Renesas to restart quake-hit factory earlier than expected

More than 2,000 staff are working to bring the Renesas chip plant back online

Renesas Electronics expects to restart production at a quake-hit factory in east Japan in mid June, about two weeks earlier than initially planned, it said Friday.

The company's Naka factory in Ibaraki prefecture, northwest of Tokyo, was damaged during the magnitude 9.0 earthquake on March 11 and has been out of action ever since.

The quake rocked machinery at the plant and left it misaligned. Chip making it a highly automated process with no room for error so any misalignment in machinery means production cannot take place. The company also needs time to filter particles from the air to restore the "clean room" environment in which chips are made.

About 2,000 workers have been called in from across the company to aid in the recovery work. Renesas has been able to bring up the anticipated restart of production because restoration work is going better than expected, said Kyoko Okamoto, a spokeswoman for the Kawasaki company.

Test production on a 200-millimeter (8-inch) wafer line will begin on Saturday and, if all goes well, mass production should begin in mid June. The company did not say when a more advanced 300-millimeter line would resume wafer processing.

The disruption has pushed Renesas to move production of some chips to its other factories in Japan. In some cases, it has shifted production to other chip makers until the factory is up and running again.

Renesas Electronics is a little over a year old. It was formed in April 2010 through the merger of NEC Electronics and Renesas Technology, which itself was created in 2003 from the chip-making units of Hitachi and Mitsubishi Electric.

The company said it will provide a further update on the plant in mid May.

Martyn Williams covers Japan and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Martyn on Twitter at @martyn_williams. Martyn's e-mail address is martyn_williams@idg.com

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