Murata Manufacturing Co. Ltd. is seeking to help customers meet production schedules by doubling manufacturing capacity in Japan for its new GRM high-capacitance ceramic capacitors, a replacement for tantalum capacitors.
OEMs looking to bring products to market quickly have been hampered by tight supplies of ceramic and tantalum capacitors, said Geoff Brock, product manager at Murata Electronics North America Inc. in Smyrna, Ga.
For OEMs struggling with 26- to 52-week lead times for tantalum-chip capacitors, Murata is offering 1- to 10-microfarad and up to 22-??F ceramic caps with typical lead times of 10 to 12 weeks.
"We're trying to keep up with market demand. And as we increase our capacity, the more we sell, the more of it goes to our bottom line," Brock said.
Murata's goal is to garner market share. "The 1-microfarad-and-below [capacitance range] has always been where ceramic capacitors rule, but there are so many producers that we all will only grow as the market grows," Brock said.
This year, Murata's unit sales of capacitors have increased by about 20% to 25%. Telecom applications are driving growth and providing the impetus behind the downsizing to 0402 and even 0201 case sizes, Brock noted.
The worldwide capacitor market is predicted to nearly double in sales from $11.2 billion in 1999 to $20.6 billion in 2004, according to research firm Frost & Sullivan Inc., Mountain View, Calif.
To grow faster than the ceramic market, Murata has focused some of its attention toward the tantalum-capacitor market.
Recognizing that the new ceramic capacitors are increasingly popular with cell-phone and computer OEMs, Murata in the past 12 months has doubled its production capacity. These capacitors can be used in coupling, decoupling, bypassing, signal smoothing, and other applications.
From March to September, Murata boosted its production capacity of ceramic capacitors by 25%, a move that led the company to double its capacity for high-capacitance parts. In the next year, the company plans to increase overall production capacity by another 16%.
To use these high-capacitance products as tantalum replacements, customers don't have to change their boards; they are drop-in replacements to make it easier on engineers, Brock said. Initially, it eliminates the need for a redesign, he added.
Since one of the benefits of ceramic caps, in many cases, is they can be produced in smaller case sizes than tantalum caps, Murata would prefer that its customers move to a smaller case size at the next design cycle, Brock said.
Moving to a smaller case size increases the company's manufacturing capacity and makes the parts cheaper to produce, he said, adding, "In many cases, 1206, 0805, and 0603 package sizes are all produced on the same production line. As a result, we may be able, for example, to produce about four times the number of 0603s as 1206s on the same line."
Other benefits of Murata's tantalum replacements include nonpolarization and low equivalent series resistance (ESR). "They're not polarized, which eliminates problems with improper placement during manufacturing," Brock said. Plus, the lower ESR value, typically 0.02 ohms compared with an average ESR of 1 * for tantalums, offers performance benefits, he said.
Average lead times for standard GRM Series ceramic capacitors, which offer a capacitance range from 0.5 picofarad to 47 ??F, is about 16 weeks. A few products, such as those with a capacitance value of 22 ??F, are available off the shelf.
The new 47-??F cap is in limited production. The devices are available in various package sizes, including 1210, 1206, 0805, 0603, and 0402.
Clearly targeting the tantalum capacitor marketplace, Murata will introduce a 100-??F ceramic device by year's end. A 220-??F ceramic capacitor is planned for 2002.
Ceramic-capacitor shortages should start to ease by year's end, with supply and demand reaching parity by the end of February, Brock said.
"It looks like we'll be pulling out of this crunch that everyone has been in some time around the end of the year to February 2001, which should result in even shorter lead times," he said.