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02.19.2021

The commodity chip supply chain suffered another major disruption after the state of Texas reported widespread power shortages and rolling blackouts caused by Winter Storm Uri and ill-timed infrastructure construction. The ramifications left most Texas cities without heat, electricity and in some cases water.

Texas has been a US hub for chip manufacturing and electronics production for years. Major manufacturers in the state who report affected plant operations include Samsung, NXP and Infineon. As of Mar. 5, the fabs had not yet resumed operations. 

Plant interruptions are likely to decrease overall production at a time when chips' demand is already higher than capacity can provide. Idle fabs during intermittent power disruptions could also lead to lost silicon or wafers themselves, further crippling the industry trying to weather existing wafer shortages.

Samsung reported they were able to shut down their Austin plant with enough notice to protect silicon wafers and equipment, but the pause in production is still anticipated to affect supply of memory and logic chips requiring mature-node processing. The extended idle of the fab will require additional downtime before normal production can resume. 

"While we are currently making efforts to resume operations as soon as possible, the process may require more time to reach normal levels as we inspect and reconfigure the facility," a statement by the company reads. "Our primary focus is to ensure safety on-site for our workforce as well as for our community." NAND flash and SSD pricing is already increasing as a result. 

TrendForce reported Samsung's Austin fab produces primarily 11nm and 14nm nodes, which are often used in Qualcomm's 5G RFICs. Otherwise, the fab produces lines that cover a wide range of nodes, notably automotive chips for Tesla and Renesas. 

NXP, which has 25-30% of global market share of automotive MCUs, has two plants in the Austin area that have been affected. This is another blow to the automotive sector, which is already running behind due to semiconductor shortage.

Infineon's fab produces both automotive MCUs, as well as NOR flash chips. NOR flash chip supply is already tight, causing memory price projections to rise as much as another 10% in Q2. 

The overall impact is still being monitored. In addition to further constraining automotive semiconductors, memory and SSDs are projected to show price hikes and decreasing availability even after production is able to resume. 

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