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Yellowstone Future Forecast Update

Back in April I wrote about the future of Yellowstone, and due to the global semiconductor shortage, the future was not looking bright. The Lattice FPGA at the heart of Yellowstone was out of stock everywhere, with an estimated factory lead time on new chips of an incredible 67 weeks. I predicted that BMOW would exhaust the existing stock of Yellowstone hardware sometime in August or September, and that would be the end.

Since then I’ve been watching Lattice’s estimated lead times, hoping that maybe they’d drop to something half-way normal, but unfortunately it’s gotten even worse. It’s been 19 weeks since that April update, so theoretically the 67 week lead time should now be down to 48 weeks. But as of today the lead time on that chip has actually increased to 79 weeks! Ugh.

The best case is a different Lattice FPGA package variant that currently lists a 53 week lead time, but I no longer trust these numbers at all. I strongly suspect that Lattice’s numbers for this chip family are somewhere between wild-ass guesses and complete fiction. They have no idea when or even if they’ll ever have these chips available again. They’re clearly having major difficulty sorting out their manufacturing capacity and meeting all the demand, so an older inexpensive chip that earns little profit for Lattice is probably at the bottom of their priority list. After two years of unavailability and a prediction of at least one year more, I wouldn’t be surprised if this chip were never available again. They’ll continue to push back the estimated lead times for another year or so, before finally admitting reality and giving the chip End of Life status.

This is all just a long-winded way of saying that the future availability of Yellowstone looks even more doubtful now than it did back in April. The only bright spot (for buyers, not for me) is that sales have been slower than expected, so I expect the existing stock will last longer than my original estimate of August-September. At the present rate, the current stock should last until sometime in the spring of 2023. We’ll keep our fingers crossed that Lattice will have sorted out its manufacturing problems by then.

I’m disappointed of course, but that’s life in this industry. There’s no guarantee that parts will continue to be available forever. Usually you get more of a grace period, and a part is eventually designated Not For New Designs, and finally you get a “last-time buy” notification to stock up before the chip is gone for good. The only answer is to factor the likely future availability of parts into your designs, and be prepared to redesign the product around new parts when existing parts reach end-of-life. That would be theoretically possible here, but it would be a big task and I’m not sure I have the appetite for it. Stay tuned for 2023 and beyond.

Read 4 comments and join the conversation 

4 Comments so far

  1. Tux2000 - August 22nd, 2022 4:42 am

    At work, we have started a new project, based on a different microcontroller than usual, due to global chip shortage. We have just ordered a few prototype PCBs, but already all critical components (including the microcontroller) for the estimated production of an entire year.

    Sounds crazy, but it seems to be the only way to ensure we can deliver.

  2. Merlin - August 23rd, 2022 6:06 am

    Find out what chips are in an iPhone and start using them. Apple won’t let the chip guys strand THEM (grin).

  3. Steve - August 23rd, 2022 6:25 am

    A friend works in hardware at Apple, and tells me they’re also having major troubles with the semiconductor shortages.

  4. groinksan - August 27th, 2022 1:11 pm

    It is a much larger issue than just replacing one major part for another. Once the part has been replaced on the schematics, new test boards need to be manufactured and put through testing. So we’re probably looking at at least 12 to 18 months of re-R&D before we once again have a finished product ready for manufacturing.

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