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5/23/2011
02:11 PM
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iPad Factory Explosion Attributed To Combustible Dust

Foxconn over the weekend acknowledged that a third worker had died in the explosion, but an analyst said the supply of iPads won't be affected.

A third worker at Foxconn's Hongfujin Precision Electronics Co. Ltd. facility in Chengdu, China, has died as a consequence of the May 20 explosion at the manufacturing facility.

Foxconn increased its previously stated death toll by one and decreased the injury count by the same amount in a statement issued on Sunday, presumably meaning that a worker previously counted as injured has died.

The explosion occurred around 7 p.m. on May 20 in one of the Hongfujin Precision Electronics polishing workshops where Apple's iPad 2 is being produced.

The official of cause of the explosion remains undetermined, but Foxconn said early indications are that dust from the polishing process is to blame.

"The cause of this tragic accident is still being investigated by a joint investigation task force led by government officials and law enforcement authorities, but that task force has communicated initial findings that the accident was caused by an explosion of combustible dust in a duct," the company said in an emailed statement.

Some Chinese news reports have said that lightning may have played a role in igniting the dust.

The manufacturing facility was constructed in only 76 days, a record for Foxconn, China Daily reported.

Apple did not respond to a request for comment, but has told Reuters that it is working with Foxconn to understand what happened.

Apple has had trouble keeping up with demand for its iPad 2, but Ticonderoga Securities analyst Brian White believes the accident will have a minimal effect on iPad availability.

"Our current view is that this tragedy is likely to have some impact on iPad 2 production; however, we believe Hon Hai has the flexibility to shift manufacturing back to the Shenzhen facility if necessary," White said in a research note published on Monday. "As such, we currently don't expect a material impact to Apple's iPad 2 shipments, but we will continue to monitor the situation."

The amount of time that customers must wait to receive an iPad 2 ordered through Apple's website has dropped from three to four weeks in April to only one to two weeks today.

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