A half-hour power outage at Samsung’s fab near Pyeongtaek, South Korea, disrupted production and damaged tens of thousands of processed wafers. Media reports claim that the outage destroyed as much as 3.5% of the global NAND supply for March, which may have an effect on flash memory pricing in the coming weeks.

The outage happened on March 9 and lasted for about 30 minutes, according to a news story from Taiwain-based TechNews that cites further South Korean reports. The report claims that the outage damaged 50,000 to 60,000 of wafers with V-NAND flash memory, which represent 11% of Samsung’s monthly output. The report further estimates that the said amount equates to approximately 3.5% of global NAND output, but does not elaborate whether it means wafer output or bit output.

Samsung uses its fab near Pyeongtaek to produce 64-layer V-NAND chips used for various applications. The fab is among the largest flash production facilities in the world and therefore any disruption there has an effect on the global output of non-volatile memory. Meanwhile, since production lines have not been damaged and the fab is back online, the significance of such an effect is limited.

Power outages tend to happen on various semiconductor plants and at times they harm production wafers. Typically, companies can deal with the situation and unless manufacturing lines get damaged, major shortages of memory never happen if problems at fabs do not occur in peak seasons when manufacturers are building up stocks of new products. According to the report, Samsung has a stockpile of NAND chips, which is expected to enable to company to fulfill its short-term shipments commitments.

Samsung itself has already produced volumes of its latest Galaxy S9/S9+ smartphones it needed to support channel sales in the coming months, therefore it is not going to require massive amounts of NAND memory in the coming weeks. Meanwhile, other major consumers of NAND will start to build up inventory of memory only later this year when they start to prep for product launches in August or September.

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Source: TechNews

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  • Samus - Friday, March 16, 2018 - link

    Actually insurance may deny this claim if the underwriting had a rider requiring backup generators. TEPCO in Japan has been declined by all insurance claims for Fukushima because after investigation, they failed to meet some basic insurance requirements, in particular a warning from the 90's when a backup generator flooded and they were told to move them above ground. Obviously, that didn't happen, so future claims related to flooding were naturally denied.

    The same thing happened to a client of mine years ago when their previous IT dept failed to identify the tape backup system malfunctioned and the carbonite subscription expired and stopped running current backups. When the RAID array crashed, there most recent backups by that point were 2 months old and they had some huge project deadlines coming up. Data recovery cost $17,000 for the array drives since all backup systems were out of date.

    They tried to file a claim with the insurance for $17,000 and it was denied due to negligence.

    If something is avoidable, and not a true accident or an act of God, insurance will find a legal way to deny a claim.
  • Ushio01 - Saturday, March 17, 2018 - link

    How much power do you think they need? Even small fabs need a constant 10's of MW's of power big ones need 80MW's plus.
  • saratoga4 - Friday, March 16, 2018 - link

    >11% implies roughly 3.3 days to complete a wafer

    It takes several months to complete a logic wafer, and about 1-2 months for a NAND wafer. 3.3 days is too low because not all wafers are destroyed by a power outage, likely only those that were actually being etched or deposited were lost.
  • Calin - Friday, March 16, 2018 - link

    This is 64-layers flash. I would assume they brick the entire wafer if one of the layers go bad. So, I don't know how long (or short) it takes to work on a single layer, but you must multiply that by 64 to get the actual number of affected wafers.
  • psychobriggsy - Friday, March 16, 2018 - link

    64 layers times however many fab exposures per layer (probably several), plus base logic exposures. There will be a long fab pipeline, and multiple pipelines, so that Samsung can make enough NAND to make the whole thing worthwhile. Those pipelines appear to have 3.3 days worth of wafers in process at any given time.
  • edzieba - Friday, March 16, 2018 - link

    "If that was the case wouldn't they have multiple redundant battery backups?"
    Fabs use 100+ MEGAwatts of power during operation. That's not something you can feasibly run off any sane battery array for more than a minute or two.
  • edzieba - Friday, March 16, 2018 - link

    And when it comes to "just run only essential equipment": the essential equipment is ALL of it. Cut power to the FEoL/BEoL equipment mid cycle, and Bad Things happen to the wafers inside and potentially the machines themselves. Cut power to the chemical processor and anything in the deposition process is similarly effected. Cut power to HVAC and everything in the cleanroom needs to be considered contaminated.
  • mark4asp - Saturday, March 17, 2018 - link

    Battery backup may be able to keep an office running for ½ hour. Not a factory requiring high temperatures.

    Your reply is very suspicious. Maybe, you vastly underestimate the amount of energy needed to make silicon wafers.
  • iter - Friday, March 16, 2018 - link

    Well, I highly doubt that they don't have power generators or at the very least insurance that outta cover the damage.

    As highly as I doubt they will miss on using that as an excuse to jack prices up.

    The semiconductor industry is gradually adopting the "make more money on doing less work" technique, using an increasing array of excuses to jack up prices while simultaneously sacking hard working people. In the long run that doesn't bode well for anyone save for corporate executives.

    There probably was a power outage, and samsung probably doesn't have to use that as an excuse to jack up prices, and they will probably jack them anyway, and the price jack will probably extend far beyond making up for any alleged company losses.
  • iter - Friday, March 16, 2018 - link

    And of course, other, completely unaffected flash makers will use that as an excuse too.

    "Oh see, 3.5 % of a month's flash production was lost, lets jack prices up by 10% for the next 4 months"

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