Renesas resumes production at fire-hit chip plant: reports

Tokyo (AFP) –


Japanese chip manufacturer Renesas on Saturday restarted production about a month after a factory fire that threatens to worsen a global chip shortage, local media said.

The fire on March 19 at its plant near Tokyo came with car makers already battling semiconductor supply problems, in part because of increased demand for chips from manufacturers of laptops, tablets and gaming devices.

Renesas Electronics, a key supplier of automotive semiconductors, saw 600 square metres (6,500 square feet) of factory floor damaged in the blaze.

The company said on April 10 it completed repairs in the fire-hit cleanrooms and they came online for initial output.

Jiji Press and other news reports said the firm partially began production Saturday morning, with plans to ship initial products in about a month.

Immediate confirmation of the reports was not available.

Renesas has so far hoped to restart operations at the factory unit producing 300 mm wafers -- a key piece of tech for modern cars -- in around a month.

But the plant will not return to 100 percent capacity for "between 90 days to 120 days", CEO Hidetoshi Shibata said late last month.

Company officials were tight-lipped about which of their customers would get early supplies of semiconductors, and also said it would take more time to pinpoint the cause of the fire.

With the blaze sparking concern about the impact on the world's chip supply, Japan's government and some of Renesas's own customers, including auto giant Toyota, have offered help.

During a summit on Friday in Washington, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and President Joe Biden agreed to "partner on sensitive supply chains, including on semiconductors, promoting and protecting the critical technologies that are essential to our security and prosperity," according to their joint statement.