back to article ASML CEO: Industrial conglomerate buying washing machines to rip out semiconductors

A large industrial conglomerate is being forced to take increasingly desperate measures to satisfy their needs for chips, according to ASML, a manufacturer of chip-making equipment. Talking on an earnings call this week with financial analysts, Peter Wennick, CEO at ASML, said that "width of demand" for chips was " …

  1. elkster88
    Facepalm

    From the title, I had a mental image...

    Of someone throwing printed circuit boards into a washing machine and expecting a loose pile of ICs after the cycle ended.

    1. Sceptic Tank
      Trollface

      Re: From the title, I had a mental image...

      Loose pile of ICs? Kinda like the Apple [] with the socketed IC's?

      1. Version 1.0 Silver badge
        Unhappy

        Re: From the title, I had a mental image...

        I've still got a couple of draws full of Z80a, eproms, and static ram chips, does anyone need these any longer? I'd like to get rid of them but I'm not going to "recycle" them in a bin.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not convinced...

    ...that discretionary spend will go on travel instead of phones, computers and white goods.

    People have been conditioned over the last 2 years that home = good, people and outside = bad. As such they will stay at home, work from home and play on their PCs and phones rather than travel.

    1. Richard 12 Silver badge

      Re: Not convinced...

      A lot will travel, because they haven't been able to for a long time and they miss it.

      Introverts probably won't, but the extroverted have been suffering really badly and are desperate for Ibiza and the like.

    2. rcxb1

      Re: Not convinced...

      > People have been conditioned over the last 2 years that home = good, people and outside = bad.

      Bicycle sales shattered records during the pandemic. Outside was highly promoted as the place to go. Crowded, indoor public spaces are a very different matter. That means people are less inclined to take the bus/train/plane, and instead to drive, alone. Many people are doing such travelling, and it has been driving up fuel prices as a result. They were at record highs even before the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ba dum tish

    Brings new meaning to taking your car out for a spin.

    1. Paul Hovnanian Silver badge

      Re: Ba dum tish

      Hope it's not Boeing.

    2. Sceptic Tank

      Re: Ba dum tish

      Communicates using SOAP messages.

      1. Korev Silver badge
        Coat

        Re: Ba dum tish

        Give it a rest!

        1. This post has been deleted by its author

          1. Cinderellaphant

            Re: Ba dum tish

            It’s just part of a cycle, no need to spin the story for more than that. The industry will soon be awash in new inventory

      2. This post has been deleted by its author

  4. Headley_Grange Silver badge

    Interesting

    Assuming it's true it'd be interesting to know who this is and who their customers are. Traceability and counterfeit procedures go out the window, unless they are putting something in place to verify/validate what they get.

    1. Natalie Gritpants Jr Silver badge

      Re: Interesting

      It's a good story, but why doesn't the conglomerate just offer a barrow load of cash to the washing machine vendor for their chip inventory. The washing machine vendor's pipeline is no worse affected than by having their retail stock hoovered up, and the conglomerate is not left with a pile of shiny crap metal.

      1. Paul Crawford Silver badge

        Re: Interesting

        Good point. But maybe the washing machines are already built and in shops with no more chips at the manufacturer?

        1. ChrisC Silver badge

          Re: Interesting

          Other options include:

          * said conglomerate needed these chips ASAP and couldn't afford to wait for a supply agreement to be thrashed out.

          * said conglomerate didn't want to get into a commercial agreement with the washing machine manufacturer due to being competitors or having some other business relationship issue.

          * said conglomerate may very well be overall a large company, but the specific product for which these parts are needed is something they only build in small quantities, so it's somewhat less newsworthy than the anecdote suggests.

      2. 2+2=5 Silver badge
        Joke

        Re: Interesting

        > and the conglomerate is not left with a pile of shiny crap metal

        Ah, you've got a <insert name of any brand> as well!

      3. Dan 55 Silver badge
        Boffin

        Re: Interesting

        why doesn't the conglomerate just offer a barrow load of cash to the washing machine vendor for their chip inventory

        In the medium and long term, the washing machine manufacturer wants to manufacturer washing machines. They can't do that without their chips, they'll either have to diversify into a new market (expensive, slow) or go out of business.

    2. Sceptic Tank
      Go

      Re: Interesting

      Sounds to me like they're after a bunch of 74-series logic chips or something in that category. Something like that is not likely to be counterfeit as the stuff is cheap as chips as it is. I doubt someone will be laundering anything.

      1. Tom 7 Silver badge

        Re: Interesting

        My local washing machine repair man used to collect PIC chips for me. The older machines had them socketed in as I guess they were learning to program them and needed to upgrade them during production as the worked out bugs and stuff. Now you can get one for love nor money!

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If I was buying a new product I'd expect a new product, not secondhand odds and sods

    1. DJO Silver badge

      Not "Second hand" but "Field Tested" - expect to pay a premium.

  6. El Bard

    Click bait

    I was half expecting (hoping?) to read that ASML was the one ripping apart washing machines to be able to build their EUV machines.

    That would have been some really next level MacGyver/A-Team style hacking.

  7. Mike 137 Silver badge

    Standards?

    "they're buying washing machines to rip out the semiconductors to put them in industrial modules"

    So they're installing salvaged commercial grade components in industrial specification equipment? I predict quite a lot of failures.

    1. Sceptic Tank

      Re: Standards?

      As long as it lasts until the warranty is over.

    2. BOFH in Training Bronze badge

      Re: Standards?

      If they can get the commercial chips to last until semiconductor shortage ends (maybe in a year or two), that may be considered a win, even if they have to replace all of those chips during a future maintainance or something.

      Especially if these are some costly industrial gear, for which there should be fat margins.

    3. the spectacularly refined chap Silver badge

      Re: Standards?

      So they're installing salvaged commercial grade components in industrial specification equipment? I predict quite a lot of failures.

      Typically the only difference between industrial and commercial spec is the temperature rating. For many devices that is a complete non-issue. If so why would there be a issue?

  8. devin3782

    This proves it then, washing machines are significantly more complicated than they need to be if the chips harvested can be used in EUV machines, but then I suppose the washing machine maker NEEDS to get its jollies off knowing how often you wash your underwear and selling that to the maker of those japanese vending machines.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I have a feeling you didn't read the article.

  9. ShadowSystems Silver badge

    Just a thought...

    Can you print out all the various predictions that company makes, preserving the paper as well as possible, so you can pull it out of archives in whatever time-frame they predicted, and check how far off/on the mark they were?

    If you leave said stories as pure digital, perhaps a second copy into a specific directory called "Recorded Predictions" or some such.

    I think there might be a decent story in how well their predictions fare. Perhaps broken down into "Nearest the Mark" and "Completely Fekkin' Wrong" sections to make it perfectly clear just how well/bad they do.

    Predictions are like arseholes: everyone has one, everyone knows they're full of shite, but people keep expecting rainbow sparkly faerie dust for some damned reason...

    1. TimMaher Silver badge
      Windows

      Re: faerie dust

      That’s what I get when I fart.

  10. Dan 55 Silver badge

    Going to dust off those Spectrum 48K skills

    At this rate, they're going to be needed.

    1. Tom 7 Silver badge

      Re: Going to dust off those Spectrum 48K skills

      Spectrum 48K? You cant afford a Spectrum 48K!

  11. DS999 Silver badge

    Rear seat air conditioning

    The problem is that automakers build their cars needing separate chips to control every little function. There's no reason that a property designed car couldn't have a single system controlling the rear seat air conditioning, front seat air conditioning, heated seats, heated steering wheel, cabin lighting and so on instead of each needing their own chips.

    Surely the engineering required to make that happen would be well worth it and give you a competitive advantage over other automakers who don't need so many chips per car, or are selling de-specced models to reduce the number of chips? I know that can't appear immediately but hopefully that engineering is well underway. But I suspect not, some beancounter ran the numbers and showed the payoff, while significant, would be a few years off, and was vetoed by some exec who figures he'll probably be working somewhere else by then so he cares only about his bonus this year and next.

    1. the spectacularly refined chap Silver badge

      Re: Rear seat air conditioning

      The problem is that automakers build their cars needing separate chips to control every little function. There's no reason that a property designed car couldn't have a single system controlling the rear seat air conditioning, front seat air conditioning, heated seats, heated steering wheel, cabin lighting and so on instead of each needing their own chips.

      There's no reason why they couldn't, but also no reason why they should. MCUs have long been just another electronic component from the designers perspective. If a chip is 50p it's easy to justify if it saves other cost and weight (e.g. that of wiring), allows flexibility for design variants (e.g. 3 door, 5 door, van versions) or keeps the component generic in nature so it can be used on different models.

      That's before you consider the benefits of a distributed system. If one chip runs one electric window there might be a hundred lines of code in there and it's trivial to analyse. If one big chip it's doing all the windows, the heaters, the demisters, the central locking and so on it becomes a lot more complex. The interactions become a lot less predictable as a result. Would you be happy if your ABS stops working at a key moment because the passenger happened to be winding down their window at the same time?

      1. Mark C 2

        Re: Rear seat air conditioning

        Automotive safety critical systems are managed separately to in-car entertainment, air-con, etc. It is not the 50p chip it is the £50 ECU sourced from a 3rd party that the chip sits in.

        My recent experience of one UK automotive is that they think the digital platform of a vehicle is an Electrical Engineering problem and the IT Profession has nothing to contribute so they are now trying to solve software management problems like Configuration/Version/Build/Release Management, etc. that IT solved decades ago. They are literally reinventing the wheel (pun intended). But frequently do not realise a wheel is even required.

    2. dvd

      Re: Rear seat air conditioning

      Distributing the controllers around the car and allowing them to communicate on the CANbus was such a huge step forward in automotive technology that manufacturers will never go back.

      This network-like approach hugely simplifies automotive writing over an old fashioned electrical loom with a dedicated write for each function. There are huge savings in cost (due to quantity of materials and ease of manufacture), and of weight. Reliability is hugely improved. An old fashioned wiring loom designed to support modern automotive technology would be a truly monstrous thing if it was even possible at all.

  12. Cinderellaphant

    Lower your spin cycle prepare to be assimilated

    My fried who happens to be Borg said he was at a bar having drinks and then next thing he remembers is waking up in a hotel tub full of ice and his subcranial processors and cordical implant were missing

  13. Sudosu

    Shucking Washing Machines

    instead of hard drives

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    In case you were wondering

    I'm pretty sure the company in question is Krone. They make agricultural equipment, most notably forage harvesters.

    Heard stories through their dealers for a couple of months now about them buying washing machines because they can't get the microcontrollers otherwise. They need to get their machines out the door ASAP as the European harvest season is starting in earnest, and £500 for a washing machine on a £500,000 harvester won't make much difference to their bottom line.

  15. Adrian 4 Silver badge

    What microcontrollers do washing machines have in them theses days ? They used to be the go-to example for a 4-bit mask rom device. Not really re-usable.

    1. Jon 37

      No-one uses 4-bit or mask ROMs nowadays.

      At minimum, they'll have an 8-bit or 16-bit processor with on-chip flash memory for the code.

      Some of them probably have 32-bit ARM cores. The ARM Cortex M series are cheap, and there are several reasonably cheap microcontrollers that use them.

      At the high end... well, my tumble dryer has WiFi and an app to tell you when it's done. Lots of computing power. (That I don't use, because why would I want the security risks of connecting my tumble dryer to the Internet).

      1. Warm Braw Silver badge

        I suspect we may yet be returning to the days of these. I'm sure you could arrange one to plug into your landline and dial the number of your mobile phone when the cycle was complete.

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