Fire at major chipmaker 'worse than first thought'

30 March 2021

Strained global semiconductor supply chains received another blow after it emerged a fire at a major semiconductor factory in Japan could be worse than first thought.

Renesas Electronics Corp now believes damage from a fire at its chip-making plant was more extensive than initially believed, according to Nikkei Asia.

Renesas initially reported the fire earlier this month had put 11 machines out of action, but unconfirmed reports now put that number at 17.

The fire in northeast Japan started when a machine overheated due to an electrical fault.

The company said its water supply and air conditioning were damaged in the blaze, which affected around 600 sq metres of factory space.

Renesas said it would take at least a month to resume production on its 300mm wafer line and that it could take considerably longer to replace damaged machines.

The company said: “Although approximately two-thirds of the products manufactured within N3 Building can be alternatively produced in-house or in foundries, due to the recent increase in demand for semiconductors, the situation does not allow for all products to be immediately produced alternatively.

“We will ensure to make considerations to produce as many products as fast as we can.”

The development adds to the woes of the semiconductor supply chain, which is seeing a global shortage of chips disrupting production of cars and electronic devices.

Renesas accounts for 30% of the global market for microcontroller units used in cars.

In February Renesas said supplies were likely to remain tight in the first half of 2021 due to a strong rebound in demand. 

Hidetoshi Shibata, CEO of Renesas, said: “Demand is expected to be strong in the first half of 2021. April to June will be stronger than January to March.”

The surge in demand for chips came when carmakers ramped up production after halting operations last year due to the pandemic.

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