Fire destroys 5% of Renesas semiconductor cleanroom

The company has halted 12-inch wafer production as a fire destroys 600 sqm of cleanroom at the N3 building in Japan

300 mm Production Facilities 2 (Naka Factory). Image courtesy of Renesas Electronics Corporation

Renesas Electronics Corporation, one of the world's largest semiconductor manufacturers, has reported the occurrence of a fire on 19 March in a Japanese facility.

The fire occurred at the N3 Building (300 mm line) of the Naka Factory (located in Hitachinaka, Ibaraki Prefecture).

The fire broke out on the 12-inch wafer production line and was extinguished on the same day.

Site investigation led by the police and the fire department confirmed the cause of the fire to be the plating equipment, one of the processes within the N3 building. The casing of the equipment and the plating tank has a relatively low resistance to heat, and the equipment ignited due to overcurrent. However, the cause of the overcurrent and the reason for the ignition is currently being investigated.

The ongoing worldwide shortage of semiconductors due to increased demand is not helping matters. "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," Renesas stated. "We will ensure to make considerations to produce as many products as fast as we can."

In regard to the restarting operations at the N3 Building, Renesas explained: "We will clean the interior of the cleanroom and procure replacements of the burned equipment with the support of our partner companies and manufacturing equipment suppliers, and we aim to resume production within one month."

Though Renesas is aiming for production to be back up in a month, companies like TrendForce, estimate it will take far longer. "The repair of the production line will have to proceed meticulously so as to avoid the risks of manufacturing-related problems in the mass production of automotive chips later on," TrendForce stated.

Three months is TrendForce's conservative estimate for the fab to regain its former level of wafer-start capacity, meaning the tight supply of automotive MCUs will be further exacerbated going forward, as Renesas is the world-leading provider.

The damage

Firstly, and most importantly, there were no casualties of the fire, that occurred around 3 am.

While there was no damage to the building, Renesas confirmed damages to some of the utility equipment such as the pure water supply and the air conditioning as well as to some of the manufacturing equipment.

The impact:

  • The burned area is approximately 600 sqm, which is around 5% of the cleanroom area (12,000 sqm) of the N3 Building.
  • The burned manufacturing equipment was 11 units, which is around 2% of the manufacturing equipment of the N3 Building.
  • The production at N3 Building has temporarily halted. Renesas will make an announcement on when it aims to resume production.
  • The production at N2 Building (200mm line) and the WT Building (wafter testing) is operating as usual and will continue product shipment.
  • The impacts to manufacturing equipment, work-in-process and the financial impacts to company is undetermined and is currently under investigation.

The financial impact from halting the N3 Building production has been estimated by Renesas to be approximately 17 billion yen ($156m) per month.

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