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MEMC Japan plant back on line; rivals idle

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By eeNews Europe

According to FBR Capital Markets, 25 to 30 percent of the global production capability of raw silicon wafers was knocked off line by production shutdowns at three plants in the wake of the earthquake.

Craig Berger, an analyst with FBR, said in a report last week that the raw wafer blanks were one of the greatest supply chain risks resulting from the March 11 quake, along with lithium ion battery production and bismaleimide triazine resin, an epoxy resin used in chip making.

"It is difficult to say whether actual shortages will form or not as the situation is fluid and dynamic," Berger said.

MEMC said the Utsunomiya facility has been shipping unaffected product and has now resumed production on qualified process tools. The company continues to inspect, qualify and ramp additional equipment, MEMC said. Production yield on operating tools has been comparable to pre-earthquake levels, raw material availability has been good, and power availability has improved, MEMC said. According to market research firm IHS iSuppli, the Utsunomiya facility is responsible for 5 percent of the world’s raw silicon wafer production capacity.

MEMC said it has targeted the middle of May for tull 300-mm wafer production. The facility’s Utsunomiya small volume of 200-mm wafer capacity, previously scheduled to be moved to the company’s Ipoh, Malaysia, site in the third quarter, is now in the process of being moved ahead of the original schedule, MEMC said.

"I am very proud of the character and resolve displayed by our employees in responding to this disaster and recovery," commented Ahmad Chatila, MEMC’s CEO, in a statement. Chatila said MEMC continues to "listen intently" to needs and ideas in the marketplace to help lessen the impact of the earthquake on customers, potential customers and others in the industry."

Shin-Etsu Chemical Co. Ltd. said Monday that the company is still in the process of inspecting and restoring the facilities and equipment at its massive Shirakawa plant in Nishigo Village, Fukushima prefecture. The company said it would resume operations there "within a short period of time," but gave no specific timetable. According to IHS iSuppli, the Shirakawa facility is responsible for about 20 percent of the global supply of raw silicon wafers.

Shin-Etsu said it had started shipping from the Shirakawa plant inventory that was produced prior to March 11. The company said it would utilize other Shin-Etsu Group worldwide silicon wafer production sites to compensate for the temporary loss of the Shirakawa facility.

Shin-Etsu said it was also still in the process of restoring facilities and equipment at its polyvinyl chloride plant in Kamisu, Ibaraki prefecture. Optical perform fiber production at the Kamisu site partially resumed Monday, but the plant was idled again late Monday after a strong 7.0-magnitude aftershock hit the region, Shin-Etsu said.

Shin-Etsu said its two affected production facilities could be impacted by power supply restrictions this summer that may be put in force by Tokyo Electric Power Co. and the Tohoku Electric Power Co."We will make company-wide efforts to reduce the consumption of electric power by utilizing the technologies and expertise we possess," Shin-Etsu said.

Sumco Corp. said Tuesday that manufacturing partially resumed at its Yonezawa silicon wafer plant, using equipment that was not damaged in the March 11 earthquake. Sumco said the Yonezawa plant suffered no damage from any of the strong aftershocks that have hit the region.

Sumco said it moved production of some products that can be manufactured at its other sites.

Market tracker DRAMeXchange said in a report Tuesday that, given the amount of silicon wafer production capacity that remains idled in Japan, DRAM vendors would likely revise production targets to emphasize production of high-value-added products and also accelerate technology migration.


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