Samsung had to stop production of DRAM and V-NAND memory at its fab near Hwaseong, South Korea, due to power outage earlier this week. Damage caused by disruption of production is something that is yet to be determined, but the company told local news agencies that it would take days to restore operations of the fab.

The power outage lasted for about a minute and was caused by an explosion of a power transmission cable at a local substation. According to media reports citing sources with knowledge of the matter, it will take Samsung two or three days to restore operations of the production facility, but the sources declined to reveal whether or not manufacturing equipment was broken.

It is unclear how many wafers containing DRAM and V-NAND memory were processed at the time of the outage and how many of them were damaged, but we do know that the fab complex produces both types of memory at the same time.

Power outages tend to happen on various semiconductor plants. Back in March 2018 a blackout took place at Samsung’s memory fab near Pyeongtaek, South Korea, whereas in June 2018 an outage happened at Yokkaichi Operations complex operated by Toshiba/Kioxia and Western Digital. In both cases the outages damaged production and caused massive financial losses.

Samsung is currently gearing up to release its new high-end smartphones in the first half of the 2020. Typically, the company (just like its rivals) is stockpiling DRAM and V-NAND memory ahead of major launches, so the consequences of the outage remain to be seen.

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Sources: Reuters, Yonhap

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  • Skeptical123 - Friday, January 3, 2020 - link

    "So the necessary 50 MW+ UPS is not really viable." lol where are you getting that from. Shocker you get a lot of "smaller" but still very "ups" systems going for the few minutes it takes to spin up the generators which they should have standing by on site... sounds like they don't though. Reply
  • wr3zzz - Thursday, January 2, 2020 - link

    The function of UPS is to provide "very short term" power for dealing with spikes or emergency shut downs when power is out. So you are thinking UPS and backup generators, which all fabs have. However, fabs of this size suck power like a small nation and even backup power for emergency "short term" relief, in addition to "very short term" relief of UPS would already be very expensive. No company would invest in full time backup. The first thing in choosing fab location is power supply. Lastly, the damage to fabs is that its yield depends on continuous production and any shutdown, even planned, will be problematic. The losses are calculated in both WIP wafers as well as loss in yield curve. Reply
  • JKflipflop98 - Thursday, January 2, 2020 - link

    You don't UPS an entire fab. As was stated, a modern fab facility uses as much juice as a small nation. In our fabs, we apply UPS solutions as needed for critical hardware that simply CAN'T go down. It would be incredibly expensive to find a battery that runs in excess of 100MW sustained output. Reply
  • edzieba - Friday, January 3, 2020 - link

    Because chip fabs use hundreds of Megawatts of power in operation. If you decide only to backup 'critical equipment', the list of critical equipment is 'all of it'. Reply
  • PeachNCream - Thursday, January 2, 2020 - link

    Someone needs to contact Elon Musk to obtain one of his "visionary" power wall kits. Reply
  • khanikun - Thursday, January 2, 2020 - link

    They could do that. The Tesla battery pack in Australia is 100 MW and cost $66 mil and like a $4-5 mil cost to operate each year. It's got a 10 year lifecycle. I'm not sure if that'd be considered a good or bad investment. I guess depends how much money they lose each time they hit a power outage.

    They had a 30 min power loss at their Pyeontaek fab and that cost them $43 mil. Today though, they have a healthy supply of chips, so probably going to be a smaller loss. Maybe a smaller battery backup for critical systems would be a cheaper and wiser investment. I don't know.
    Reply
  • jordanclock - Friday, January 3, 2020 - link

    I don't think you understand how much power it takes to run a fab. Reply
  • khanikun - Sunday, January 5, 2020 - link

    Like 50-60 MW to run a fab. The point isn't to keep the fab running, but give enough time to finish the task or reach a safe stopping point, that way you can stop production without killing any machines. Not sure how long 100 MW of power from batteries would last, but they can also tie that into twelve 4 MW Cat power generators. I guess they could ramp that up more and just run the fab on power generators, until normal power is restored.

    Or tie the battery system to the grid with multiple redundant links, so that one substation going down won't take down their power.

    Power isn't the issue. Cost to setup the backup power, generators, and maintenance is the issue. Whether it's all worth it or not.
    Reply
  • Yojimbo - Friday, January 3, 2020 - link

    You guys are aware that Samsung is free to produce as much DRAM and NAND as they want, right? If they wanted to cut their output they could do so in a less costly and disruptive way than to stage a power outage. It's not shady or illegal for Samsung to cut their output. If the power output were staged then it would be done by someone manipulating stock prices for personal gain.

    But in fact, it's almost certainly just a power outage. These plants need tremendous amounts of power and no one's lives are at stake. It's not like a hospital. A backup power plan is implemented on a cost/benefit analysis. Sure it is possible for them to have a complete backup plan, but if the cost of such a thing is more than the expectation of loses from some lesser plan than it is a bad decision to implement it. A 2 to 3 day shut down at one of their fabs is not going to bankrupt Samsung so there's no reason to bleed the company's operating margins to more fully insure against such an event.
    Reply
  • Yojimbo - Friday, January 3, 2020 - link

    BTW, by "you guys" I mean the various commenters who are suggesting Samsung staged a power outage for some reason, not the author of the article. Reply

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