In December of 2022, we published a post about the HackRF One shortage and the hardware revision our engineering team completed so that we could continue manufacturing HackRF One. This hardware revision was necessary because we had difficulty sourcing critical components during the global chip shortage, mainly MAX2837- the RF transceiver IC used in every revision of HackRF One before r9. At the time of that post, we had a significant backlog of orders, and we were uncertain about how long production would take with COVID-19 slowing down operations at the factory in China. Today, we have good news: production of r9 went very smoothly, and the finished HackRF Ones started shipping to our warehouses in late February. As of now, all of the backorders for HackRF One have shipped to our resellers.
With over half of this last production sold and shipped due to the backlog, we are already preparing for a second 2023 production run in quick succession. Some lessons we learned from this HackRF One shortage are to invest in components early for products we know we want to keep producing and that components on the shelf are preferable to components on order if we can find them in stock at a reasonable cost. Fortunately, we found more MAX2839s (the substitute component for MAX2837 in r9) with good date codes and purchased them for a second production of HackRF One r9. We have also already purchased production quantities of several other HackRF One components that have very long lead times, like the clock generator chip, the CPLD chip, and the microcontroller. These components are on the shelf and ready for us to use in the upcoming production, so we don’t have any immediate concerns about unreliable chip distributor lead times impacting our production schedule. Most likely, it won’t be as easy to find more MAX2939s for future productions because that part is obsolete. That means there will only be one more production of r9, and subsequent hardware revisions will use MAX2837.
We are already ordering components with long lead times for HackRF One productions as far out as 2024. Before the chip shortage, it was entirely realistic to acquire all the components needed for HackRF One and complete a production run within six months. That is no longer practical because even though purchasing conditions are improving for some components, chip destributors are still quoting lead times of up to a year for several key HackRF One components. MAX2837 availability in particular remains scarce; the average lead time has tripled and the manufacturer price has nearly doubled. The MAX2837s we ordered in 2021 for Fall 2022 production have yet to arrive, although we do expect them to be delivered finally this summer. We plan to use those in a third 2023 production near the end of this year. We don’t know when (or if) things will return to normal with the chip market. So to prevent future production bottlenecks caused by one or two missing essential components, we will continue to plan manufacturing schedules and component orders further ahead of time.
We appreciate our resellers for their cooperation while we navigated the challenges presented by the global chip shortage, and their customers who waited patiently (some for months) for their HackRF One orders to be delivered. Thank you for being so supportive! We can’t understate this: you are the reason we are still here!