‘Super-light dust’ blamed for explosion at Foxconn iPad 2 factory in Chengdu

Earlier today we reported on an explosion at Foxconn’s iPad factory in Chengdu, China that killed two and injured sixteen people. Now an explanation for the cause has surfaced.

“At about 19:20 Beijing Time, [in] Chengdu Hi-tech Industrial Park West [the] Foxconn Building A5 production building exploded,” China Financial Daily reports.

“2,3,4 [floors of the building] are affected, the wall shattered,” CFD reports.

“The explosion [was] caused by a super-light dust explosion,” CFD reports. “The building is the production lines for [Apple’s] iPad 2.”

Full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Makes sense. Think grain silo explosion:

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “qka” for the heads up.]

Related article:
Explosion rocks Foxconn iPad factory in Chengdu, China; 2 dead, 16 injured – May 20, 2011


    1. It seems contradictory–an electronics assembly plant should be an extremely clean environment, though of course we don’t know what stage of assembly this plant was responsible for.

      In the other MDN article’s video I did see many of the workers wearing face masks, so at least they weren’t exactly breathing this stuff, whatever it was, day in and day out

      Horrible situation, regardless, and you can be sure there will be howls of outrage alleging poor working conditions.

      1. “we don’t know what stage of assembly this plant was responsible for.”

        According to the source article, the explosion took place in the “polishing workshop”. Polishing can result in removed particles being flung into the air. The question then is what oxidizable material was being polished or resulting form polishing? Aluminium hydride burns explosively in air, but why would it would exist in a polishing room?

        1. There is a back light surface that is mirror polished aluminum to reflect the light back through IPS Display. Even wet polishing will produce particulates in the air. That can in turn enter the air conditioning ducts (made of metal) running to Units on the roof.

          There were lightning strikes seen hitting the building around the time of the explosion. Ripe situation for a ductwork explosion that could affect the two or three floors said to be damaged!!!

    2. Ventilation hell. This is about keeping a facility clean. This may be the building where the iPad2 is manufactured, but i’ll guarantee it isn’t in the specific AREA that the iPads are manufactured. There’s no way the production area would be this dirty.

      1. This has nothing to do with clean rooms where chips are fabricated and dust isn’t always dirt in a production facility. Dust can be many things and DUST doesn’t burn if it has no consumable energy producing material in it. Like grain in a silo or fine plastic’s dust in manufacturing. Maybe it’s the anodising section for the cover. These are notorious for fires and explosions.

        The paint or coating material is a micro fine powder, filling a room of electrified metal (aluminum) parts, that attract the dust to it’s surface and they become a part of the structure, while either in the air or water. Sometimes you can’t even see the dust and if you get a spark, or someone lights a cigarette you’re dead!!!

        Click to access Aluminum%20Extrusion%20MSDS.pdf

        1. I think you’ll find you’re the moron. Language exists for a reason. If you can’t communicate an idea without ambiguity, others will laugh or cry behind your back. Don’t show your ignorance.

        2. Hey dick if I say you are one am I implying or inferring hahaha .. Anyway how about stop belittling someone and pray for the families of the poor workers that assemble your special iPads and iPhones. But what fo I expect from a narcissist such as yourself

      1. @grhaki: You are correct in pointing out the error. I totally skimmed and missed it. Thanks for the reminder and the really cool manner in which you responded; that is, with the correct word AND an example of the correct use of the word by original poster.

        And if you’re a ‘moron’, I’m one too! Morons are cool! I better stop before I get flamed. lol!

    1. 1 – did you read the story? 2 people killed, 16 seriously injured.
      2 – foxconn is building a manufacturing facility in brazil that will also likely produce ipads for apple.
      have you been in antartica the past month?

  1. I just had a rethink. Do you buy this ‘super light dust’ argument? I don’t. I’ll tell you why. Electronics assembly plants have what is known as clean room standards which they must comply with and be subjected to regular audits. These are run by Apple QC engineers who are despatched to site to ensure compliance. 

    The air filtration system alone goes through three stages to remove particulates to less than 10ppm. So how do you get an accumulation of dust in a clean room environment is beyond me. Something isn’t quite right with the explanation.

    1. Totally depends on which part of production and assembly.
      Seen enough electronics plants in Thailand, including the biggest ones here where they assemble All kinds of electronics and non of them get close to your description.
      It only gets to that level in IC-packaging. Assembly is far less strict.

      Dust explosion is absolutely possible, given the likely very dry air in combination with electrical tools everywhere. For all I know, it could have been a malfunctioning anti-static wrist-strap that caused the initial spark.

    2. Many of you people don’t understand;
      a. this is not a clean room environment used in making chips in a foundry. Clean Room are a whole different animal with double closing doors and air quality control mechanisms!
      b. There were lightning strikes to the building during this time and lighting has been known to go in through windows!
      c. Super Fine Dust that is ignitable sometimes can’t even be seen.
      d. If it has anything to do with “anodising” the back covers, then lightning could be the cause of the explosion!!!

  2. Someone saw a big goofy bald guy driving away from the factory but his car malfunctioned about a mile away when he tried to talk to the Microsoft Sync feature of his car.

    Seriously, very sad that people were injured and/or killed and I hope steps can be taken to avoid a repeat of this incident.

  3. “Do you buy this ‘super light dust’ argument? I don’t.”

    You should. This is not a ‘clean-room’, this is a manufacturing center, possibly involved in fabrication, and many metals are extremely flammable as a fine (and this is micro-fine, not a thing like those dust-bunnies under our beds) dust- needing only a small spark to set off.

    1. If it’s where they make the aluminum bodies … that aluminum dust is incredibly volatile. Seen my share of dust fires in the sheet metal industry years ago….

    2. If this facility is not a clean room area you’d be howling at the amount of dust trapped under your iPad screen on top of whatever complaints you would voice with regard to the yellow tinge on the glass edge due to drying glue. 

      At no stage does an electronic component not pass through a clean room environment. Your point of view makes no sense. Why would Apple wrap your new iPad in cling film if it had specks of dust embedded within it.

      1. You do realize that they don’t create the “electronic components” using magic, right? Every single piece of an iPad was built using materials that existed already. Do you think the aluminum used to make the body is mined from the earth in a clean room? Do you think the machining done to shape pure aluminum into the iPad’s body is done by magical microscopic elves who carefully pluck away excess material one atom at a time?

        No. There is machining done, and many components are built using materials that are shaped in rooms that are not “clean.” Only certain components (and at certain stages – there’s this little concept in our universe called “time”) must be handled in a clean room.

        P.S. I wouldn’t have been so derisive if you hadn’t been such an illogical jerk to the previous commenter.

        1. You are a jerk. There’s no need to emphasize that. I can hear you loud enough. You don’t know anything about electronics assembly and are simply talking out of your ass. 

          The facility is an assembly plant, stupid, not a milling or machining plant. These are completed offsite using aluminum blocks and then transported to this plant for prefinal assembly. You wouldn’t want to mix milling and assembly in the same plant because there needs to be a physical distinction between basic assembly which is the formation of raw materials into shaped aluminium blocks and prefinal assembly not least because they call for different skill sets and there needs to be a physical separation between clean room operations and milling and cutting which produces waste that can contaminate the assembly plant.

          I’d stick to picking your nose if I were you. You’d look less stupid.

        2. Enough with the name calling!
          The site is not just about assembly – they do many heavy industry processes in other areas on the same site, not anything to do with Apple products.
          It’s also possible they had a problem with the dust extraction system. The same thing happened at a local flour milling facility a few years ago.
          When health and safety concerns are properly implemented, we can be sure the cost of the products we avidly consume will become more expensive.

        3. The news report states clearly that it is an assembly plant. Normally an assembly plant specializes in assembling components into finished products because they come in part form and are then assembled together on site. It stands to reason that a machine shop having the proper equipment, manpower and specialization will fabricate the machined parts because conducting machining operations in an assembly plant will not produce the economies of scale needed to create an affordable iPad. Only people without direct knowledge of manufacturing processes will say that it’s a combinative effort whereas it’s a specialized activity.

        4. Look, I only had a problem with the way you were so rude to and dismissive of opsono for no good reason. Do you really think that a building cannot be divided into separate areas on separate ventilation systems? Is it really impossible to have clean rooms in a structure that also contains non-clean rooms?

          If so, then explaining why opsono was wrong without reference to “you’d be howling” and “makes no sense” would have been called for.

          My mistake, too, though, since I answered you in the same vein. That’s my fault.

  4. Even though the final assembly may not have had a direct blast, keep in mind that an explosion causes all kinds of electrical, structural, ventilation, and environmental hazards throughout a building.

  5. This could in fact be the result of the first artillery shot Microsoft has fired against Apple. It has recently become clear to MS that they have no other option in its death match with Apple at this point than to become completely militarized.

  6. Having visited several assembly plants, the only explanation to the dust explosion is that there is special magic dust that is used on Apple products, especially the iPad. Weather in Chengdu has been around +20C, humidity 75%, which means A/C is not on and most likely the windows were open.

  7. Just read some of the stories.
    Where did folks get the idea this was an ASSEMBLY plant? It is repeatedly referred to as a PRODUCTION plant.
    Furthermore, the blast occurred in the “polishing room.” The most likely polishing activity would be to the aluminum body, thus creating volatile aluminum dust.

  8. According to the Information Office of Chengdu Municipal Government Bulletin, on May 20, at 19:00 Beijing Time, Foxconn Group Hongfujin Chengdu polishing workshop was exploded in production – excerpt taken from China Financial Daily news

    Aluminum dust created during brushing and polishing can create an explosion hazard.

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