Stephen Cass, editor of the Hands On DIY section of IEEE Spectrum, has warned of delays in the maker market caused by the ongoing industry-wide component shortages.
"Over the last few months it seemed that manufacturers catering to makers were offering fewer and fewer new products in addition to posting a lot of 'out of stock' notices on existing ones, with a knock-on effect on the maker scene as a whole," Cass explains. "As the editor responsible for IEEE Spectrum's Hands On DIY section, it's taken longer and longer each month to find projects incorporating interesting new capabilities."
So, Cass started asking questions of representatives from Adafruit, Arduino, SparkFun, and Polulu — and the answers were largely the same: Shortages on key components leading to delays and even redesigns to switch to more readily-available replacement parts.
"It's definitely been a challenge for small electronic manufacturers, makers, creators and inventors," Limor "Ladyada" Fried tells Cass, while confirming several planned board launches have been delayed for a redesign. "We're seeing massive shortages of semiconductors and particular, microcontrollers and more-complex ASICs are completely unavailable. We've seen some micros come back with lead times in 2023!"
Bryan Hoff and Dean Diamond at SparkFun echoed Fried's comments, talking of shortages biting for 18 months and counting — and confirming that "a few products couldn't be built in time," but with Hoff saying "the number of impacted product launches has actually been low."
Jan Malasek, president of Polulu, confirms his company too was feeling the pinch. Fabio Violante, chief executive at Arduino, however, denies any major impact. "Our team has been able to optimize the supply chain and inventory while, at the same time, putting a lot of pressure on our strategic vendors," he tells Cass, saying that "in general, we did not experience availability issues for the vast majority of products" — but admits that "some challenges in the most complex designs" have resulted in "delays for new products that were on the roadmap."
"Just as makers themselves are used to cobbling together alternative solutions from what's available," Cass concludes, "manufacturers are working out ways around supply shortages of specific components. So hopefully, we'll see an uptick in cool new projects before long!"
The full piece is now available on IEEE Spectrum.