Safely transporting computer materials

28th July 2022

There’s an app for that

It’s hard to imagine our society without computers these days. Whether it’s banking, ordering food, or conducting business, so much of our daily tasks are done electronically now.

The massive role computers play in our society cannot be overstated. The journey from mine to chip to laptop is a long and complex one. Making sure the supply chain moves smoothly to answer the ever-rising demand for computer parts is of vital importance and Thermo King is ready to help every step of the way!

My kingdom for a chip

Yet, it is that very supply chain that has been under pressure since the beginning of 2020. The Covid-19 pandemic – among other factors – has resulted in a global shortage of semiconductor chips. These chips are the central component for anything that uses digital computation. Without semiconductor chips, a computer cannot be constructed.

To illustrate: in 2021, several car manufacturing facilities were brought to an almost complete standstill as a direct result of a semiconductor shortage. This has resulted in long lead times when ordering a new car and a massive loss of revenue in the car industry, estimated at $210 billion, last year alone.

All this means that it’s of vital importance that shipments of the raw materials used for semiconductors reach their destination safely and on time. But the journey these materials take is a long one, with many steps along the way. With its years of expertise in the cold chain and a global dealer network to address any of and all problems, Thermo King is the ideal partner to help keep computer parts safe!

Assembling the materials

The origins of a computer chip are surprisingly humble. Their main component is silica, which can be extracted from sand and quartz. Once the raw materials have been processed into thin wafers, these are etched with a variety of toxic chemical reagents.

With so many moving and dangerous parts, transporting all these materials is a process that requires precision and care. And in the current situation, the loss of even a single shipment is enormous.

Transporting any amount of chemicals is a dangerous operation. These compounds can be explosive, flammable, corrosive, toxic, radioactive or harmful in any number of ways. Any fluctuation in temperature can be dangerous and set off a chemical reaction that endangers the drivers and can contaminate the entire shipment. The longer these journeys last, the more precise the requirements become.

And make no mistake, these journeys often are long. The semiconductor industry is a global one, but about 75% of it is located in East Asia. The raw materials they use however, are collected all around the world. Most silica is mined in the US, Italy and France, while quartz is mainly sourced from China and Brazil. These materials need to travel far and wide before they end up in our smartphones and cars.  

The silica wafers for example are extremely thin and vulnerable. In short journeys , temperatures between 8°C and 60°C are acceptable – quit a wide margin. When the journey exceeds five days, as they often do, the requirements shift and become much more narrow. The temperature range becomes 18°C to 24°C, with relative humidity levels between 7 and 30 percent. Consistent temperature control across the many modes of transport is crucial.  With Thermo King’s wide range of transmodal cooling units and years of expertise in refrigerated transport the raw materials and components are kept safe every step of the way.

Keeping the supply chain running

The world is becoming ever more digital. Computers are a daily fixture in our lives. Not just in the form of our laptops and desktops, nearly every modern electronic device uses a semiconductor chip of some variety.

The chip shortage that was first observed at the start of 2020 has had far reaching consequences for a whole roster of industries: car manufacturing, graphics card production, game console development, etc… As a result, these sectors have observed massive losses in revenue. Protecting the shipments of raw materials is more important than ever. Thermo King can help you protect these materials at every step along the way. Whatever the route is, sea, road, rail, air or the last mile, Thermo King units will ensure the materials arrive safely at their destination.

Want to know more? Contact your closest dealer.