April 7, 2021

Another Semiconductor Chip Factory Destroyed By Fire

Renesas semiconductor factory fire image

The part of the music industry that uses semiconductor chips was already reeling from the AKM factory fire last October, and now there’s been another – this time at the giant Renesas Electronics factory in Hitachinaka, Ibaraki Prefecture, Japan – just north of Tokyo. While on the surface the AKM fire seems to be more directly related to parts used by the audio industry, the Renasas fire could have a major impact on the industry as well.

What Happened

The fire broke out on the first floor of the Renasas Naka building and totally destroyed 17 machines that start the process of making semiconductor chips. Several other machines were also damaged, as well the the company’s clean room on that floor, something that’s essential for chip fabrication. While the company figures that the machines may be replaced by late April, it’s been determined that it will take about 6 months to come back up to full production.

The blaze was electrical in nature caused by an overload that many attributed to running at over-capacity to make up for the world-wide chip shortage that’s been taking place. Thanks to the pandemic, manufacturing schedules had been disrupted, and bad weather around the world also took its toll.

How It Affects Audio Gear

While many other industries look to be hit harder from the semiconductor shortage than MI and audio (smart phones and autos to name a few), the industry is still feeling the squeeze from the shortage as essential parts prices have risen as their availability has decreased. What could happen is that chip manufacturers who specialize in audio-centric chips change their fabrication schedules in order to meet the demand of the larger deep-pocketed industries like automotive. That would mean fewer of the audio-related parts available until the chip industry catches up with the backlog.

While the Renesas and AKM factories were in Japan, the fact of the matter is that 83% of the worlds processor chips and 70% of the memory chips are manufactured in South Korea and Taiwan. It doesn’t take much to put a strain on the supply chain and the dual Japanese fires coupled with the pandemic has done exactly that. As a result, even the parts that go into making computer chips like silicon substrates have gone up for everyone.

The bottom line is expect to pay more for your MI and audio devices in the coming year.


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