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Japan crisis stops a quarter of global silicon wafer production

by Scott Bicheno on 21 March 2011, 17:40

Tags: iSuppli

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Wafer thin supply

In our last look at the effect of the Japan crisis on the global technology component supply chain we focused on the manufacturers of the equipment used in semiconductor fabs. We concluded that this type of equipment was not too adversely effected at time of writing, but a new report from IHS iSuppli says there has been a significant impact on the supply of silicon wafers.

These are the raw materials from which all kinds of chips - from memory to processor - are made. The report warns: "The Japanese earthquake has resulted in the suspension of one-quarter of the global production of silicon wafers used to make semiconductors." This is almost entirely due to the suspension of production at Shin-Etsu Chemical Co's Shirakawa facility and MEMC Electronic Materials' Utsunomiya plant.

As previously thought, memory - both Flash storage and DRAM - is the hardest hit. Initially this was attributed to interruption of manufacturing of the memory itself, but now it looks like the supply of silicon could be as much to blame. It looks like the Shirakawa facility alone is responsible for 20 percent of global silicon semiconductor wafer supply.

Additionally it looks like the supply of raw materials used to make printed circuit boards (PCBs) will be heavily hit in the short term. Mitsubishi Gas Chemical and Hitachi Kasei Polymer account for 70 percent of global copper-clad laminate production and they've announced that production will be suspended for a further two weeks. IHS iSuppli reckons there are enough materials already in the global supply chain for it to withstand this suspension, as long as it doesn't last much longer.

Elsewhere Nokia has issued an announcement saying it: "...expects some disruption to the ability of its Devices & Services unit to supply a number of products due to the currently anticipated industry-wide shortage of relevant components and raw materials sourced from Japan. However, Nokia does not expect any material impact on its Q1 2011 results due to this event."

As we wrote earlier, a lot of attention is being focused on Apple and to what extent it will be able to meet demand for its products - especially the iPad 2 - in the light of these component shortages.


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