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MLCC suppliers emphasize 0201 types
MLCC suppliers emphasize 0201 types
Large operations also step up product initiatives for 01005 versions to match the miniaturization trend in mobile devices.

China makers of multilayer ceramic capacitors will increase output of 0201 units while major players speed up R&D on 01005 under efforts to grow the line. They are pursuing miniaturization further to take advantage of the product’s spreading adoption in mobile electronic devices. In smartphones, more than 300 MLCCs are required. This will rise to between 700 and 800 units in latest handset releases with quad-core processors and 4G/LTE capability.

To meet the processing requirements of 0201 kinds, companies are investing in machinery upgrade. They are acquiring entire sets, which include ball milling, fully automatic casting, screen printing and laminating, isostatic pressing, cutting, tumbling and termination equipment, and furnaces. Most machines will come from Japan, the US and Germany. This manufacturing boost will displace 0402 from the mainstream in the coming one or two years.

Spurring local enterprises to broaden their 0201 yield is the category’s climbing share of global MLCC sales. It will touch 50 percent by 2014 from 35 percent this year, according to the China Electronics News. Major players such as Eyang and Fenghua Advance are the key suppliers of the type in China. The former maker can churn out 7 billion units each month, and the other 1 billion units.

In the 01005 segment, a number of large business hope to follow Eyang’s roadmap. The company is the only domestic operation offering such capacitors at present due to the high technology threshold. It will enter mass production in the months ahead to maintain this lead. Including 01005, 0402 and 0805 varieties, Eyang’s annual turnout will hit 120 billion units by yearend, up by 33 percent from 2012.

Suppliers expect requirement for small MLCCs will rise by 15 percent in the coming year, boosting the line by 10 to 15 percent. They are looking to realize a 10 percent increase in export shipments by year’s end. In anticipation, manufacturers such as Jiaguan Electronics Co. Ltd are allocating resources for expansion. The maker moved to a $4.8 million new factory to raise production by 50 percent in the months ahead.

Broadening market
MLCCs’ improving capacitance bolsters its size and cost advantages to compete with tantalum counterparts, especially in the smartphone sector.

The component has already outstripped its rival in the range below 22μF, encouraging China suppliers to raise the level to 47μF. The target has been achieved in larger 0805 units, offering better ESR performance and lower price. Tantalum variants, however, will remain an option in high-capacitance uses.

Local makers are also positioning MLCCs as the replacement of aluminum electrolytic types in the low-capacitance segment. In the 1206 range, the former units adopting Y5V dielectric materials can reach 100μF.

Based on operating temperature, however, aluminum electrolytic varieties continue to exceed ceramic kinds. The latter support 85 C while the other can handle as high as 125 C. To surpass this and reach 150 C, new materials such as X8R and X9R are used. So far, only major international companies, including TDK and Vishay, have released X8R products.

China’s supplier base includes key players such as Murata, Samsung, Kyocera and TDK. Eyang, Fenghua Advanced and Chaozhou Three Circles are the local counterparts. The first is on the same level as Murata in high Q value compact units used in RF terminals. Eyang, however, lags behind the industry leader in terms of technology and production capacity for compact units. As such, the China maker will adopt the thin film technique to realize dielectric layers surpassing 1,000 in the near future.

Mainstream selection

China’s range of MLCCs is categorized by materials used. The options are X7R, X5R, Y5U and Y5V. Units operate in -30 or -55 to 85 C, or -55 to 125 C.

Products come in sizes of 1210, 0805, 0603, 0402 and 0201, with 01005 units comprising a minority category. These comply with CE, UL, VDE, NEMKO, FIMKO, SEMKO and RoHS.

Dielectric ceramic powder, and internal and external electrodes are the key manufacturing inputs. Sinocera in Shandong province is the largest provider of the first, and high-purity ultrafine barium titanate and MLCC powder. For 0201 kinds, companies also turn to Sakai of Japan.

Product prices are expected to remain stable in the coming months due to tight competition.

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