The worldwide computer chip shortage continues. And although we regularly hear that this is affecting car production, it is also causing problems across the board for all manner of electronic devices, including digital pianos.
Chips (aka microchips, integrated circuits, i.c.’s, etc.) are made up of thin wafers of semiconducting material – normally silicon – encapsulated in some form of insulation. These wafers have complex electronic circuits etched or sputtered onto them. A chip can, like a circuit board, have many layers enabling it to perform increasingly complex tasks. A chip can take up to 700 processing steps and 3 months to produce.
All digital pianos use chips. Electric (or electro-mechanical) pianos such as the old Wurlitzer piano, Fender Rhodes, Hohner Clavinet, etc, don’t use chips, as they have a physical vibrating medium producing the sound (and also chips weren’t invented back then!).
It was Covid 19 that triggered the shortage. Car and phone manufacturers saw sales fall and so cut orders for chips — so the suppliers cut production. Ironically, in many markets demand actually increased. Sales of digital pianos actually boomed during the pandemic (more than virtually any other product) as everyone was sitting at home with little to do.
However demand for chips suddenly exploded in 2021 and the suppliers couldn’t cope. Some lead times — the time from placing an order to delivery — grew to almost six months.
Since then things haven’t eased, as demand continues to grow. Chip manufacturers concentrate their efforts on producing the most profitable chips, and manufacturers using less advance chips, like those found in most digital pianos, are suffering.
The situation isn’t helped by a shortage of raw materials. Neon gas is essential in the chip manufacturing process. And 50% of the world’s neon gas comes from Ukraine! There are also shortages of lead and even silicon. Lockdowns, and power shortages in China are also constantly disrupting chip production.
And even if digital piano manufacturers such as Kawai, Roland, Casio and Yamaha can get adequate chip supplies their products are all assembled in the Far East so then there are the problems with the global shipping industry to contend with.
What does this all mean?
It means there is a worldwide shortage of various digital pianos. And it seems that certain companies are holding back new products until they can guarantee their supply lines.
It also means that the price of computer chips is constantly rising. And this has resulted in some manufacturers putting up their prices.
But the one takeaway from this article is this. If you are intending to buy a certain digital piano this Christmas, don’t wait until the last minute. If the model you want is in stock, avoid disappointment and get it now. Things don’t look like they are going to get better, or cheaper, in the short term.
Please add your comments
If you are a digital piano manufacturer, a retailer selling digital pianos, or have had trouble buying a specific instrument, and you would like to add your thoughts to this article, please do so in the Comments box below.
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