Industrial Firms Raid Washing Machines to Secure Prized Microchips

Samsung Washing Machine
(Image credit: Samsung)

It's no secret that the semiconductor shortage is affecting industries across the globe. The shortage hit the GPU market particularly hard, which resulted in wildly inflated prices across the board (although steady price erosion since the start of 2022 has been welcome news to gaming enthusiasts). Auto manufacturers have also faced dwindling chip inventories, which has forced some companies to leave thousands of vehicles sitting in lots, unable to be delivered to dealerships. However, ASML CEO Peter Wennink described on an earning's call how some companies take desperate measures to get their hands on highly sought-after and mature microprocessors.

According to Wennink, several large industrial companies have resorted to ripping chips out of consumer washing machines for industrial use. Typical household washing machines can range from $400 to thousands of dollars each, so that is a relatively expensive way to obtain chips manufactured on a mature process node. However, it's more likely that these companies are buying used machines or devices earmarked to head to a recycling center. Companies could get the washing machines at a significant discount and still grab the chips in this scenario. 

"Technology-wise, market-wise, geography-wise, it's so widespread that we have significantly underestimated, let's say, the width of the demand," said Wennink yesterday during ASML's Q1 2022 earnings call. "And [I don't] think it is going to go away." 

Wennink referenced a "very large industrial company, [conglomerate]" when talking about washing machine chip raiding. "Now, you could say, that's an anecdote. But, to be honest, it happens everywhere," Wennink continued. "It is — like I said, it is 15, 20, 25-year old semiconductor technology that is now being used everywhere. It's got — it's all driven by IoT type applications."

ASML, which previously stood for Advanced Semiconductor Materials Lithography, is headquartered in Veldhoven, Netherlands. It is currently the world's exclusive supplier of extreme ultraviolet lithography (EUV) photolithography machines. These machines produce advanced semiconductors from well-known industry titans like Intel, Samsung, SK Hynix and TSMC.

Earlier this year, the company made headlines when a fire inside its Berlin factory disrupted its production lines. Then, in February, ASML got into a verbal tussle with China's Dongfang Jingyuan Electron Ltd. ASML accused the company of infringing on its intellectual property under the protection of the Chinese government's "little giant" classification.

Brandon Hill

Brandon Hill is a senior editor at Tom's Hardware. He has written about PC and Mac tech since the late 1990s with bylines at AnandTech, DailyTech, and Hot Hardware. When he is not consuming copious amounts of tech news, he can be found enjoying the NC mountains or the beach with his wife and two sons.

  • pixelpusher220
    Hello tech support?

    My FitBit keeps asking for the spin cycle and I'm getting dizzy...
  • digitalgriffin
    Arm Cortex? Those are used in Pi's. Although Atmel's PICs are much more popular for simple automated devices, I can't imagine them being good for car use.
  • derekullo
    Powered by Whirlpool ™
  • plateLunch
    digitalgriffin said:
    Although Atmel's PICs are much more popular for simple automated devices, I can't imagine them being good for car use.
    Should be Microchip PICs. Microchip acquired Atmel back in 2016. And the PIC product line is pretty broad with embedded controllers ranging from 8 bit to 32 bit data bus widths. The controllers have all kinds of built in peripherals and can run at a wide range of frequencies, allowing a designer to trade off power consumption vs. performance.

    I'm working on a project with a PIC right now with a controller that dates backs to around 2004. Kind of blew my mind when I was given the hardware.
  • USAFRet
    "Industrial Firms Raid Washing Machines to Secure Prized Microchips"

    Is this a RAID 0, 1, 5?
  • USAFRet said:
    "Industrial Firms Raid Washing Machines to Secure Prized Microchips"

    Is this a RAID 0, 1, 5?

    picturing that configuration of washers is hilarious