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Japan disaster hits technology manufacturers

Companies including Sony, Panasonic, Canon, Shin-Etsu forced to curtail manufacturing

Japan disaster hits technology manufacturers
Japan's technology industry has been hard-hit by the devastating earthquake and tsunami that struck recently. Companies including Sony, Panasonic and Nikon have had to curtail manufacturing or shut down damaged factories.

Following the devastating Japan earthquake and tsunami, several electronics component makers have been knocked offline or had to curtail production due to damages to factories and production lines, according to Reuters.

Output at one factory in Iwate prefecture, making system LSI chips for Toshiba's microprocessors and image sensors, has been stopped and there is no indication of when it is likely to begin production again.

A Toshiba assembly line at a plant making small liquid crystal displays for smartphones and other devices will also be closed for a month to repair damaged machinery.

Sony is being forced to reduce or suspend production at five of its plants making digital cameras, camera lenses, flat-screen TVs and other goods in central and southern Japan, due to shortages of parts and raw materials.

One of the company's other plants may be being affected by rolling power-outages and six production sites have been halted since the quake struck.

Sony has said that if shortages continue, it may consider temporarily shifting some production overseas.

Canon is suspending its Japan camera production sites until later this week due to shortages of parts.

Nikon is working to restore four quake-damaged facilities, including two of its precision-equipment plants. The company has not indicated when the plants will re-open.

However, since most of Nikon's cameras and lenses are produced in Thailand it will not affect that part of its business.

Reports have suggested that Apple may also have problems getting components for the new iPad 2, including its flash memory - used for audio and video storage - and its super-thin battery. Apple has not commented on the reports.

Panasonic has been forced to close its manufacturing facilities in northern Japan and has no timetable for reopening these.

Factories closed include plants making optical pick-ups and other electronic parts, digital cameras and audio equipment.

None of the plants have been badly damaged bit infrastructure needs to be restored before manufacturing can restart.

World number five chipmaker, Renesas Electronics, has restarted operations at one semiconductor plant but production at another six of its 22 factories in Japan remained suspended.

Leading manufacturer of silicon wafers, Shin-Etsu Chemical has two of its plants offline. The plants are both near the worst-hit areas of Japan and the company has not indicated when the factories will be back online.

Shin-Etsu wafers are shipped to companies overseas, whose production will also be affected.

The company is trying to boost wafer production elsewhere to make up the shortfall.

MEMC Electronic Materials Inc, another silicon wafer manufacturer has also halted operation at its Utsunomiya plant..

Japan produces 25% of the world's silicon wafers, used to make semiconductors. These two companies supply silicon wafers to businesses across the globe.

Analysts are expecting the prices of Japanese-based chips to shoot skywards in the coming days.

Japan produces around a fifth of the world's computer chips which brought in revenue of $63.8 billion last year.

The country also exported $91.3 billion worth of electronic parts last year, research from Mirae Asset Securities shows.


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