekly we keep current on about 2,000,000
records, we delete all duplicates , and add all new entries from the
200-300 emails we get per day. If we do not have it on the database we
can post it with approximately 2,000 other distributors and suppliers
worldwide. This gives us an incredibly accurate picture of parts available.
Our database has 3 listings. Two of which show about 90 pieces total.
The other is the supplier who has 1800. (10 days ago he had over
6,000 but he has been selling them). We have posted this and had NO
response and no new availabilities via fax, email, etc.
Now there may be some OEM out there who is sitting on 200,000 of them
but he is not selling them and I don't know who he is. He may decide
to sell 10,000 or 100,000 in a week or in a year, after his
production requirements die or his product is redesigned. But he is
not selling today.
If you wanted to give me an order for 5,000 pieces I could not accept
it. I only show 1,890 pieces available for sale on the whole planet.
And they may be sold to someone else tommorrow!
Believe me I would love to sell you 5,000 or 10,000 pieces but unless
a miracle happens, I would never be able to deliver.
I sincerely suggest you have an alternate design or at the very least
an escape clause in your contract which states you can only deliver
product based on availability of this part. I have worked with many
major OEM's in the past 20 years and have sadly seen too many hurt
because they did not have the escape clause or alternate design.
I will post this again and hope for a response, but I honestly don't
believe I will find anything different. We will try!
(The names were changed...)
Chip brokers outside of the USA:
Chip brokers inside of the USA by first letter of name: