By Mark D. Waugh, Senior Product Manager, Capacitor Products Group; Murata Electronics North America (Smyrna, GA)
With the New Year comes new products and new market challenges, as well as a fresh perspective on the technology and consumer demands that impact and influence the multilayer ceramic capacitor (MLCC) industry. Given that Murata has experienced the ebbs and flows in the market for years, we are in a unique position to forecast research and development trends, as well as emerging markets, for 2008 and beyond.
To understand the MLCC market, it is important to note the improvements in ceramic chemistry and how these advancements allow for thinner layers, in turn allowing for higher-capacitance devices. These enhancements include, at the most basic level, the development of new ceramic materials. As the miniaturization of electronic components advances, so does the importance of material chemistry, grain size, and physical form of material particles. Murata’s legacy knowledge of raw material development, ceramic dielectric materials, and the captive oxalate process for chemical precipitation of uniform particles allows for the use of fine ceramic powders and the uniformity of general ceramic composition. As such, high density of green film and thinner and smoother electrodes are now possible. The ability to comprehend and manipulate the unique properties of ceramics leads to higher capacitance in smaller packages. High-capacitance values of MLCCs are made by increasing the number of electrode layers, and by decreasing the thickness of dielectric layers (Figure 1). By the end of 2008, Murata’s technology will achieve 0.7 μm dielectric thickness— a significant improvement from the 2 μm in 2000 and 1 μm technology in 2005. As the miniaturization of electronic components, such as the EIA 01005 0.4 mm x 0.2 mm MLCC, continues, highly advanced mounting techniques are also necessary. We aim to help drive the progression of mounting technology for the industry by offering our proven production modules and mounting machinery developments.
MLCCs vs. Electrolytic Caps
Understanding improvements in ceramic technology only tells half the story—ceramic materials have numerous characteristics that make it a better alternative than tantalum and aluminum or electrolytic caps. The continued conversion from electrolytic caps to ceramic caps will also impact the market from design through production stages.
The advantages high cap MLCCs have over tantalum and electrolytic caps are numerous, and include:
• Impedance/ESR is much lower compared to tantalum capacitors (Figure 2), especially at high frequencies (10
• The capacitance remains constant over a wide frequency range.
• Noise absorption is excellent compared to tantalum capacitors.
• Self-heating due to ripple current is lower because of lower ESR.
• Excellent breakdown voltage when compared to tantalum capacitors.
• Unlike tantalum capacitors, there is no polarity. This eliminates the risk of reverse biasing resulting in instant
failures or, worse case scenario, field failures.
• MLCCs have a volumetric advantage over tantalum capacitors as advances in ceramic technology pave the way for higher capacitances in smaller case sizes.
Given the continual advancements in ceramic materials, there are very few instances where electrolytic capacitors are a better choice. One notable area where tantalum currently cannot be replaced by ceramic is in lower frequency ranges (<1 kHz). Low frequencies require a higher capacitance, but are determined by voltage and
allowable ripple current. Also, electrolytic capacitors are a better option when high capacitance values, such as 1000 μF, are required at voltages above 50 V. Lastly, there still exist some applications where higher ESR is required as MLCCs are generally very low (< 15 mΩ). With that background as a base, we can now move into where the market has come from and where it is heading.
[caption id="attachment_551" align="alignright" width="228" caption="Figure 3: MLCC Size Trend Worldwide"][/caption]
2006 & 2007 Perspective
In 2006, the demand for MLCCs increased on a massive scale due to a boost in parts per set driven by progress of digitalization, function upgrades, and the replacement of tantalum and aluminum electrolytic capacitors. High cap (≥1 μF) delivery was very tight with some lead times greater than 16 weeks. The growth markets were mobile phones, laptop PCs, and LCD HDTVs and projectors. Unlike 2006, large market growth was expected in 2007, but capacity expansion by suppliers was still short of market demands. There was a large increase in capacity for all suppliers (including a rise of over 30% for Murata); however, it was not enough to satisfy demand. Of course, this led to shortages and longer lead times for some 0402 and high cap products, specifically 1206 10 μF. Growth markets basically remained unchanged from the previous year, but they did include a strong emergence of personal navigation devices (PNDs), also known as portable GPS units, with an emphasis on the automotive market.
Murata believes MLCC demand will increase rapidly during the first fiscal half of 2008 as the Beijing Olympics approach. By the end of 2008, supply and demand should equalize, but some popular high cap items and smaller case size products, especially 0201, will remain in short supply. Murata will expand capacity again to over 30% to meet these needs, with emphasis at manufacturing facilities in Izumo and Okayama, Japan. Additionally, we anticipate specific growth for 0201 and 01005 as the demand for both sizes has and will continue to increase (Figure 3). Driving the 01005 market is PA modules, while 0201 are needed not only for these, but also for mobile phones, MP3 players, video gaming consoles, and MPUs and CPUs for laptops. Further, in response to strong market demand, Murata will expand its capacity for “main stream” high cap products such as 0402 1 μF, 0603 2.2 μF, 0603 4.7 μF, and 0805 10 μF.
In 2008, Murata expects to offer 0402 X5R 10 μF 4 V and 0805 X5R 100 μF 4 V in mass production, as improved materials and processing have allowed for reliable manufacturing of thinner dielectric layers. New products are
also expected in 0402 through 01005, with capacitance range expansion a focus for 01005 products. (Note: Current mass production maximum capacitance values: 0402, X5R, 10 V – 2.2 μF and 1206, X5R, 6.3 V – 100 μF.)
Murata Investment and R&D:
As always, our ability to offer a variety of new products comes from a strong commitment to the research and development process. Year after year, Murata continuously reinvests about 7% of net sales for research and development. 2008 will be no exception. The focus will remain the same as last year, with an emphasis on X5R, X7R, and X8* product developments. These improvements will focus on high cap and smaller case products (0402 to 01005) and high temperature applications for automotive markets. Murata will also continue to invest in advancements for capacitors in hybrid HEV designs with Japanese auto makers. Further, we anticipate the downsizing trend to continue, with the 0402 case size being the sweet spot in the market due to pricing and availability. See Figure 3.
One of the strongest markets for 2008 is the continued growth of flat-panel LCD and plasma displays with HDTV modules, particularly in China, Mexico, Taiwan, and Korea. This market expansion is important to note because
the MLCC content from a CRT (225- to 275-piece MLCCs) has increased to 1200 pieces. Demand for these HDTV sets continues to remain strong in North America. Growth of the personal navigation devices market has also increased, as unit costs have dropped over 40% from last year. GPS units have been the hottest holiday gift for the last two years running, particularly in the United States and Europe.
The overall high cap content in GPS units remains quite high, especially for input power supply circuit filtering. (The average GPS utilizes about 225 MLCCs.) For 3G phone technology, the downsizing trend continues from 0402 to 0201, and even the incorporation of 01005 MLCCs. Murata also anticipates further consolidation and standardization of high cap MLCCs, specifically in the power management IC circuits. As for more recent PDA phone designs, MLCC piece counts per set are approximately 350 to 400 pieces in smaller packages. The automotive market is another opportunity for the growth of MLCCs. In this sector, cars continue to evolve with more electronics. As electronic features have increased, so too have the number of modules and components. The growth in the number of modules has been so great that these modules are no longer mounted in the passenger cabin, but are now under the hood, which is a severe temperature environment given its need for 150°C guaranteed components.
In 2008, Murata will release additional MLCC components in the GCG series in X8R, X8G, and X8L (-55° to +150°C) temperature characteristics, which meet AECQ200 requirements. The GCG is a conductive glue-mounted device rather than solder-mounted, like the GCM series (Figure 4). In high-temperature environments, the connectivity reliability is focused on the solder fillet because there are thermal expansion coefficient differences between the substrate, MLCC, and solder fillet. A conductive glue-mounted device allows for more “flexibility” during periods of expansion and contraction because the thermal expansion differences have been reduced by using a non-solder attachment. Transmission controls and several engine sensors are also included in this mix.
The use of low equivalent series inductance (low ESL) capacitors is increasing as they are used in CPU packages
for server and PC applications. These functions have low operating voltages and use high speed I/Os. Low ESL capacitors fulfill the need for a reduction in inductance across power supply lines. Further, a low ESL decoupling capacitor can charge and discharge electricity at a high speed when it is mounted on an IC package. The use of these capacitors in high-frequency circuits also improves first voltage drops. See Figure 5.
Overall, the IC market drives the trend for such low ESL components as higher clock frequencies, lower operation
voltages, and higher operating currents are required. As ICs expand in the CPU market for applications, such as gaming consoles and automotive equipment, Murata expects the demand for low ESL capacitors to increase.
Last, but surely not least, are the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Entire communications and telecom infrastructures are being developed at breakneck speeds—drawing greatly on our inventory as the advanced exchange of data and information is a critical piece of the puzzle.
The Wrap Up
There is a tremendous amount of growth, along with technology and material advancements, that we in the industry are looking forward to coming to fruition. With Murata’s experience,
R&D strategy, and perspective, we are keeping a close watch on the markets that promise to spur further demand for MLCCs and push the industry to new levels of success.
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