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Japan quake: More updates, donation info
(Thursday, March 24, 2011 - 04:10 EDT)

Almost a fortnight ago, much of the northeastern coast of Honshu, Japan was devastated by the combination of the fourth largest earthquake recorded worldwide since the start of the 20th century, and a tsunami that reportedly reached heights of 50-75 feet in some areas.

As well as leaving hundreds of thousands homeless, the 9.0 magnitude quake and its resulting tsunami caused major damage to the region's infrastructure. Although the recovery effort began almost immediately, it has been further complicated by an unusually large number of aftershocks -- almost 50 of which have themselves surpassed magnitude 6.0 -- as well as the difficulties faced at the Fukushima I nuclear power plant, which necessitated evacuation of a large area around the facility. Additionally, northern Japan has faced unseasonably cold weather, and shelters are struggling to provide enough food, water, medicine, and other supplies for the many people who've been left with nowhere else to turn.

Many household names in the imaging industry have been directly affected by the disaster, and we're continuing to do our best to keep readers apprised of their situation, but before you read on, we'd urge you to consider visiting the Google Crisis Response page, where you can make a donation towards the relief effort. Alternatively, the folks at Demystifying Digital have compiled an excellent list of reputable organizations to which you can make a donation. (These link will all open in a new window, so you can easily return to this item afterwards.)

Since our most recent report on the disaster, we were deeply saddened to learn of a fatality at Sendai Nikon Corp, and we understand that Nikon has yet to confirm the safety of three further employees in Natori City. Our thoughts and prayers are with the family, friends, and colleagues of these individuals, and of course, with the people of Japan in general.

Following is the latest information we have from a number of companies in the imaging field.

We're not aware of any further statement from Canon Inc. since that made on March 14. At that time, the company had advised that 15 employees were injured at its Utsunomiya facility, which was said to have sustained significant damage. The Canon divisions at this location are responsible for production, research and development of a range of optical products, including EF lenses, as well as lenses for camcorders, broadcast cameras, business machines, LCD projectors, and other specialized lenses, plus mirror projection aligners and semiconductor equipment. Operations at this facility were said to have been suspended, and the company noted that "time [would] likely be needed" before operations could resume in Utsunomiya .

In addition, the facility of a subsidiary company -- Fukushima Canon Inc. -- was also said to have suffered significant damage. Thankfully there were no reported injuries at the facility, which produces inkjet printers, print heads, and ink tanks, but this facility was also expected to take some time to return to operation. Several other facilities were also closed at the last report, and their operational status going forwards was still being determined. These included the Toride plant (office imaging products, etc.), and the Ami plant (LC and semiconductor exposure equipment), plus four other subsidiaries -- Canon Precision Inc. (micro motors, miscellaneous sensors, toner cartridges), Canon Optron Inc. (optical crystals, evaporation materials), Canon Chemicals Inc.'s Iwama Plant (toner cartridges), and Canon Mold Co. Ltd. (plastic molding). No injuries were reported at any of these facilities.

Separately, Canon announced the establishment of an Earthquake Disaster Recovery Task Force, which is looking into measures to resume operations, including potentially shifting production to alternate locations, where it determines that a facility's operations may need to be suspended for over a month. Canon also pledged 300 million yen (approximately US$3.7 million) to the Japanese Red Cross and other organizations, as well as offering to provide supplies as needed.

The most recent statement from Hoya Corp. regarding its own status was issued on March 15th, and noted that several employees had sustained slight injuries, although thankfully the company reported no fatalities, serious injuries or missing staff. The Miyagi factory of Pentax Life Care, which manufactures endoscopes, was said to have sustained slight damage, and had temporarily suspended operations due to power outages and traffic issues. Pentax Life Care's Yamagata factory had already resumed operations, meanwhile. Some 30 locations of Hoya's Eye City retail contact lens chain had been forced to suspend business, and a few locations were said to have sustained heavy damage that may require a period of months to rectify. Hoya's Vision Care division, which produces eye glasses, had also sustained damage to its Tohoku sales office, and was closed as of the last information.

While Hoya's release made no specific mention of Pentax Imaging Systems, a subsequent press release issued by Pentax UK reports nothing more than minor injuries to employees, along with minor damage to the Pentax Imaging Systems headquarters.

Separately, Hoya pledged 100 million yen (approximately US$1.2 million) to the recovery effort, and offered to provide specialized medical equipment such as rigid video laryngoscopes for intubation.

As noted previously, Nikon Corp. has unfortunately now reported the death of one member of its staff at Sendai Nikon Corp., in addition to the fact that three employees are missing in Natori City. An earlier statement further reported some injuries to staff, and noted that the company had established an Emergency Headquarters for Disaster Control, headed by its President.

The company has reported damage to a number of facilities, which had to suspend operations. Among these, two are said to have sustained severe damage, although in both cases, Nikon expects operation to resume by the end of the month. These two facilities are Sendai Nikon Corp. in Natori, which produces DSLRs including the D3X, D3S, and D700, and Miyagi Nikon Precision Co., Ltd in Zao-machi, which makes devices for LCD steppers and scanners. Other facilities listed as having sustained damage included Tochigi Nikon Corporation (Otawara; optical lenses, opto-mechanical equipment, electronic imaging devices), Tochigi Nikon Precision Co. Ltd. (Otawara; devices for IC steppers & scanners, lenses for IC / LCD steppers and scanners). Tochigi Nikon resumed operations on March 18th, and as of the last information, the remaining facilities were expected to do so yesterday. While Nikon's most recent statement did note that it had concerns as to the impact of rolling blackouts and supply issues on its Japanese facilities, the company stated that it was doing its utmost to overcome these difficulties -- and evidence of this can be seen in the fact that the company has already contracted with Malaysian-based Notion VTec to produce DSLR body mounts.

Separately, Nikon pledged 100 million yen (approximately US$1.2 million) to the Japanese Red Cross.

The most recent press release from Olympus Corp., issued March 14th, confirmed that several employees sustained minor injuries, but didn't elaborate on this. We understand from information provided to the UK's Amateur Photographer magazine by the local Olympus office that the company's digital camera production was unaffected, and indeed the Japanese-language press release made no mention of imaging products. It also confirmed that the local sales office in Sendai was undamaged and preparing to resume operations, although several endoscopy-related businesses -- Aomori Olympus Co. Ltd., Shirakawa Olympus Co. Ltd., and the company's Shirakawa factory -- were said to have temporarily halted operations. Aomori Olympus was said to be unable to procure supplies, while we understand the other two companies had some damage to facilities, as well as a lack of power supply. A separate Japanese-language press release noted that a repair facility at the Shirakawa location was expected to take 2-4 weeks to resume operations.

In addition, Olympus pledged 100 million yen (approximately US$1.2 million) and is planning to further donate industrial videoscopes and non-destructive testing equipment to the recovery effort. These tools can be of great assistance in locating survivors, and in determining the safety of buildings and infrastructure.

Panasonic Corp., meanwhile, issued an advisory stating that some employees had received minor injuries at the Fukushima and Sendai factories of Panasonic AVC Networks Co., which manufacture digital cameras and optical pickups respectively, as well as at the Koriyama factory of Panasonic Electric Works Co. Ltd. (electronic materials), and the Gunma factory of Sanyo Electric Co. Ltd. (washers / dryers). The company went on to note that it had not received reports of collapse or fire at any of its facilities, and that it was temporarily suspending operations at the quake-affected factories pending a fuller evaluation of the damage. A subsequent Japanese-language press release further noted that the resumption of some operations at the Gunma factory on March 14th, the AVC Networks facility in Utsunomiya from March 22nd, and the Koriyama factory from March 23rd.

In addition, Panasonic pledged 300 million yen (approximately US$3.7 million) in donations, as well as providing 10,000 radios, 10,000 flashlights, and 500,000 dry batteries to assist victims of the earthquake.

Casio Computer Co. Ltd., meanwhile, issued a press release on March 14th stating that the company's staff had received no serious injuries, and that its facilities were not believed to have sustained major damage. It was working at the time to confirm facility, materials and infrastructure status, and to assure safety before resuming operation, and noted that it expected interruptions to vital utilities would play a role in determining when it could resume operations. Separately, the company announced a donation to the Japan Platform nonprofit relief organization, with the figure subsequently increased five-fold to 50 million yen (approximately US$600,000), while still matching donations made by its employees, and further donating clocks for use in temporary shelters and other facilities to help synchronize task forces.

While Fujifilm Corp. stated that it had thankfully not received any reports of staff injuries, a press release issued by its UK branch (and mirrored by a later Japanese-language release) confirmed that the parent company's Taiwa-Cho factory -- which was responsible for production of the fixed-lens, APS-C sensor shod X100 digital camera -- had sustained damage. This has necessitated a temporary halt in production of the Fuji X100, and the company is working to resume production as soon as possible. With the exception of a one-week delay in shipping the FinePix T300 in the Japanese market, we understand that the rest of Fuji's digital camera range are unaffected. In addition to the X100 production delay, the company's head-office issued a Japanese-language press release noting that the Japanese market's service and support facilities have sustained damage, which has required a temporary relocation of these functions to other facilities.

Fujifilm also pledged 300 million yen (approximately US$3.7 million) in donations, as well as 470 million yen (approximately US$5.8 million) in relief supplies, including diagnostic ultrasound systems and dust / virus protection masks.

Being headquartered in Wakayama, in the south of Japan, Noritsu Koki Ltd. and its recently-established subsidiary NK Works Co. Ltd. suffered no injuries or damage to facilities, according to a statement published by PMA Newsline. The company was said to be continuing with production and distribution, and further noted that it is working to reestablish contact with and offer support to its customers throughout the country.

Ricoh Co. Ltd., meanwhile, issued its most recent statement on March 18th, at which time it still had no reports of injuries at its facilities. Based on the plan in the release, all but four facilities should now be in operation. Ricoh Optical Industries Co. Ltd. in Hanamaki (optical products, projectors, welding machines, etc.), Hasama Ricoh Inc. in Tome (copiers and data processing equipment), Tohoku Ricoh Co. Ltd. in Shibata-gun (MFPs, printers, toner, bar code devices, peripherals), and Ricoh Printing Systems Ltd. in Hitachinaka (production printing products) were most recently said to have no set plan as to when they'd be able to return to operations. Ricoh facilities in Yashio (high capacity MFPs, refurbishing recycling), Atsugi (MFPs, printer parts), Gotemba (MFPs, printers), and Numazu (supplies, toner, etc.) are all understood to be in partial operation, as allowed by rolling blackouts.

Ricoh has pledged 300 million yen (approximately US$3.7 million) in donations towards recovery efforts.

SanDisk Corp. reported that two of its fabs located some 500 miles from the epicenter of the quake were down for a brief period on Friday, but returned to operation later the same day. The company has received no reports of employee injuries, and predicts minimal immediate impact on output.

Seiko Epson Corp., said on March 14th that it hadn't yet received any reports of casualties, although some of its facilities were damaged. Hachinohe-based Epson Atmix Corp., which provides metal powders, metal injection molded parts and synthetic quartz crystal, was said to have been subject to a one meter tsunami, while the Fukushima plant of Epson Toyocom Corp. (optical devices, sensing devices, clock modules, oscillators, resonators, and filters) was partially damaged, and is also still under an evacuation order, since it is located within 20 kilometers of the failing Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant. As of the statement, there was no set schedule for either facility to resume operations. Akita Epson Corp., which manufactures printer heads and crystal devices, received minimal damage and has resumed some operations. Finally, the Sakata plant (semiconductor manufacture) of Seiko Epson Corp. and Tohoku Epson Corp. (printer component manufacture) were believed to be undamaged, but had suspended operations due to rolling power cuts. The status of production facilities at these locations was still under investigation, and so there was no update on when production would resume.

In addition, Epson has pledged 100 million yen (approximately US$1.2 million) to recovery efforts.

Sigma Corp. released a Japanese-language statement on March 15th, confirming that no employees were injured. The company's Aizu factory was said to have sustained damage to both building and equipment, , but we understand that Sigma nonetheless resumed partial operation from March 15th. The statement did note that Sigma was endeavoring to confirm the impact of rolling blackouts and supply issues on its operations.

Sony Corp. is another company that thankfully reports no significant injuries to its staff. A statement on March 22nd noted that several of its sites had been affected by the disaster, and others had temporarily shuttered operations due to widespread power outages. While it was still evaluating the situation, the company said that some locations that had initially been shuttered had partially or fully resumed operations, including Sony Manufacturing Systems Corp. (Kuki plant; surface mounting equipment), Sony Chemical & Information Device Corp. (Kanuma plant; Bonding Materials, Optics Materials), and Sony Energy Devices Corp. (Tochigi plant; lithium ion batteries).

Facilities where manufacturing operations were still suspended included Sony Chemical & Information Device Corp. (Tagajyo and Tome plants; magnetic tapes, Blu-Ray discs, optical devices, IC cards), Sony Shiroishi Semiconductor Inc. (Miyagi; semiconductor lasers), Sony Energy Devices Corp. (Koriyama and Motomiya plants; lithium ion batteries), and Sony DADC Japan Inc. (Ibaraki; CDs / DVDs). Sony EMCS Corp.'s Kisarazu Technology Center (Blu-ray disc recorder, home audio) was in partial operation due to rolling blackouts, while material supply issues were causing a temporary suspension at Sony/Taiyo Corporation (Microphones, headphones), and Sony EMCS Corp.'s Tokai Technology Center (Kosai, Kohda, Kohda, Inazawa; Broadcast and professional equipment, camcorders, digital still cameras, DSLR lenses, cell phones, LCD TVs). In an earlier statement, the Sony Corporation Sendai Technology Center was said to have ceased operation due to earthquake damage.

Sony has pledged 300 million yen (approximately US$3.7 million) in donations towards recovery efforts, as well as providing 30,000 radios, and instituting a worldwide employee donation matching program.

A March 17th statement from optics company Tamron Co. Ltd. also reported no injuries to its employees, nor any notable damage to its three facilities in Aomori prefecture. It did however anticipate unavoidable disruptions due to damage to the Japanese transport network and systems, and further noted that it expected outages for its Japanese corporate website during periods of rolling blackouts.

Tamron has pledged 10 million yen (approximately US$120,000) to the Japan Red Cross, plus 5 million yen (approximately US$60,000) to the local Aomori Prefecture government from the three area plants, respectively.

In addition, companies in many other business areas have been affected. These companies manufacture a wide range of components and chips used in digital imaging products which, while rather beyond the scope of our own site, are nonetheless critical to the products we use and review every day. These include household names such as Fujitsu, Hitachi, Texas Instruments, and Toshiba, as well as many lesser-known -- but none the less important -- companies besides. For example, Toshiba is the world's second largest supplier of NAND flash chips used in memory cards, as well as producing CMOS image sensors. Fujitsu likewise supplies a variety of components that feature in digital cameras and the like, including some -- such as its Milbeaut image processor series -- which are specifically designed for use in digital imaging products. Although we don't have the resources to report on these companies, we're sure many readers will want to be aware of their status, and the folks at EE|Times have assembled a pretty thorough analysis in this area.

The staff at the Imaging Resource continue to be deeply shocked and saddened by the scope of this disaster, and our thoughts and prayers remain with the people of Japan, as well as those in other countries affected by the tsunami, which caused damage as far as away as Peru and Chile. We'd encourage readers who'd like to contribute to the relief effort to visit the Google Crisis Response page, or alternatively, Demystifying Digital's list of reputable organizations, either of which would be a great way to make a donation and help the people and businesses of Japan to get back on their feet.

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