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The Foxconn explosion could affect up to one third of total iPad 2 output

An explosion which on last Friday rocked Foxconn’s Chengdu plant that manufactures iPad 2s could seriously affect the gizmo’s iPad 2 availability, but not as drastically as originally feared because the site isn’t the only production facility where the device is being made. The worst case scenario has the aftermath of the unfortunate event which left three dead and fifteen injured affecting up to 30 percent of iPad 2 output. The stricken plant only recently began assembling the sought-after tablet, sources tell Asian trade publication DigitTimes.

Foxconn only recently opened up iPad 2 production lines at the new plant in Chengdu, while the company’s facilities in Shenzhen, southern China, remain the main manufacturing site for the tablet PC, sources at upstream component suppliers have commented. Foxconn’s Chengdu site shipped 25-30% of the total iPad 2 devices shipped in April, while its Shenzhen site made up the remainder, the sources estimated.

Mixed reports, however, have been adding up to the overall confusion…

Yesterday Chinese-language newspaper Commercial Times reported that the explosion damaged coating lines and chemical materials storage rather than the iPad 2 assembly line itself. Foxconn is expected to “increase the proportion of total iPad 2 output” at the Shenzen facility to maintain iPad 2 production levels, the paper noted. The Shenzen plant is now shooting at 4-5 monthly iPad 2 units in the second quarter, a notable increase over about two million units in the first quarter. Foxconn, which is a long-time manufacturing partner of Apple’s, planned on ramping up iPad 2 production at the stricken plant to 3-4 million units in the second quarter of this year, up from just 600,000 units in the first quarter. Fortune’s Philip Elmer-DeWitt has a useful compilation of the latest tidbits about the Foxconn fire incident.

[UPDATE May 23, 2011 12:50pm Eastern]: Deleted the first line from the closing paragraph stating that Apple increased iPad 2 wait time from 3-5 days to 1-2 weeks at its online store. That was sourced from another report without being fact-checked prior to publishing. Apple has never quoted iPad 2 delivery times on its online store below 1-2 weeks, as avid readers have pointed out in the comments.

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