(Image: WDC)In what can only be described as a major whoopsie, Western Digital (WDC) has announced that some kind of contamination has occurred at two of its NAND flash fabrication facilities. The company is involved in a joint venture with another firm, Kioxia, and says they are working together to remedy the situation immediately. Unfortunately, the accident has resulted in the loss of “at least” 6.5 exabytes of NAND memory, according to Western Digital. That translates to an astonishing 6,500 petabytes of storage, or for the layman, 6.5 million terabytes of flash. NAND flash is used in many storage devices including USB drives, SSDs, smart phones, and memory cards.
In a brief press release sent out by Western Digital, it claims the two companies have ceased production at their Yokkaichi and Kitakami flash fabrication facilities due to the incident without specifying exactly what happened. Perhaps the most troubling aspect of the announcement is the Western Digital says the damage is “at least” multiple petabytes of flash, as it’s only accounting for its losses so far but not its partner’s. Wells Fargo analyst Aaron Rakers estimates that when Kioxia’s loss is taken into account, the number could be as high as 16 exabytes, as reported by Bloomberg. The news outlet states that this amount of memory is approximately 10 percent of all flash sold worldwide in a quarter. According to PCMag Western Digital and Kioxia (formerly Toshiba) provided 24 percent of global SSD capacity last year. Industry analysts Trendforce predict that the incident is so severe it will cause the price of NAND flash to increase in Q2 between five to ten percent.
In a statement, Kioxia said only part of its 3D BiCS FLASH production line was affected, but oddly, the statement says that’s just an assumption at this time. The company wrote, “It is assumed to be caused by components containing impurities in a specific production process of the 3D flash memory.” The contamination has not affected its 2D flash operation, allowing it to ship from its inventory while it works to rectify the issue on its 3D NAND production line. Trendforce notes in its advisory linked above that currently Western Digital and Kioxia are currently producing client SSDs and eMMC cards for embedded storage.
This type of news is not exactly what the DIY PC building scene needs right now, as SSDs have largely been able to avoid the shortages roiling the GPU and CPU world for the past two years, and as far as we can tell nobody is scalping SSDs…yet. One silver lining is at least the factory wasn’t shut down due to COVID-19, which is what happened to industry giants Samsung and Micron in late December of 2021 when the Chinese city of Xian imposed very strict travel restrictions due to an outbreak of COVID-19. This resulted in reduced staffing at manufacturing plants in the area for both companies. Samsung also lost 71,000 wafers during last year’s power and water outage in Texas due to winter storms that ravaged parts of the state and caused the company to shut down its fab for an entire month. At least WDC and Kioxia don’t have those types of scenarios to overcome in getting their operation back online.