Live from Japan, longtime semiconductor exec Takeshi Hattori describes the situation facing semiconductor fabs -- and why power blackouts are the real problem, not earthquake or tsunami damage. Hattori writes us from Tokyo.
March 17, 2011 -- The Japanese government announced this afternoon (March 17) that the shortage of electricity might cause an area blackout in Greater Tokyo this evening due to increasing electricity consumption, resulting from very cold weather in East Japan. This is in addition to the already scheduled blackouts.
The government has now requested Japan Rail and private railway companies to further reduce the number of train services this evening in Greater Tokyo area. If not, a greater Tokyo blackout would occur. Fujitsu and many other companies have requested their employees return home as soon as possible. The nuclear power station's situation becomes worse, and radiation levels are increasing. Water jetting by armed Tokyo police special cars was delayed for many hours because there is a possibility of a water explosion and people must escape from the location. It will start in a few hours. The car is originally designed for violent crowd control, and it is uncertain if it will work well or not in the current situation.
As of March 17:
After the big earthquake [8.9 on the Richter scale on March 11], we have many smaller afterquakes every day. Now (21:32 and 21.55) I felt shakes; magnitude 5.8 for both. This kind of afterquakes also causes difficulty of restart of fab operation.
Japanese people think that the safety myth has completely disappeared from Japan and no further nuclear power reactors will be able to be installed in Japan. The nuclear business of Toshiba outside Japan will also become difficult.
Japanese fab status as of March 17. Also reference SST's List of facilities impacted
The East Japan Earthquake has caused serious damage and troubles in East Japan (which includes Kanto, koshin-etsu and Tohoku's northeastern districts) and no damage in West Japan (Kyoto, Osaka, Hiroshima cities, and Kyushu and Shikoku islands). The fabs in West Japan are operational, including Elpida Memory in Hiroshima; Sony's Kumamoto, Kagoshima, and Nagasaki plants; Toshiba's Oita plant, and Renesas Electronics' Kumamoto and Yamaguchi plants, among many others. The report below deals with fabs in East Japan only.
From Monday, March 14 morning, so-called "scheduled blackouts" started on the Great Kanto Plane, including the Greater Tokyo area, due to a shortage of electricity resulting from the shutdown of the fatally damaged Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station in Fukushima Prefecture, which is owned by the Tokyo Electric company.
In the Tohoku District in Northeastern Japan, close to the epicenter of the quake, the Tohoku Electric Company (based in Sendai) started similar scheduled blackouts due to serious damage of power stations and wire networks. Scheduled blackouts mean several hours of blackout each day but the blackout period changes every day area by area; sometimes morning, and sometimes afternoon or evening. This will make fab operations difficult in these areas (East Japan). Particularly, crystal growth and thermal oxidation and diffusion are impossible. Crystal growth takes long hours under a stable temperature. Furnace operations also require a long time to reach a stable temperature. An instant blackout would damage crystal furnace tubes.
Each firm has electricity generators designed for emergency use; capacity is very limited (not enough to operate the whole fab). Also, the generators cannot be used everyday due to fuel shortage. Japanese buildings are designed to withstand earthquake shocks, and fabs are generally located far from the ocean to avoid sodium contamination, so the main reason of shutdown is not the earthquake or tsunami but the intentional blackout. Nobody knows when the daily blackouts will come to an end, but they may continue till the end of April. The only exception of the blackout is railways (this is based on the order of the government though the electricity company did not want any exception), because social confusion occurred when all train services stopped in greater Tokyo last Friday.
Toshiba Corp.'s Yokkaichi Plant, Yokkaichi, Mie Prefecture, which is Japan's largest semiconductor manufacturing plant responsible for flash memory manufacturing jointly with SanDisk, has no structural damage though some pieces of equipment were shut down due to very weak shakes. Yokkaichi is located near Nagoya, in between Tokyo and Kyoto/Osaka, very far from the epicenter. The plant has already re-started operations. Iwate Toshiba Electronics, in Iwate Prefecture, Toshiba's wholly owned subsidiary for SoC manufacturing, has damage in buildings and infrastructure because it is located near the epicenter. (The company gave up SoC production beyond 45nm last year, with Samsung and Global Foundries as suppliers of 32nm and beyond SoCs, so Toshiba can put emphasis on the business of both flash memories and nuclear power stations.) Last fall, Bill Gates visited Toshiba Research Center in Yokohama -- not the semiconductor development division but the nuclear power engineering division -- for joint future development of nuclear power supply systems.
Yamagata Renesas, a wholly owned subsidiary of Renesas Electronics (formerly known as NEC Yamagata, NEC's major semiconductor fab) in Tsuruoka, Yamagata Prefecture, has virtually no damage, although many pieces of equipment automatically shut down. Due to the scheduled blackout, normal operation will be difficult.
The Renesas Tusgaru Plant, in Gosho-Gawara, Aomori Prefecture, has some damage to the building; damage inside the plant is unknown due to the blackout.
At the Renesas Electronics, Hitachinaka wafer processing plant (formerly known as Hitachi's Hitachinaka Plant) there is damage to both the infrastructure and equipment. No further information is available because of the blackout.
At the Renesas Electronics, Takasaki wafer processing plant (formerly known as Hitachi's Takasaki plant), there is a small amount of damage to the building, but no damage to the equipment. They are preparing for the blackouts. Similarly, the company's Kohu wafer processing plant reports partial damage to building and equipment, and is preparing for blackouts.
Renesas assembly plant in Yamagata Prefecture reports damage to building and equipment, but should be operational under the scheduled blackouts.
Renesas headquarters plant in Ohme, Tokyo, which performs assembly, reports no damage, and has already restarted operation, but it is restricted by scheduled blackouts.
The following plants have damage to both the building and equipment and are not operational:
Fujitsu Semiconductor's Iwate plant in Iwate prefecture;
Fujitsu Semiconductor's Aizu-Wakamatsu plant in Fukushima Prefecture;
Fujitsu integrated Microtechnology's Miyagi plant in Miyagi prefecture;
Fujitsu Semiconductor Technology's Aizu-Wakamatsu headquarters plant
in Fukushima prefecture.
Texas Instruments' Miho Plant in Ibaraki Prefecture has damage to the infrastructure. It will take some three weeks to fix, but due to scheduled blackouts, will be partially operational this May and fully operational this July. Full shipments will start this September. Miho Plant covers some 10% of all the TI product manufacturing. TI's Aizu plant in Fukushima Prefecture, formerly known as the plant for Spansion, has little damage and can be operational, but again the scheduled blackouts are preventing restart.
The Seiko Epson wafer processing plant in Sakata, Yamagata Prefecture, has damage and is not operational.
The main plant in Gunma Prefecture has started operation. The Advanced Research Center in Sendai, near the epicenter, has damage and is still under blackout.
Building and equipment were damaged in Hitachi High-Technologies' Naka Office in Hitachinaka, Ibaraki Prefecture, Hitachi High-tech Manufacturing & Service Corp in Hitachinaka City, Ibaraki Prefecture, Hitachi High-tech Control Systems Corp. in Mito, Ibaraki Prefecture, and the Kitanihon Service Station of Hitachi High-tech Engineering Service Corp. jn Natori, Miyagi Prefecture.
Canon's Utsunomiya Pant, in Utsunomiya, Tochigi Prefecture, responsible for stepper manufacturing, has damage to the building and equipment.
It is presently not operational.
Tohoku University in Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture
The campus and buildings have been closed till the end of April. No classes and no research for two months. Access to the buildings is restricted, so damage levels inside are not known.
There was no damage to Disco facilities and they are operational. They have materials and parts to be used for six months as their stock, so do not expect problems for equipment shipments.
Their Chiba plant in Chiba Prefecture re-started operation. Their Misawa Plant in Aomori Prefecture is preparing restart of operation. Their Tsukuba research center in Ibaraki Prefecture has damage and is not yet operational.
Oki Semiconductor Miyagi, in Miyagi prefecture, which performas wafer processing, has no water or electricity and is not operational.
Rohm Tsukuba, in Ibaraki prefecture, which manufactures diodes and transistors (formerly LSI Logic Japan Plant) has no water supply, and is not operational. They expect to be operational in a few days.
Tokyo Electron Ltd. (TEL), Tokyo-based Japan's largest semiconductor equipment supplier, has three major subsidiaries in Tohoku (northeastern) district, very near the epicenter. All of them are not operational as of March 17 evening and will not be operational for few weeks though their damage level is little.
Tokyo Electron Tohoku Ltd., in Iwate Prefecture, manufacturing thermal furnace systems: lifelines have just been available, so it is to become operational in two weeks, hopefully.
Tokyo Electron AT Ltd, in Miyagi Prefecture, manufacturing dry etching systems, and Tokyo Electron Technology Development Institute, Ltd, in Sendai, Miyagi prefecture: lifelines are not available as of today. If lifelines become available, the former will start operation within 2 to 4 weeks and the latter is to be operational in one week. Tokyo Electron AT has another plant in Nirasaki in Yamanashi prefecture. The plant has no damage, so the firm plans to increase production of etching systems there instead.
JSR's Kashima Plant in Ibaraki Prefecture is not operational because water and steam are not yet available. Its Chiba plant in Chiba prefecture has become operational.
Shin-Etsu Handotai (SHE)'s Shirakawa Plant in Fukushima prefecture, the firms' 300mm wafer manufacturing base, is not operational. Three workers were injured there. The safety check of each tool is in progress, but still many minor earthquakes have occurred, and progress is slow. Some equipment damages have been found. Inspection still continues and it is not yet clear the time of recovery and operation.
SHE's Gunma Factory in Annaka, Gunma Prefecture is ready after equipment inspection, but due to the scheduled daily blackouts, it will be difficult to start silicon crystal growth.
SUMCO's Yonezawa plant in Yonezawa prefecture, manufacturing 300mm bulk and SOI wafers: operation has been suspended.
MEMC's 300mm wafercutting and polishing plant in Utsunomiya in Tochigi prefecture: operation has been suspended.
Sony Shiroishi Semiconductor, near Sendai, in Miyagi prefecture, Sony's wholly owned semiconductor laser manufacturing subsidiary, has damage and stopped operation.
Elpida has a DRAM assembly subsidiary in Akita Prefecture, in Northeastern district, named Akita Elpida Memory. It has become operational.
Takeshi Hattori, president of Hattori Consulting International, has more than 36 years experience in the semiconductor field. He spent over three decades at Sony, including work in silicon materials (clean surface prep, thermal oxidation, contamination/defect control). He was head of Sony's Ultra Clean Technology Research Lab involved in development of single-wafer spin cleaning and surface preparation technologies, non-aqueous and supercritical-fluid cleaning, and yield enhancement strategies. He is a Fellow of the Electrochemical Society, founding member of the International Symposium on Semiconductor Manufacturing, member of SEMI's Japan regional standards committee and SEMI/SEAJ Forum, and The Confab advisory board, among many others.
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