Asia news

E&T reports from his base in Malaysia.

Super-slim memory breakthrough

Samsung Electronics has developed what it says it the world's thinnest multi-die package.

The memory package, which will be used in solid-state disk storage (SSD) systems, is just 0.6mm high. It uses eight identical 32-gigabit (Gb) NAND flash chips, each measuring just 15µm, to deliver a 32-gigabyte (GB) memory product.

The new packaging technology is expected to lead to slimmer handsets and mobile devices.

Samsung spokeswoman Lee Hun Yul said the company will start production when it has secured a launch customer.

Apple is believed to be keen to buy the devices for use in its iPods and iPhones.

Panasonic bid for Sanyo

Panasonic Corp has launched a takeover bid for Sanyo Electric Co. Sanyo directors are in favour of the move. Both firms are headquartered in Japan.

The tender offer for shares, which will end on 7 December, would see Panasonic acquiring a total of 53.4 per cent of the outstanding Sanyo shares from the US Goldman Sachs Group and two other unidentified Sanyo shareholders, at 131 yen (US$1.37) per share. The deal is expected to be completed in December.

A Panasonic official in Osaka, Junji Honma, said China gave its approval for the acquisition in October while approval from the US is expected any time.

Panasonic's acquisition is expected to enhance its share in the global battery market. Sanyo is particularly strong in the consumer lithium-ion battery business and recently completed a new production line to make Li-ion batteries for electric and hybrid vehicles. Sanyo is also boosting production of crystalline silicon solar cells and promoting commercialisation of thin-film solar cells for large-scale power generation.

Last year Panasonic and Sanyo sales totalled $100.42bn.

Meanwhile Panasonic has firmed up plans to halve its stake in Panasonic EV Energy Co, a hybrid-vehicle battery joint venture with Toyota Motor. Panasonic hopes that by reducing its share to 20 per cent, it would expedite foreign anti-trust authorities signing off the Sanyo takeover.

Malaysia-Sumatra power link planned for 2015

After 20 years of feasibility and technical studies, Malaysia and Indonesia have signed an agreement for power connectivity between Peninsular Malaysia and the neighbouring Indonesian island of Sumatra.

The link, with a capacity of 600MW, will comprise 200km of 250kV overhead HVDC cables and two 57km sets of 250kV HVDC submarine cables. It will be the second power link between the two countries. The first covers Bakun in the east Malaysian state of Sarawak and West Kalimantan.

Che Khalib Mohd Noh, CEO of Malaysia's power agency Tenaga Nasional Berhad (TNB), said the interconnection is expected to be operational by 2015. Finance is likely to come from institutions such as the World Bank and the Asia National Bank.

Che Khalib said costing, contract formalisation and working details will be finalised when TNB meets Indonesia's utility company Perusahaan Listrik Negara (PLN) in January.

"The link will pave the way for both countries to assist and support each other's power needs during peak hours, during the day in West Malaysia and during the night in Sumatra," Che Khalib told reporters in Kuala Lumpur.

The two utilities will be able to reduce production and operating costs and share spinning reserve.

The connectivity is part of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) power grid, through which Malaysia already has connections with Singapore, Laos, Thailand and Myanmar. The other members are Vietnam, Cambodia, Philippines, Brunei and Indonesia.

The ASEAN Power Grid was formed in June 2008.

Aircraft evacuated after landing-gear collapse

A Malaysia Airlines 737-400 aircraft sustained substantial damage after the left landing gear collapsed shortly before take-off.

The aircraft had just commenced push back from the gate at Kuching International Airport (KIA), Sarawak, in preparation for a domestic flight to Kuala Lumpur.

The left wing was punctured by the impact of the undercarriage leg, resulting in the No 1 engine resting on the tarmac. A substantial amount of fuel leaked from the wing.

There were no injuries to the 139 passengers or the seven crew.

MAS claimed that passengers were disembarked at the apron using 'normal steps' from the starboard side, but remained silent on what safety measures were taken before disembarking.

The incident is being investigated by the Department of Civil Aviation, aircraft manufacturer Boeing, the US National Transport Safety Board and MAS.

MAS declined to say whether sabotage or maintenance negligence was suspected. "At this point, we are unable to ascertain the cause of the incident as investigations are currently on-going," said MAS operations director Azharuddin Osman.

An aircraft maintenance engineer told E&T that it would have been a disastrous end had the landing gear collapsed on touch-down or take-off.

The aircraft, bearing registration 9M-MMR, had earlier arrived from Kuala Lumpur. It was 16 years seven months old at the time of the incident, having first flown in March 1993. Taking into consideration its age and the extent of damage, it is unlikely that it will fly again. However, Azharuddin said repairs will be carried out and Boeing will make a decision.

While MAS has a good safety record, it has yet to resolve how wires under the left pilot seat of an Airbus A330-300 aircraft were found deliberately cut a few years ago, resulting in the aircraft being grounded for several days.

The 737-400 is one of the remaining 18 owned by Penerbangan Malaysia Berhad, a government-owned firm and parent of MAS. From a fleet of 35, 17 were sold to an unidentified company in 2008.

MAS has 35 737-800s on order to phase out the ageing 737-400s, with options on 20 more. Delivery is scheduled to begin in September 2010, continuing until 2013.

Microcutter automates nanotech production

By Bryan Betts

Laser micromachining specialist ESI is targeting mass production industries with a reconfigurable cutting and drilling device that has built-in materials handling and metrology capabilities.

The system can cut and drill to an accuracy of just a few microns in its main operating area, and work on architectures as fine as 20µm, said Dr Damon Green, ESI's UK technical specialist.

The company said the ML5900 - which it launched at this month's Productronica exhibition in Munich - would enable component and OEM manufacturers to drill, rout, and nanostructure a wide range of materials including metals, organics, dielectrics, semiconductors and hybrid-engineered parts.

Green added that compared to ESI's existing laser micromachining systems, the ML5900 is more automated and can do more than just 2D work such as cutting and drilling PCBs. "It is faster, depending on the pattern, has better material handling and is more flexible - it can load, unload, drill and inspect parts, all at the same time," he said.

ESI said the machine is designed for the mass production of high-precision micro-features on metallic and organic substrates, and is able to handle upwards of 10,000 parts per day.

Oasis pushes the boundaries

By Mark Langdon

The world's largest cruise ship is due to come into service in December 2009. The Oasis of the Seas will be the first of the Oasis Class luxury cruise ships in the Royal Caribbean International fleet.

The 16-deck 220,000 gross ton ship, built in the Aker Yards at Turku in Finland at an estimated cost of $1.24bn, can carry 5,400 passengers in 2,700 state rooms, along with over 2,000 crew members. It will be followed by a sister ship, the Allure of the Seas, in 2010. The massive vessel has an overall length of 360m, beam of 47m and draft of 9m, and rises 65m above the waterline. It is powered by six Wärtsilä diesel engines, three 12-cylinder and three 16-cylinder, generating more than 96 MW of electricity, which is then used to run everything on board via the ABB-supplied power and propulsion system.

Three 20MW azimuthing ABB Azipods give a cruising speed of 20.2 knots. These electrically-powered systems, which combine propulsion and steering in a single unit, are more efficient than conventional shaftline propulsion.

The greatest power demand is for propelling the vessel, but the air-conditioning systems, production of 50 tonnes of ice cubes each day, and heating the water in the 21 swimming pools and Jacuzzis, together consume several megawatts. "After propulsion, air conditioning is next on the list of major onboard energy consumers," says Fred Danska, Wärtsilä's director of cruise business.

Oasis of the Seas is equipped with a number of facilities never before seen on a cruise ship, including a full-size carousel, a nine-deck zip-line cable, two rock-climbing walls and the AquaTheater amphitheatre (the largest freshwater pool on any cruise ship) as well as the Rising Tide bar, which moves up and down three decks in Central Park.

The ship is divided into seven neighbourhoods with different themes, including Central Park, Boardwalk (reminiscent of a seaside pier) and the Royal Promenade.

The open-air Central Park occupies the centre of the ship and has pathways, flower gardens, trees and a central piazza for alfresco dining, entertainment, concerts and street performances. It is lined with 334 staterooms (254 with balconies) rising five decks high, offering views of the park.

The AquaTheater is an amphitheatre-style outdoor space that serves as a pool by day and ocean-front theatre by night. The depth of the pool can be raised or lowered and underwater cameras can film performances and project the images onto two giant LED screens around the stage.

Oasis of the Seas was formally handed over to Royal Caribbean International in Turku on 28 October, and was due to arrive at Port Everglades, Florida, as E&T went to press.

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