Samsung forced to halt chip production in Austin due to power outages

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Samsung has temporarily halted chip production at its facilities in Austin, TX in response to the region’s power outages brought on by Winter Storm Uri, the Austin American-Statesman reports. “With prior notice, appropriate measures have safely been taken for the facilities and wafers in production,” Samsung said in a statement, “We will resume production as soon as power is restored.” On Tuesday, Austin Energy confirmed it had ordered its biggest customers to shut down, although it’s unknown how long they were without power.

The shutdowns were ordered as some 200,000 Austin homes were without power.

What’s unclear at the moment is whether production of Apple’s Mac Pro, which is manufactured in Austin, has also been affected. A spokesperson from Apple did not immediately return a request for comment. Other big Austin manufacturers, including NXP Semiconductors and Infineon Semiconductors, were also reportedly shut down.

“Appropriate measures have safely been taken for the facilities and wafers in production”

The Statesman reports that the shutdown has the potential to cost Samsung millions, especially if manufacturing processes were suddenly interrupted. Tom’s Hardware notes that in March 2018 an unplanned 30 minute outage at one of Samsung’s plants in South Korea resulted in damage to tens of thousands of wafers, equivalent to 11 percent of its NAND flash output for the month. However, given Samsung had prior notice of the Austin shutdown, it presumably avoided any damage.

Samsung’s Austin factory started mass manufacturing memory chips in the late 90s, and over the years has produced DRAM, NAND, and mobile processors. Samsung’s website notes it’s primarily focused on producing chips with a 14nm process. A recent report said the company is considering building a new chipmaking plant in the region, capable of producing processors as advanced as 3nm.

Austin Energy General Manager Jackie Sargent said in comments reported by the Statesman that the energy company had initially asked industrial users to try to conserve energy, and had also tried using backup generators to help the situation. However, eventually Sargent says the manufacturers had to be asked to shut down completely. “We reached out to our largest customers, and in partnership with them, they shut down their facilities,” Sargent said.

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