A Brief 0.07-Second Power Outage at a Factory Can Cause a 20% Drop In Chip Shipments

A very, very brief power outage at a Toshiba factory forced the company to completely halt operations at the critical plant. This could mean as much as a 20% drop in chip shipments which could lead to product shortages everywhere.

First, how the hell can a split second power outage do so much damage to a presumably well-oiled machine that is a chipmaking facility? Well it can because the chipmaking process is so damn precise. (And it also can when the backup generators die, like in this case.)

A Toshiba spokesman said that "if the outage stops even for a moment, the air-purifying and conditioning system in a clean room (an area free of microscopic airborne particles that could damage a chip) all the chips inside may be ruined." The chips inside that "clean room" during the outage were NAND flash memory (widely used in products everywhere, especially Apple's).

The exact amount of damage isn't known yet and they're planning to fire up the factory sometime Friday, but as it stands now they're expecting a 20% decline in output for January and February. That could be huge given that Toshiba makes up 40% of the NAND Flash memory market but luckily, demand is typically down in the early months (post holiday season) and Apple (a big buyer of NAND Flash memory) is supposedly okay. But if you find iPad 2 supplies to be in short supply, this may be why. [WSJ]

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