Japan disaster rocks computer chip supplies

Crisis halts 25% of worldwide silicon wafer production, says iSuppli

Computerworld (US), 3/21/11

The disaster in Japan is putting a pinch on 25% of the worldwide production of silicon wafers used to make computer chips, according to a report released Monday.

Two Japanese factories — Shin-Etsu Chemical’s Shirakawa facility and MEMC Electronic Materials’ Utsunomiya plant — have halted operations. Those two facilities alone make up a quarter of the global supply of silicon wafers used to make semiconductors, according to IHS iSuppli, a research company. Both companies supply wafers to semiconductor companies around the globe.

“Because of this, the suspension of operations at these plants could have wide-ranging implications beyond the Japanese electronics industry,” iSuppli noted in its report. “A 25% reduction in supply could have a major effect on worldwide semiconductor production.”

Researchers also noted that Shin-Etsu’s Shirakawa plant is responsible for 20% of the worldwide silicon semiconductor wafer supply. There reportedly has been significant damage to the plant’s production facilities and equipment. According to iSuppli, Shin-Etsu is trying to shift production to other facilities, but it’s not clear how long that will take.

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