A monosodium glutamate factory, stuck in the throat of the world’s chip companies

This cute panda bottle contains the starting product of the famous Japanese Food company “Ajinomoto”. Perhaps the Chinese world does not know the meaning of “Ajinomoto”, but if we talk about the predecessor of this name, it will be clear to all – MSG.

In 1908, Kikunae Ikeda, a professor of chemistry at Tokyo Imperial University’s Faculty of Science, extracted a delicious flavoring from kelp Soup, and only later did he realize that its main ingredient was monosodium glutamate.

The term “うま味” (pronounced UMAMI, meaning delicious), which Professor Ikeda created to refer to this flavor, has become an internationally accepted term.

Subsequently, Saburo Suzuki, an entrepreneur in Kanagawa Prefecture, learned of Professor Ikeda’s research. After obtaining a license, he began commercializing the seasoning the following year and called it “monosodium glutamate”. Later, the name “Ajinomoto”, meaning “essence of flavor,” was used for the trademark registration.

Today, the Ajinomoto Group, which has been in business for nearly 100 years, is a listed company on the TSE with annual sales of 1 trillion yen.

You may ask, without this company, the world may have to delay many years to eat MSG, but what does this have to do with not playing PS5?

It has a lot to do with it.

Ajinomoto is not just a food manufacturer, but also the world’s number one producer of amino acids. It has maintained a high market share in the amino acid market for food, feed, and pharmaceutical use. The Ajinomoto Group produces nearly 20 types of amino acids at 27 production sites around the world.

Amino acids are substances with a wide range of applications, whether in food, Medicine, nutrition or even cosmetics. But today we will not talk about Ajinomoto’s presence in other fields. Let’s talk about just one thing – a new material applied in the field of electronics.

In 1970, this young man named Koji Takeuchi joined Ajinomoto. After he joined, he was assigned to study what the byproducts produced in making MSG were good for.

He then discovered that the by-products of making MSG could be used to make a resin-like synthetic material with high insulation properties.

What was the use of this stuff? Takeuchi set his eyes on the computer industry.

In computers, the core component is called the CPU (central processing unit), and as CPUs become increasingly high-speed and integrated, their internal nano-scale wiring needs to be interfaced with external millimeter-scale wiring. But due to the limited size and space, it is impossible to spread out and flatten to occupy a large area, must be similar to the multi-layer building like installation, in the smallest possible three-dimensional space, these dense line arrangement open –

Those irregular connections in the middle, is the CPU and the external data transmission path, these lines are small and dense, each other need both insulation, but also generate a lot of heat. It was not an easy task to handle.

Therefore, the computer industry at that Time, the way to deal with this is to apply liquid insulation material, and then continue to the next process after drying. It was very troublesome and time-consuming, and very prone to errors.

Takeuchi came up with an idea to turn the by-product of MSG production into a thin film by improving the process. This was not only freely shaped and could take on numerous circuit combinations at will, but also heat-resistant and insulating, and crucially, very easy to install, compared to applying liquid, which was not time-consuming at all.

Then, with the product called ABF (Ajinomoto Build-up Film) in hand, Takeuchi went to a famous electronics manufacturer to seek cooperation. When they entered the other company to register, the guard looked at their business card and said: Ajinomoto Company? Then you have gone to the wrong place, right? If you go to the cafeteria, it’s upstairs over there, yo ……

But then, one after another, the world’s leading chip manufacturers were convinced by this MSG company’s insulating film. Now, basically 100% of the world’s computers are using Ajinomoto’s products –

It can be said that without Ajinomoto’s ABF, Apple, Qualcomm, Samsung, PlayStation 5 or Xbox Series X, cell phones, computers, cars, AI and 5G chips, almost all of them could not be manufactured. Even better chips, but also can not be packaged to complete.

Thus, it was previously reported by several media that TSMC‘s ABF inventory is insufficient since the fall of 2020. And Ajinomoto’s ABF supply also seems to have an unspecified problem, with some industry chain sources revealing that the ABF delivery cycle has been as long as 30 weeks. This has led to a supply crunch for consoles such as the PS5, and even all high-end hardware. And the media Digitimes prediction is even more worrying: probably 2021, the supply of ABF will still be insufficient.

In other words, a Japanese MSG company, stuck almost the whole world semiconductor industry …… always say that Japan lost the opportunity of mobile Internet, but the reality is that the mobile Internet is developing faster, but also can not lose Japan.

At present, Ajinomoto has not officially responded to this market rumor, but also did not deny. The company has not yet officially responded to the market rumors, but it has not denied them either, stressing that “reports of shortages were not sent by our company” and that “the media are welcome to come and interview us.

In fact, there are many other companies and products like this in Japan. For example, AeroEdge in Tochigi Prefecture is a company that supplies turbine blades to both Airbus and Boeing aircraft engines, and the number of companies in the world that can do this can be counted on one hand.

For example, Japan produces some special steel, special containers and machine tool equipment, etc. …… There are many small and medium-sized Japanese enterprises that are not famous in the public Perception and not huge in scale, which are not known to many ordinary people in the subtleties of the entire industry chain, stuck in the neck.

These companies do not make any big money, do not make any headlines, do not have any hot topics, and do not get any leaders to meet. But no one in the industry dares to despise, more can not get around.

By the way, you should understand why this company, which started out by selling MSG, now has annual sales of more than 1.1 trillion yen, right?