According to a report from Digitimes, NVIDIA’s RTX 30 series graphics cards may run into another problem, limiting shipments in 2021: The shortage of ABF substrates. First of all, let’s have a look at what these ABF substrates are and where they fit in today’s semiconductors:
ABF, otherwise known as “Ajinomoto Build-up Film” is a resin substrate that acts as an insulator in all modern ICs. The ABF is a highly durable and rigid film that resists expansion and contraction with changes in temperature, making it ideal for use as a substrate between the nanometer-scale and millimeter-scale components of a processor or IC.
The AFB substrate consists of multiple layers of microcircuits, known as a “build-up substrate” which allows the formation of these miniature components as its surface is receptive to laser processing and direct copper plating. Most modern chipmakers use ABF to design the smaller components of their CPUs and GPUs.
According to sources close to ABF, the supply of ABF substrates is expected to become one of the major factors behind CPU and GPU shortages in 2021. NVIDIA is expected to be one of the main companies affected by this issue. The RTX 30 series GPUs which are the latest gaming products from the Santa-Clara based chipmaker are already suffering from severe stock shortages due to limited 8nm yields, ABF substrate supply as well as a deficit of GDDR6X memory.
However, NVIDIA isn’t the only company that relies on ABF substrate to manufacture its processors. Intel, AMD, and other Arm-based chipmakers also use it in their own microprocessors, and as supply dwindles, all these companies will have to contend for what limited shipments remain.
Whoever pays the most will get access to the highest capacity of the substrate in 2021. The supply is expected to remain poor for almost the entire year as demand is constantly increasing but capacity remains largely the same.