Feeds

Is Taiwan weak link in global chip chain?

Powering up for the weekend, writes Simon Burns from Taipei

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

In the aftermath of the earthquake, attention is being focused on Taiwan's chip and component makers as the weakest link in the global electronics supply chain. Most makers of finished products said they were ready to restart production. However, at 20 or more fabs(fabrication facilities) belonging to chip makers in Hsinchu, power was only gradually being restored. Industry watchers drew attention to potential safety concerns at the high-tech facilities. "It may be that they can't go into the fabs, because it could be like the surface of Venus in there with the chemicals and gasses that are used, "speculated one analyst, "If you've got one or two pipes loose, you could fry yourself walking in there. We really don't know what's going on in a lot of the fabs right now." "I haven't heard dire stories yet," commented Dan Heyler of Merrill Lynch in Taipei, "but fabs typically are full of gasses, and they're very toxic and also corrosive." Each day of lost production costs Hsinchu's semiconductor manufacturers US$20 million, Heyler said. Assuming power is restored over the weekend as predicted, he continued, It's very likely that most companies would return to normal production, though not necessarily at full capacity, by the end of next week. "It's very good that they have partial power, they can begin inspections, and get the chemicals cleaned up and recalibrate equipment, which takes 24 hours or so." Sources at Winbond Electronics said last night the company had 80 per cent power at one facility in Hsinchu. Assistant vice-president denied rumours that toxic chemicals had been released inside the clean room. The quartz glass lining of at least one furnace was broken, he said, but could be replaced relatively easily. Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC) representatives said they had partial power. Staff at both companies said they expected full power to be restored over the weekend. Makers of simpler components such as capacitors, resistors, power sub-assemblies, and printed circuit boards were less seriously affected by the quake, according to Paul Meyer, an analyst at Credit Lyonnais Securities Asia. "Structural damage has been limited, and there are fewer critical processes," Meyer said, "So if you do have the electricity suddenly cut off… as soon as it comes on again, you can restart production - you can pretty much take up where you left off." "We don't really see normal operations for these guys until early next week. When power comes up, they recalibrate their SMT (Surface Mount Technology) lines, they recalibrate their equipment. That's a pretty quick process for the midstream and downstream companies." With the Xmas high season approaching, short supply of chips and other components was the biggest worry for the computer industry, said Daniel Lee spokesman for Behavior Tech Corporation, which makes CD-ROM drives at a factory in the Chung Li Industrial Park, north of Hsinchu. "Regarding our factory and equipment, nothing was damaged during the earthquake. Problems with the electricity supply may delay some of our production lines for CD-ROM drives, but we think that may not be so serious. The output of our Taiwan factory is less than 20 per cent of our total global sales. Our factory in mainland China occupies more than 70 or 80 percent of our sales." "We buy the CD-ROM decoder chip from local suppliers - maybe production will be delayed," Lee said. The company's chips are made by a subsidiary of Hsinchu-based United Microelectronics Corp. The Chung Li factory would be ready to resume operation on Friday, Lee said, but because of an upcoming public holiday the restart would be delayed until Monday. The upcoming mid-autumn holiday could give some companies a breathing space in which to assess and repair damage. Notebook maker Quanta computer is one of many that have asked employees to work over the weekend to make up lost production. ®

Next gen security for virtualised datacentres

More from The Register

next story
6 Obvious Reasons Why Facebook Will Ban This Article (Thank God)
Clampdown on clickbait ... and El Reg is OK with this
No, thank you. I will not code for the Caliphate
Some assignments, even the Bongster decline must
Caught red-handed: UK cops, PCSOs, specials behaving badly… on social media
No Mr Fuzz, don't ask a crime victim to be your pal on Facebook
Barnes & Noble: Swallow a Samsung Nook tablet, please ... pretty please
Novelslab finally on sale with ($199 - $20) price tag
Ballmer leaves Microsoft board to spend more time with his b-balls
From Clippy to Clippers: Hi, I see you're running an NBA team now ...
Banking apps: Handy, can grab all your money... and RIDDLED with coding flaws
Yep, that one place you'd hoped you wouldn't find 'em
Video of US journalist 'beheading' pulled from social media
Yanked footage featured British-accented attacker and US journo James Foley
Call of Duty daddy considers launching own movie studio
Activision Blizzard might like quality control of a CoD film
Primetime precrime? Minority Report TV series 'being developed'
I have to know. I have to find out what happened to my life
prev story

Whitepapers

A new approach to endpoint data protection
What is the best way to ensure comprehensive visibility, management, and control of information on both company-owned and employee-owned devices?
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Maximize storage efficiency across the enterprise
The HP StoreOnce backup solution offers highly flexible, centrally managed, and highly efficient data protection for any enterprise.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.