The Japanese earthquake has apparently suspended 25 percent of the global production of silicon wafers, according to a new report from research firm IHS iSuppli. Those wafers are used to craft semiconductors, which has far-reaching implications for high-end enterprise hardware such as PC, server and IT storage systems, as well as consumer products like smartphones and tablets.
The epic scale of the damage has the potential to force slowdowns in the manufacture of consumer products. On March 17, IHS iSuppli also reported that Apple could face difficulties meeting demand for the iPad 2, which includes components apparently sourced from Japanese companies.
Shin-Estu Chemical Co. Ltd.'s Shirakawa facility, along with MEMC Electronic Materials Inc.'s Utsunomiya plant, have stopped manufacturing operations in the wake of the March 11 earthquake and subsequent tsunami. The Shirakawa facility specializes in 300-millimeter wafers used in advanced semiconductors with high transistor counts, used primarily in the manufacturing of components such as flash memory.
"These companies supply not only domestic Japanese demand for wafers but also semiconductor manufacturers around the world," reads IHS iSuppli's March 21 research note. "Because of this, the suspension of operations at these plants could have wide-ranging implications beyond the Japanese electronics industry."
Two companies, Mitsubishi Gas Chemical Company Inc. and Hitachi Kasei Polymer CO. Ltd., also announced that they had halted production of the raw material used to build printed circuit boards (PCBs), effectively curtailing some 70 percent of the worldwide supply. Production will apparently resume within two weeks.
For more, read the eWEEK article: Japan Earthquake Rattles Chip Production: Report.