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Optics, electronics makers assess quake damage

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Melinda A. Rose, [email protected]

The impact of last month’s historic earthquake and tsunami off the east coast of Honshu on optics and electronics makers has been mixed, with some reporting injured workers and severe structural damage to facilities and others mainly dealing with power outages and supply-chain issues.

The 9.0-magnitude temblor was the fourth largest in the world since 1900 and the largest in Japan since modern record-keeping of such events began 130 years ago. At least 10,000 people are thought to have died, and another 500,000 have been left homeless. The quake struck about 80 miles east of Sendai in Honshu, about 231 miles northeast of Tokyo.

Wikimedia Commons image by Maximilian Dörrbecker (Chumwa).

In the week following the earthquake, the following companies issued statements:

Optics and imaging systems maker Edmund Optics (EO) said that all of its employees in Japan were safe and that there was no major structural damage to its factory, but that it was continuing to assess any potential damage to infrastructure and the impact of the quake and aftershocks on production and shipping.

“Delays in shipment are expected due to intermittent electricity, fuel rationing, infrastructure damage and inaccessibility to major transportation. Shipping has been severely restricted in the region, but EO is actively working with shipping carriers to address potential solutions,” the company said.

“While every attempt is being made to continue production at our main factory in Northern Japan, Akita Prefecture, we are currently limited by electrical outages and restricted shipping. Our Japan staff is exploring every possible option to expedite EO goods to available and open airports; however, substantial delays are expected,” said Thomas Kessler, vice president of global sales, in a letter to customers worldwide.

Kessler added that the company was investigating transferring some work to its Singapore and Pennsburg, Pa., facilities.

Hamamatsu Photonics reported little direct impact from the earthquake, due to its location about 310 miles from the epicenter.

“We have completed inspections at each manufacturing plant, and no damage has been found,” Hamamatsu posted on its website. “We are currently assessing the situation with our suppliers. At this time, we expect only minor delays as shipments make their way through congested channels.”

Some companies with plants located closer to the epicenter were not so lucky.

Canon also reported on its website that 15 employees had been injured at its Utsunomiya office. The facility includes its optical products plant and optics R&D center. The earthquake had the greatest impact on three of its operation sites and five Canon Group companies.

Although no significant injuries to its employees were reported, Sony said that several of its Sony Corp. and Sony group sites and facilities that make Blu-ray discs, optical devices, lithium ion batteries and surface mounting equipment were affected, in particular its Sendai Technology Center. The company will continue to monitor the status of each site. As of presstime, it had suspended operations at a number of its affected production facilities in Miyagi, Fukushima, Saitama and Ibaraki prefectures.

Some employees reported minor injuries, Panasonic stated on its website. “We are suspending operations in the factory affected by the earthquake and continuing to evaluate further details of the damage,” the company said.

The injuries occurred at its AVC Networks Co. factories in Fukushima and Sendai, where digital cameras and optical pickups are made, and at its Panasonic Electric Works Co. Ltd. Koriyama factory, a manufacturer of electronic materials.

Several of the affected companies said they were sending financial aid and other supplies to the affected region.

Photonics Spectra
Apr 2011
AVC NetworksBusinessCanonearthquakeEdmund OpticsHamamatsu PhotonicsindustrialJapanlight speedPanasonic Electric WorksPhotonic Component Mfg. Equip.Photonics Component Mfg. Equip.Sony

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