The global semiconductor industry faces possible shortages of raw material after the catastrophic earthquake in Japan caused the suspension of one-fourth of the global production of silicon wafers used to make semiconductors, according to IHS iSupply.
MEMC Electronic Materials and Shin-Etsu Chemical have stopped manufacturing at Shirakawa facility and Utsunomiya plant, respectively. These two plants jointly account for 25% of the global supply of silicon wafer used to make semiconductors.
All semiconductors are built on wafers, which are thin slices of silicon that serve as the substrate of semiconductor devices.
The Shirakawa facility produces large 300mm wafers, which are mainly used in the manufacturing of memory devices, such as flash memory and DRAM. The suspension of manufacturing these wafers will most severely impact memory semiconductors than any other segment.
Shin-Etsu's Shirakawa plant, which is responsible for 20% of global silicon semiconductor wafer supply, reported damages to the plant's production facilities and equipment.
Indicating uncertainty over the time period required for repair, Shin-Etsu said it would set up production systems at other facilities.
MEMC said it evacuated employees and suspended operations at its Utsunomiya plant, which accounts for 5% of global semiconductor wafer supply, according to iSupply.
Meanwhile, Japanese companies Mitsubishi Gas Chemical Company and Hitachi Kasei Polymer have also stopped production that amounts to 70% of the worldwide supply of the main raw material used to make printed circuit boards (PCBs).
The earthquake has damaged Elpida Memory's Yamagata semiconductor assembly facility, which is now having a utilisation rate at less than 50%, while half of the total wafer capacity at Fujitsu has been damaged.
The Japan quake has also damaged Renesas Electronics' 40% of the total wafer capacity, with the company stopping production at its Tsugaru fabs, Naka facility, and Takasaki and Kofu fabs.