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MCU production thwarted by Japan quake

Posted: 23 Mar 2011 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:MCU production? Japan earthquake? fab shutdown?

The devastating March 11 Japan earthquake and its aftermath will no doubt severely impact the production of MCUs, and consequently of every device into which these chips go, from cars to washing machines to consumer gadgets, industrial controls and even medical equipment, says Nomura Securities Co. Ltd.

"The earthquake's impact on MCUs is severe," the equity research firm told clients in a note issued on March 18. What severe means in terms of missing production as a percentage of past levels was not elaborated.

Nomura said that the closure of a wafer fab belonging to Renesas Electronics in the affected area north of Tokyo was likely to hit the production of MCU ICs in particular.

Renesas, the world's fifth largest chip company and largest vendor of MCUs has lost approximately half its production capacity. The Renesas campus at Naka is without power and the company has not yet started to assess damage there. The company has a 300mm wafer fab that made system LSIs and a 200mm wafer fab that made MCUs.

Texas Instruments' Miho wafer fab was also severely damaged and Nomura analysts predict that wafers could not be run there before mid-May with the implication that full production could not start until mid-July, which means that shipments of packaged chips could not start until September.

Separately, TI said its wafer fab in Miho produced only digital light projection chips and some analog ICs, and that the status of its Miho wafer fab will have no bearing on TI's production of MCUs.

Nomura said two other wafer fabs that made MCUs and ASICs in Iwate prefecture were closed, thus contributing to the severity of the situation. Even if those companies adversely affected by the earthquake have other wafer fabs either elsewhere in Japan or overseas, transferring processes and designs may not be possible while some applicationsautomotive, for examplerequire detailed certification of production by the customer. This can make manufacturing transfers, where possible, as tedious a process as restoring stricken wafer fabs, which is likely to be the chip companies' primary concern, after they have ascertained and done what they can for the safety and well-being of personnel and their families.

- Peter Clarke
??EE Times

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