SAN FRANCISCO—Lead times for aluminum, ceramic and tantalum capacitors could remain abnormally long through the fourth quarter of this year and perhaps beyond, according to market research firm iSuppli Corp.
Average lead times for aluminum capacitors remain in the 18-week range, far beyond the normal 10 to 12 week range, according to iSuppli (El Segundo, Calif.).
"Despite their tiny size and minuscule price—commonly a fraction of a cent—capacitors serve as a bellwether for demand trends in technology," said Rick Pierson, senior analyst at iSuppli, in a statement. "This is because capacitors are extensively used in nearly all electronic products. For example, Apple Inc.'s iPad contains 702 capacitors, while the iPhone 4 has 469."
Making matters worse is that aluminum foil, used as the conductor in capacitors, is in short supply, adding fuel to the fire of increased prices, iSuppli said.
According to iSuppli electronic market forecasts, ceramic capacitors are also averaging 18-week lead times, with some products being put on allocation in view of sustained consumer demand. The hardest-hit ceramic capacitors include high-capacitance components and high-voltage parts, which will take the longest to recover, as they require more capacity to build because of their longer cycle times, iSuppli said.
But unlike tantalum capacitors, a diverse supply base exists for ceramic capacitors, and iSuppli said it is seeing manufacturers commit capital in order to expand their capabilities due to high demand. As a result of the increased capacity, combined with a slowing of consumer demand for ceramic capacitors, the segment should come back into balance by late fourth quarter, the firm predicted.
No real short-term solution exists for tantalum capacity supply issues, and manufacturers have been conservative in adding capacity given the mature nature of the products, iSuppli said. Lead times for these parts have been stretched to 20 weeks and beyond, the firm said.
The recent downturn prompted manufacturers of raw materials for tantalum capacitors to scale back significantly, iSuppli said. Manufacturers won’t invest in further capacity without long-term commitments from capacitor manufacturers, iSuppli's supply chain research shows.
Such problems will continue until the end of the year, iSuppli expects, with some improvements occurring in the first quarter of 2011 as raw material issues get sorted out. Depending on the mix of product and the strategic importance of the OEM, comparatively high pricing on these commodity parts can be expected to continue across the board, the firm said. Pricing should stabilize in the first quarter of 2011 but will remain at higher levels in the foreseeable future, iSuppli said.
Thanks for this educational bit!
This, in part, must explain the growing number of counterfeit capacitors we have been identifying for our customers with our TruView reel-to-reel x-ray inspection tool. We were surprised anyone would be counterfeiting tantalum capacitors, but if they are growing in expense, buying obsolete is a viable option, and when buying obsolete, that opens you up the risk of counterfeiting. And if you don't check 100% of the parts on the reel you procure, how would you know which were the bad ones "salted" in there?-K
If you have any requirments and can not get immiedate delivery please email me firstname.lastname@example.org Our stock levels are high on many allocated producst, including tantalum capacitors in all values, case sizes, and ESR ratings. Also please see our group on Linked In "Capacitor Buyers"
This is really a big headache for the designers. The lead time issue with the tantalum capacitor has started quite a long back. Now the aluminum foil shortage issue added more trouble. Moreover 18 weeks of lead time for the ceramic capacitors will really cause in lots of advance planning for the component purchasers in the factory.
Join our online Radio Show on Friday 11th July starting at 2:00pm Eastern, when EETimes editor of all things fun and interesting, Max Maxfield, and embedded systems expert, Jack Ganssle, will debate as to just what is, and is not, and embedded system.