Japan earthquake has implications for Moore's Law, too

Japan earthquake has implications for Moore's Law, tooThis past Friday, as the market struggled to get its collective head around the potential supply chain disruptions resulting from the Japanese megaquake and nuclear crisis, Nomura Securities released a report detailing the status of various Japanese tech companies' facilities. Ars obtained a copy of the document, which gives a glimpse of some of the challenges involved in bringing the tech industry back online after this super-catastrophe.

The industrial electronics/semiconductor sector was hit fairly hard by the quake, and we'll give a company-by-company summary below. But first, it's worth looking at the potential impact of the quake on two specific areas: digital cameras, and Intel's coming transition to even smaller transistors in its processors.

For digital cameras, the report has a number of details that show that the quake may have an impact on supplies. At the Panasonic facility in Fukushima, where the company makes digital cameras, workers suffered minor injuries, and the site has been designated off-limits because of aftershocks.

Canon was one of the digital camera makers to be affected, with one of its lithography equipment and digital camera lens sites suffering "comparatively major damage." But the report claims that it's possible to transfer some production to another site. (Likewise with the Canon site in Fukushima that makes inkjet printer heads. Two other Canon plants have had their operations suspended.)

The big problem, though, is Nikon, which has a total of five sites listed in the report as having suspended operations. For the site in Sendai that makes the company's signature DSLR lines, the report notes as of March 14: "Damage to part of buildings, operations suspended. Currently investigating extent of damage and considering restart schedule."

The Nikon plant closures are not just a big deal for shutterbugs—it seems possible that Intel could have its 22nm transition plans set back by the closures.

Three of the Nikon sites that shut down make lithography equipment; these are the high-powered lens systems that semiconductor makers like Intel use to etch transistors onto their chips. Nikon made lithography equipment for some of Intel's 45nm plants, and for all of the company's 32nm plants. The lens maker was allegedly contracted to make some of the litho equipment for the upcoming 22nm transition.

Intel's official response is that the company is "continuing to monitor the situation in Japan." An Intel spokesperson told Ars, "Preliminary assessments are relatively positive from our direct suppliers, whom we currently believe came through this event in reasonable shape. Challenges in power and transportation infrastructure are evolving and we continue to monitor and interpret the implications to our suppliers." He went on to say that, "As a matter of policy we don't discuss specific suppliers or our relationships with them."

Other shutdowns: Sony, Toshiba, TI, and more

Toshiba has two semiconductor fabs offline, one of which looks to have been hit fairly hard, and the other of which is expected to begin reopening this week. Fujitsu has five plants offline, and the company was just beginning to assess the damage at the end of last week. A sixth factory that makes desktop PCs and servers is offline, and has had its operations temporarily transferred to another location.

Texas Instruments has two fabs offline, both of which make analog circuits for power supplies and the like. One of the plants won't be online until May, while the other is hoped to be up and running again by mid-April.

Hitachi has five locations offline, but power is being restored and the company is beginning to assess the damage. Fuji Electronics seems to have escaped relatively unscathed, while Mitsubishi has operations suspended at a plant that makes telecom equipment.

The consumer electronics/appliances sector was also hit by the quake, with operations suspended at five Panasonic sites.

Sharp's LCD TV plant is in relatively good shape, reporting no major damage; the plant's operations haven't been suspended, either—merely shortened due to rolling blackouts.

Sony was hit the hardest of any consumer electronics maker on the list, with production activity either suspended or shortened (due to power outages) at seven different plants, plants that make a range of products from magnetic tape, Blu-rays, semiconductor lasers, DVD players, and other components. Two sites that make rechargeable Li-ion batteries were also affected.

Source: Ars Technica

Tags: Intel

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