Analysts claim worldwide supply shortage of silicon wafers this year

Numerous major silicon wafer production facilities damaged and could affect tablet PC makers if chip production suffers.

The aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami incidents strikes again on the electronics supply industry, this time on production facilities for silicon wafer assembly. Market research firm iSuppli on Monday claimed that around one quarter of the world supply of silicon wafers could be disrupted in some way due to the extensive damage on semiconductor factories by the natural disasters weeks prior.

Semiconductor production has been most affected specifically in the cities Shirakawa, Fukushima, and Utsunomiya. The silicon wafer plant in Shirakawa was responsible for producing 300mm wafers for flash and DRAM devices, according to TechEye, but is now shutdown until conditions improve.

In Fukushima, a plant belonging to the chemical company Shin-Etsu has also halted production. This specific plant accounted for as much as 20 percent of wafer supply, although the source did not state whether this number was for worldwide production or in Japan only.

Similarly in Utsunomiya, U.S. manufacturer MEMC has closed a silicon wafer plant with no clear schedules for reopening. Semiconductor Company Renesas was lucky enough to still have functioning wafer plants, but they are operating at only 40 percent efficiency compared to normal output levels.

Analyst Dan Heyler from Merrill Lynch & Co. believes there are only mere weeks left of silicon wafer stocks available. Japan accounts for 60-70 percent of global silicon wafer production, claims CENS, and Heyler firmly believes that the supply shortage will affect sales revenue of chipmakers later this year. Fujitsu, for example, is reportedly three to four weeks behind production due to limiting wafer supply. This is in stark contrast to what Intel and Qualcomm claimed just a few days ago, as these giant chipmakers are showing little to no concern over their respective chip production and supply sources.


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Allen Ngo, 2011-03-25 (Update: 2012-05-26)
Allen Ngo
Allen Ngo - US Editor in Chief
After graduating with a B.S. in environmental hydrodynamics from the University of California, I studied reactor physics to become licensed by the U.S. NRC to operate nuclear reactors. There's a striking level of appreciation you gain for everyday consumer electronics after working with modern nuclear reactivity systems astonishingly powered by computers from the 80s. When I'm not managing day-to-day activities and US review articles on Notebookcheck, you can catch me following the eSports scene and the latest gaming news.