The year 2021 was full of "chip challenges" for us. The chip shortage was (and still is) a huge problem. We have gotten used to delivery times of many month and nobody is shocked anymore to get qouted a lead time of a year. We are trying anything we can to keep supply of our own products available. Our own inventory of ICs has increased significantly. We think we are well positioned for 2022, but it will likely be the case that some individual products will be sold out and have long lead times.
Example Industrial Analog Out Bricklet
Currently the Industrial Analog Out Bricklet is sold out. The main IC was ordered by us about 9 month ago and we ought to receive it in 6 month from now. Unfortunately even these lead times can't be trusted at the moment. It might get further postponed at any time. Sometimes ICs unexpectedly arrive early, but often the lead time is pushed further away without any prior notice.
We now have an automatic monitoring system in place that queries the websites of all of the big distributors. With this we are some times able to quickly shift orders from one distributor to another if a part becomes unexpectedly available. There is a chance that we get hold of the analog out IC early through this system. Since there is no direct replacement for this IC, the only other option for us would be a redesign.
The "experts" on TV and in news articles have announced an improvement of the chip shortage some time ago already. With our building blocks we use a broad range of different ICs from different areas and the truth is that we just can not see any improvements yet. We currently expect that the situation will remain difficult through the complete year of 2022. A different difficulty that we face are price increases. If we ignore some parts that are currently only available from scalpers for 10x the normal costs, price increases of 20%-30% are the norm for many parts that are available. On top of that there is a sharp increase in shipping costs (and delivery times), especially for parts that come from overseas.
If you already now that you wil need bigger quantities of specific Bricks/Bricklets in 2022, please contact us as early as possible!
2021 - A good year for Tinkerforge
In spite of all of the aforementioned problems the year 2021 was still a good year for us.
The software and other parts of the Tinkerforge building blocks have been improved and we also released new Bricklets. The dominant topic for us surely was the entry into the electric vehicle charging sector with the brand WARP (Wall Attached Recharge Point) and our WAPR Chargers. By now we have sold more than 1500pcs of the EV chargers that we manufacture in-house. At the beginning we also had long lead times for the EV chargers, but by now we managed to cumulate a big stockpile of parts and the lead time is down to 1-2 weeks.
We plan to expand both areas, Tinkerforge and WARP, in 2022.
Outlook for 2022
Early next year we plan to release the ESP32 Brick and ESP32 Ethernet Brick. As you might expect from the name, these are Bricks that are equipped with an ESP32 microcontroller. The ESP32 Brick has WIFI and bluetooth. It can be programmed with C/C++. You can connect up to 6 Bricklets to it and control them with the (to be released) "C/C++ for Microcontroller" bindings. The ESP32 Ethernet Brick has an additional ethernet port. With the mew bindings you can write your own embedded programs for standalone projects. It is also possible to use the new Bricks in a proxy-mode with a standard firmware that we provide. With this firmware the new Bricks can be used like a Master Brick + WIFI/Ethernet Extension. The ESP32 Brick is already used in the WARP1 Chargers and the ESP32 Ethernet Brick is used in the WARP2 Chargers.
We plan to release additional "Arduino Bindings" that can be seamlessly integrated in the Arduino world. Both new bindings can be used on any microcontroller platform. To add support for a new platform you have to implement a new HAL for the SPI communication with the bricklets. We will start with HALs for Arudino, STM32F0 and Raspberry Pi and expect to add many more HALs in the future.
Of course we will also improve WARP. We have a long list of TODOs that consist of many enhancements, new features and bugfixes (see https://github.com/Tinkerforge/esp32-firmware/issues).
For more information about the future of WARP see the german version of this blog entry: https://www.tinkerforge.com/de/blog/review-2021-outlook-2022/
Please note that we currently only sell WARP within Germany and the complete documentation is currently only available in German. We will likely start to expand this to other countries in Europe in the future and at that point we will start to translate everything to the country-specific languages. For a product like EV chargers we think it is not enough to only provide documentation in english/german if we want to sell outside of Germany in non-german/english speaking countries. This is a big change for us, since we currently only provide support in english and german for the whole Tinkerforge ecosystem.
If you are interested in helping us to bring the WARP Chargers to your country please contact us. We are definitely open for cooperations!
We, the Tinkerforge team, want to express our thanks to all of you for 2021! The trust and sympathy that you guys offered to us despite long lead times and all of the support we got from the community was truly remarkable!
We wish you Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!