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Japan quake: Sony resumes laser fab operations

07 Apr 2011

Sony has partially re-opened its semiconductor laser fab, while other photonics companies impacted by the disaster are battling power cuts.

Sony, one of the photonics companies that was worst-hit by the earthquake off Japan’s Pacific coast last month, has partially resumed operations at its semiconductor laser fab.

The facility, part of Sony’s Shiroishi Semiconductor division, makes components including blue laser diodes for both Sony’s own Blu-ray Disc and PlayStation3 products, and external customers. It is located in Miyagi Prefecture – close to Sendai, the city that was worst-hit by the events on March 11. Sony did not give any details about the scale of the resumption, which began on April 6.

The electronics giant has also reported progress at its Kanuma plant in Tochigi Prefecture, which makes optical materials, among other products. After an initial resumption shortly after the quake, operations were further expanded on March 23.

Of the other photonics companies that were hit by the disaster, Canon now says that it will resume production operations at its Utsunomiya Optical Products Plant, located in Tochigi Prefecture, in mid-April. The company’s optics research and development center, also in Utsunomiya, resumed operations on March 22, and is fully functioning.

Meanwhile Nikon, which has one of its own plants and seven manufacturing subsidiaries in the worst-hit areas of the country, said that all of those facilities were back up-and-running as of March 30. But the maker of cameras and lithography equipment did sound a warning about its ability to resume full operations in the light of power cuts impacting Japan.

“It has been becoming clearer that we will be able to secure components including their replacements through our investigation of the current conditions and possible measures to secure the procurement in our collaboration with our business partners,” said Nikon. “However, we have a concern that the situation may continue where our production cannot fully satisfy our customers' requirements due to inability of full-swing production, worsened by the planned electricity blackouts. While we will do our utmost effort to overcome such expected difficulties, we will be most grateful if our customers could understand such circumstances.”

Glass production
Makers of optical glass appear to have been hit less badly by the disaster, although because a constant electricity supply is required for glass and optics production, there are fears in some quarters that the power cuts may put pressure on optics suppliers outside of Japan to step up production to maintain supplies of key components.

Of the glass companies, Asahi Glass has said that there was no critical damage to its display glass operations in Yonezawa, where small- and mid-sized LCD glass substrates are manufactured. “Among the company’s outsourcers that handle a part of [Asahi’s] processing operations, some building facilities have been damaged, and urgent restoration work is underway,” the company added.

Asahi has also resumed production at its Koriyama plant in Fukushima Prefecture, where it makes optoelectronics and semiconductor-related materials. “The plant will be able to resume production of all products in two to three weeks,” said the company in early April, adding that the impact on Asahi’s flat-panel display business overall would be limited.

SPECTROGON ABSchaefter und Kirchhoff GmbHHyperion OpticsPhoton Engineering, LLCDIAMOND SAOmicron-Laserage Laserprodukte GmbHFocuslight Technologies
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