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By: Joseph Lee on September 24th, 2021

Stray Balloon Causes Massive Power Outage in German Factories

On September 17, 2021, a massive power outage hit Dresden, Germany. Not only did this affect over 300,000 households and businesses, but it impacted the largest semiconductor fabrication facilities in Europe. The cause – a single stray toy balloon landed on a switchgear of a substation and the aluminum material triggered a short circuit that impacted the entire system. 

Some of the affected semiconductor foundries include: Global Foundries Inc (GF), automotive chip manufacturers Infineon and Bosch, and major automobile manufacturers BMW, Volkswagen, and Porsche. This incident comes at an unfortunate time as automakers are struggling to semiconductor chip supplies.

FoundryAffected ProductsConsumersNotes
Infineon Technologies AGSilicon wafer fabs, MOSFETs, microcontrollers, power management chips, semiconductor parts Automotive companies, Lite-On, Compal, Delta, Pegatron Infineon is under increased demand due to misfortunes in production and delivery due to shutdowns in Malaysia factories and Chinese port closures. Power outage shut down operations for 1 day.
Bosch GmbHSilicon wafer fabs, ASICs, power semiconductor parts Automotive companies $1.2 billion was invested into Bosch’s Dresden facility to continue being the world’s largest car parts supplier. Facility had emergency backup power to minimize negative impact.
Global FoundriesSilicon wafer fabs, chips, semiconductor parts Automotive companies, financial and security applications GF’s foundary has two energy facilities as backup power to minimize negative impact.

The semiconductor supply chain has seen an array of disruptions of various degrees, but a stray foil balloon causing an electrical blackout is a new and surprising situation. 

The silicon wafer fabs are primarily developing products for the automotive industry, which has been one of the worst hit by the supply shortages. On top of the Dresden power outage, the following events also had a detrimental impact on the automotive sector:

  • In March 2021, Renesas Electronics Corporation’s semiconductor fab caught fire, taking months to recover 
  • In February 2021, Storm Uri caused rolling power outages across Texas. NXP, Infineon, as well as Samsung’s S2 foundry were all temporarily disabled. 

These issues, coupled with the automotive part shortage, will impact the car market for potentially several years to come. Additionally, carmakers are panic purchasing and hoarding chips, adding to the stress on demand.  

How will this affect your supply chain?

SiliconExpert has intelligent modules that collect data and industry news that could affect supply chain. Our software can help you proactively identify any components at risk and gain insight into deeper metrics such as lifecycle status, alternative distributors, and available inventory. 

In response to these issues and needs, SiliconExpert developed a support mechanism that can help customers identify risks in their supply chain. This service combines factors of geo-location and known risks in a proprietary formula to determine the overall supply chain risk score by the supplier and by part number. 

This service gives insight as it relates to this event as well as data that can help teams proactively mitigate impacts of future events through our supply chain module.

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