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How a .07-second Power Cut Killed Memory Chips

By - Source: Tom's Hardware US | B 15 comments

Death to memory chips due to just a blink in the power.

Toshiba experienced a 0.07-second power outage at one of its NAND memory production plants. Normally a blip like that might even go unnoticed, but for Toshiba, it was a huge deal that essentially set back memory production for months.

The Japanese company estimates that the slight power blip could set back memory production by 20 percent through February. Given Toshiba's big position in the memory supply chain, this means that the single outage could cause a 7.5 percent drop in worldwide shipments, according to the Wall Street Journal.

While Toshiba normally has backup power to avoid incidents such as what happened, the voltage drop was too great for what the backup system was designed to handle. As a result, the entire line shut down.

The brief outage stalled the production of the silicon wafers from where the chips come, which ruined a process that may take eight to 12 weeks to complete. Furthermore, the air purifying and conditioning system that ensures a clean and dust-free environment for the chips was also temporarily disabled.

Although Toshiba isn't the memory maker in town, the supply drop could be enough to raise prices to the benefit of the entire industry, which major players include Samsung, Micron and Hynix.

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  • 2 Hide
    Anonymous , 13 December 2010 00:45
    lol if this happened at apple, someone would've been sued for sure.
  • 3 Hide
    Silmarunya , 13 December 2010 00:49
    Just when memory prices are once again reasonable, this happens. Sounds suspicious :p 
  • 4 Hide
    dillyflump , 13 December 2010 01:13
    SilmarunyaJust when memory prices are once again reasonable, this happens. Sounds suspicious


    I totally agree, same in the UK, remarkably as a cold winter sets in again the wholesale cost of gas goes through the roof causing peoples electricity and household gas prices to rocket. Perfectly ok that British Gas made nearly 600 million quid after tax profits during the summer without passing on lower wholesale prices to consumers.

    Another example of capatalist greed at work, and those who can just ripping off everyone else.
  • Display all 15 comments.
  • -2 Hide
    hbsource , 13 December 2010 03:20
    dillyflumpI totally agree, same in the UK, remarkably as a cold winter sets in again the wholesale cost of gas goes through the roof causing peoples electricity and household gas prices to rocket. Perfectly ok that British Gas made nearly 600 million quid after tax profits during the summer without passing on lower wholesale prices to consumers.Another example of capatalist greed at work, and those who can just ripping off everyone else.


    You're more than free to invest in Centrica (British Gas) and benefit. Stop whining, it's unbecoming.
  • 2 Hide
    dillyflump , 13 December 2010 04:07
    hbsourceYou're more than free to invest in Centrica (British Gas) and benefit. Stop whining, it's unbecoming.


    I wouldn't want to invest in them knowing there are erderly and vulnerable people freezing to death and dying because they can't afford the extortionate prices charged by some fat cat capatlist arseholes.
  • 5 Hide
    Skiddywinks , 13 December 2010 04:09
    hbsourceYou're more than free to invest in Centrica (British Gas) and benefit. Stop whining, it's unbecoming.


    Yeh, because the people struggling to pay their bills are going to have loads of money to spend on investing. Obviously.
  • -1 Hide
    hbsource , 13 December 2010 04:21
    skiddywinksYeh, because the people struggling to pay their bills are going to have loads of money to spend on investing. Obviously.


    Well comrade, maybe we should make British Gas into The Peoples Collective Gas Producing Project and make them share all their gas for free. Rejoice! Let's stuff those capitalist pigs.

  • 2 Hide
    longerlife , 13 December 2010 04:38
    hbsourceWell comrade, maybe we should make British Gas into The Peoples Collective Gas Producing Project and make them share all their gas for free. Rejoice! Let's stuff those capitalist pigs.


    They are not making frivolous luxury items, they are supplying the heat and light people need to live... These essential services should be free from price gouging, hence (even in our capitalist society) the regulatory bodies that oversee these industries.

    Clearly they are taking advantage of the adverse weather and are very slow to lower prices and very fast to increase them, I don't think criticising them should be seen as an attack on our 'way of life'!!

    The regulators are the ones who should be blamed though...
  • -1 Hide
    hbsource , 13 December 2010 04:52
    For sure the regulators have a part to play to prevent gouging but one feels the most effective way is to have a vibrant and efficient market. I'm sure centrally controlled energy distribution has been tried (pretty certain it didn't go well) and I'm sure there were a lot more people freezing to death under that same system.

    It amazes me that we go from silicone wafer manufacturing to bemoaning capitalism in a single post. I'm sure (The People's Collective of) Toshiba are all capitalist pigs intent on making fat profits... but they sure make good electronic stuff for us on the way there. PIGS.
  • 0 Hide
    silverblue , 13 December 2010 15:31
    Regulators only jump in once things have gone more than a step too far, and they do very little to reign the guilty parties in.

    I'm eagerly awaiting the inquest into rocketing car insurance premiums though I expect little to come from it.

    hbsource - it's not just RAM manufacturers. Despite the huge slump in the world's economy over the last two years, companies are still raising prices, inflation is going up, and people aren't seeing pay rises to counter this. Of course we're entitled to be a bit concerned. In Toshiba's case, if they've had an issue then that's fine, plus we know how volatile RAM prices are, however these higher prices will mean higher system build costs which, unless retailers are willing to absorb such cost rises, will result in less machines being sold. There's always a knock-on effect.
  • 1 Hide
    Gonemad , 13 December 2010 16:47
    For longer periods (< 10 secs), backup diesel generators can kick in, but anything smaller than that requires HUGE battery banks. I mean submarine huge. I guess Toshiba doesn't have them. Even flywheels in extreme cases. This a bizarre proposition, such a company, that can notice a 0.07 sec power failure, won't have proper backup systems... Fishy...
  • 0 Hide
    KlamathBFG , 13 December 2010 16:58
    It was actually a £856 Million profit which does sound like alot of money but on a business with a turnover of £22,000 Million is actually only a 3.8% profit margin which lets be honest isn't great.

    Add to that the previous years figures were a £136 Million loss and there were some one off factors that have been helping their results and you'll understand why Centrina has such a low price / earnings ratio (and this on what is effectively a defensive stock that should be doing well in current economic climate).
  • 0 Hide
    13thmonkey , 14 December 2010 01:53
    skiddywinksYeh, because the people struggling to pay their bills are going to have loads of money to spend on investing. Obviously.

    you do realise that 600Mil is about £20 Per household, i wouldn't run a business for £20 per household per year, would you.
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    hollett , 14 December 2010 03:25
    I find it hard to beleve that a 0.07 second external power outage could do that damage. I'm not sure what power system they use in japan but at 60Hz it is still only 4 cycles to cover 0.07seconds. Most system that sensitive require a UPS just to smooth out the noise from the mains supply as a 1-2 cycle drop/spike in voltage in not uncommon at all. Therfore I would say the power failure had to be internal from a failed UPS or other power regulation system.

    But still the whole factory from one blip...they are ether taking the P!$$ or had the same electrican as my mother-in-law.
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , 15 December 2010 05:40
    Taking the piss for sure! how the hell can a factory thats deals only in chip production, seriously expect anyone to belive they have just one backup system, which apparently overloaded cos the power dropped too low...

    I mean wtf! If anyone with two brain cells made a backup system, it would be double to triple redundant for staters, then it would also be capable of powering the whole production line for at least a few minutes minimum on its own, preferably a few hours so they can safely shut down production without damaging any chips, silicone production etc unecessarily.

    They claiming such a miliseconds worth of power drop can do so much damage, yeah sure, next you will hear them say a cat got loose in the factory, destroyed the whole years worth of production, now all those cheap as chips stock they got in the warehouse, suddenly became valuable again, supply and demand ftw I guess.