3M Factory Shutdown Could Rock Global Electronics Market
Chipmakers use a semiconductor-grade PFAS as a coolant during chip etching – and 80% of that came from a single 3M plant in Belgium.
May 11, 2022 – Global chipmakers are facing a major issue with the shutdown of a 3M Company factory that produces most of the world’s semiconductor-grade coolant. 90% of the world’s supply of this coolant is from 3M, and 80% comes from a single factory in Belgium.
The coolant, a PFAS (perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substance) fluorinated liquid, is almost exclusively produced by 3M. It can be used as a cleaning agent, desiccant, and solvent as well. During chip manufacturing, precision and temperature control are critical to successful fabrication. This coolant is used to cool semiconductor equipment to ensure stable operation without causing any damage to the components and equipment over an extended period of use.
Why was the Factory Shut Down?
Belgium has new environmental controls over PFAS standards and how to deal with the remediation and disposal process of PFAS chemicals. The 3M Co. has faced regulatory actions over PFAS and their plant in Zwijndrecht, Belgium has been partially closed for nearly 6 months. On March 18, 3M sent an official notice to its clients about an indefinite closure of the Belgium plant.
3M has been ramping up production of this coolant at a US facility, but with limited capacity, this plant is unable to meet global demand.
Impact on the Semiconductor Industry
Clients of 3M, according to industry sources, could manage up to 3 months on current coolant inventories. But unless the issue is resolved within that time, we could see significant impacts to production in the chip manufacturing industry.
SiliconExpert is closely monitoring this situation and providing intelligence to access risk and find alternatives in the case of a disruption. The P5 Supply Chain Risk Management tool even tracks inventory levels, price forecasts, and lead times.