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Electronics Production | May 06, 2011

Japan disaster disrupts supply of crystals

Disruptions spurred by the Japan earthquake and tsunami caused shipments of crystals to be delayed by four weeks in April compared to March, impacting the supply of a critical component employed in products including cell phones and PCs, states IHS iSuppli.
The average lead time for megahertz and kilohertz crystals rose to 12 weeks in April, up 50% from eight weeks in March, as presented in the attached figure. Lead time is the period between when a maker of an electronic product places an order for a part and when that part is actually delivered.

Unusually long lead times can lead to delivery delays and short supplies of electronic products. Delivery delays, in turn, are associated with price increases.

“Because Japan is the world’s leading producer of crystals—major suppliers include Epson, NDK and Citizen—the quake crisis will cause pricing for crystals from major Japanese suppliers to climb during the next few weeks,” said Rick Pierson, senior analyst for CPT and semiconductors at IHS. “In fact, numerous Japanese crystal products are manufactured in factories located near the epicenter of the earthquake or are situated close to the coastal regions impacted by the tsunami.”

Crystals produce an electronic signal at a very precise frequency. The frequency is used in devices called oscillators to track time, manage radios, or serve as a clock that controls the function of semiconductors. Playing a key role in products ranging from wristwatches to notebook PCs and mobile phones, crystals are produced in massive volumes, with more than 2 billion units estimated to ship every year.

© IHS iSuppli

Widespread damage

Among the facilities damaged in the disaster is a supplier’s location in northern Japan that produces crystals for oscillator products. Damage was also sustained by two oscillator suppliers in Fukurawa and Kanagawa, as well as at NDK, which produces crystal oscillator products in its Furukawa, Osaki-city manufacturing site.

On a positive note, status reports from one leading manufacturer of quartz crystals and oscillators that are sold in cylindrical, plastic, metal and ceramic packages show production has restarted at that manufacturer’s Yamanashi, Funehiki-cho, Tamura-shi and Fukushima-ken plants. However, aftershocks and recurring disruptions to the local power grid continue to delay the resumption of normal operations.

High-end filters impacted

IHS iSuppli research indicates that Japan’s production of high-end electromagnetic interference (EMI) filters also has been impacted by the disaster, delaying delivery of these parts. Such filters are used for noise suppression and are utilized in high-end electronic products, including top-of-the-line smart phones and cell phones.

One supplier in Miyagi prefecture confirmed that the quake has affected a factory that manufactures wire wound filters, which will have an impact on shipments after April.

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