SMD, chip and SAW versions, and models with enhanced attributes are in the spotlight as suppliers strive to match trends in target markets.
The performance and dimension requirements of different applications are driving development initiatives in China’s crystal, oscillator and filter industry. Miniaturization remains a key trend in alignment with latest electronics. Stability, frequency and precision are being enhanced, and phase noise and insertion loss lowered to meet the specifications of recent product rollouts in both traditional and emerging markets.
|This oscillator from PiPhen has 1 to 50MHz frequency range, ±50ppm stability and 3.3 and 5V supply voltage.|
In the crystal and oscillator segment, makers continue to focus on SMD versions to meet climbing demand from mobile phones and other portable devices. More than 20 percent of the maker pool in this category can produce such models. The popular sizes are 7x5, 6x3.5, 5x3.2 and 3.2x2.5mm. Work on more compact configurations is under way, with many companies designing 2.5x2 and 2x1.6mm kinds.
To upgrade component attributes, makers are turning to high-quality crystal rods, and more accurate crystal blank cutting and silver coating. For oscillators, MEMS units, which boast better reliability and integration properties than crystal types, have gradually been increasing in number. These, however, are not expected to rule output in the near future as the type’s lower precision and high costs continue to limit adoption.
Aside from boosting performance, manufacturers are employing advanced equipment technologies to keep pace with foreign counterparts in terms of efficiency and product quality. They acquire most key facilities, including vacuum silver coating, gluing and fine-tuning machines, from Japan, South Korea and the US.
All these are under efforts to maintain buyer base while attracting new orders. Demand largely comes from clocks and watches, mobile phones, Bluetooth and WLAN devices, LCDs, computers and automotive systems.
China’s filter sector, meanwhile, is buoyed by the portable electronics, telecom, wireless communications, A/V equipment and flat-panel TV segments. To meet the requirement for smaller components, suppliers are designing models with slimmer profiles. The mainstream sizes are 7x5, 6x3.5 and 5x3.2mm, but many companies are releasing more 4x2.5, 3.2x2.5, 2.5x2 and 2.5x1.6mm units.
Chip varieties are expected to account for over 60 percent of China’s filter output in five years. For SAW, the most compact version at present is 3x3mm. Projects targeting 2.5x2mm configurations are in progress. For ceramic, there are 11.5x7.5, 7.5x5.6, 7x3 and 3.45x3.1mm, with the last being the smallest available.
The spotlight is also on SAW variants. The type has a wider frequency range, compressed structure, and better stability and consistency than ceramic and crystal units, making it suitable as an RF filter and for anti-EMI applications. Development work in this category centers on raising the frequency further and reducing insertion loss through the optimization of the interdigital transducer electrode design and fine semiconductor processing technology. These upgrades will allow use of the components in 3G and 4G mobile communication, sensors and RFID products.
Companies are likewise emphasizing EMI filters because of updates in EMC regulations. R&D in this group includes the adoption of high-performance ferrite core materials, which can lower sinter temperature and increase impedance. They can also improve the common- and differential-mode filtering performance. New chemistries are being explored as well. Some companies are employing nanocrystalline soft magnetic alloy, hexagonal CO2Z and compound magnetic/dielectric materials. The first boasts elevated saturation flux density and stability under high temperatures, and good magnetic permeability. The last two match high-frequency applications.
To gain an advantage in this mature line, makers are enhancing services and expanding sales channels.
The industry in China has more than 500 suppliers. Many said the cost of raw materials, including crystal blanks, housing, substrate, ceramic and silver, increased slightly in 2010. The rates of the first two inputs climbed by more than 5 percent this year. Despite the markups, quotes are expected to stay at current levels because of stiff competition and as makers raise output by 20 to 30 percent to meet increasing demand. Some companies consider implementing higher prices for upscale models should outlay go up significantly.
|The model HC-49S crystal from Utech has 3.5 to 100MHz oscillating frequency and up to ±100ppm center frequency tolerance at 25±3 C.|
The selection in China includes lead, DIP and SMD varieties, with the last two dominating output and exports. Crystals come in 8kHz to 100MHz frequencies, and are largely adopted in PCs, TVs, consumer electronics and mobile communication devices. Oscillators are available in TCXO, VCXO, OCXO and SPXO configurations, the first being the most popular. Applications cover mobile phones and base stations, telecom and satellite communication equipment, and GPS products.
Shenzhen SCTF Electronics Co. Ltd and Utech Electronics Technology Co. Ltd are two of the major players in the line. The first offers a range of SMD crystals and oscillators in 7050, 6035, 3225 and 5032 series, with the last representing the bulk of overseas deliveries. The 5032 array is used in PCMCIA cards, notebook and palmtop computers, and other portable electronics. Its frequency stability is ±25 to ±50ppm, and supply voltage 5 or 3.3V±10 percent. The company’s best-seller is a TCXO full-size crystal oscillator with 2 to 30MHz, high accuracy and stability, and low phase noise and costs.
At Utech, the 3025 series of crystals, dominates exports although it is 10 percent more expensive than 5032 counterparts. Models of the first category have an oscillating frequency of 12 to 54MHz. The tolerance of the center frequency at 25±3 C can be ±10, ±20, ±30, ±50 or ±100ppm, while the drift is from ±10 to ±50ppm. At present, crystals make up 60 percent of the supplier’s total output of all products.
Ceramic variants dominate the line in China. These are available from more than 100 companies, and are adopted in PCs and peripherals, A/V equipment, flat-panel TVs and displays, household appliances and telecom devices. Products are categorized as chip or lead. The former typically supports a center frequency of 455kHz to 10.7MHz. Units with 455kHz exhibit 1,500ohm I/O impedance, 4 to 6dB insertion loss and 6dB bandwidth at 7.5 to 10kHz. Those operating on 10.7MHz have 330 and 470ohm I/O impedance, 3 to 9dB insertion loss and 3dB bandwidth at 110±30 to 330±50kHz.
Lead versions’ center frequencies are usually 450 to 465kHz, 4.5 to 6.74MHz and 10.7MHz. Variants with 450 and 455kHz are favored in audio and digital communication equipment, while 4.5, 6.5 and 10.7MHz kinds are employed in wireless communication and telecom equipment, CRT and flat-panel TVs, and computers.
SAW filters support 500MHz to 3GHz. Their key applications are mobile and wireless communication, and A/V products. There are more than 30 suppliers in this sector, including PiPhen Electronics Ltd. The company offers the SIP5 series, which is largely used in audio equipment. The category enables 38, 38.9, 45.75 and 58.75MHz, and is compatible with PAL, SECAM and NTSC systems. The maker’s bandpass SMD models, meanwhile, are commonly applied in FPDs, digital TVs and set-top boxes. This type’s 11x4x1.5mm version operates on 36, 36.12, 36.17 and 43.75 to 44MHz.
The crystal filter segment consists of more than 200 manufacturers. Products allow narrow bandpass filtering, and boast high frequency stability and low insertion loss. The center frequency can exceed 100MHz. Monolithic variants are the most popular, having 2dB insertion loss, 0.5dB ripple and 10.7, 21.4, 21.7 and 45MHz standard frequencies. They are utilized in radio equipment, cordless phones and walkie-talkies.
|Technical Crystal’s model QCC8C SAW filter is suitable for satellite receivers, mobile and cordless phones and WLAN and GPS devices.|
Hong Kong suppliers of crystals, oscillators and filters are investing in advanced manufacturing and testing equipment to meet customers’ stringent requirements on precision and reliability. They source raw materials, including cans, bases and ICs, from Japan, South Korea and Taiwan to improve these properties further and narrow the quality gap with top brands in Asia. Companies are likewise striving to match clients’ exact temperature specifications. As a testament to their product reliability, crystals, oscillators and filters from Hong Kong are used by major telecom device providers in Japan and South Korea. The components are also delivered to makers of consumer and automotive electronics in Europe and North America.
Large-capacity manufacturers are able to shorten lead times and pass down cost savings to long-term buyers. To achieve this, they invest regularly in upgrading production facilities and developing or acquiring new technologies. Many are gradually delivering high-value components to expand market share, which at present remains concentrated on the low-end segment.
Size reduction and the shift to SMD form factor are the other developments in the line. Large-volume production spurred by the miniaturization trend has been causing the steady reduction in the prices of SMD models. Still, enterprises offer the parts in both standard and compact sizes.
There are at least 10 makers of the line in Hong Kong. A number manufacture quartz crystals in-house. Most also provide related products such as ceramic resonators, chip capacitors and other SAW components. The supplier base includes some of the earliest developers of piezoelectric ceramic devices and quartz crystals that established factories in mainland China.
Chequers Electronic (China) Ltd’s portfolio covers SMD quartz crystals in 2520, 4025, 6035, 0603, 0705 and other in-demand packages. Technical Crystal (China) Ltd’s product roster includes crystals, ceramic resonators and filters, oscillators, and SAW resonators and filters. Caltron Devices Ltd is another major Hong Kong provider of crystal oscillators, and SAW and ceramic filters.
Taiwan’s R&D on crystals, oscillators and filters centers on improving product performance and riding the miniaturization trend. For the first, suppliers are releasing models with a lower power consumption and high frequency and accuracy, which are the major requirements of emerging broadband applications. Products from the island have 1 to 120MHz operating frequency. Makers are also looking to reduce the current tolerance of ±30 to ±50ppm of mainstream versions for better accuracy.
In terms of dimensions, thin and light configurations are highlighted. Companies have introduced seam crystals measuring only 3.2x2.5mm and 2x1.6mm. TXC Corp. has introduced the world’s smallest unit at 1.6x1.2mm.
To keep up with technology updates, manufacturers maintain close ties with Japan enterprises. The latter has been ruling global supply, with giant players Epson-Toyocom, NDK, Kyocera-Kinseki and KDS accounting for more than 50 percent of the market. Taiwan makers, however, are gradually catching up, leveraging cost-effectiveness and over 30 years of experience in the industry. They are able to reduce expenses without sacrificing quality.
Aside from improved product performance, the recent earthquake in Japan is expected to bring in more subcontracts to Taiwan. The economic downturn in 2008 also proves beneficial to companies in the island, with some citing the exit of smaller vendors in mainland China presenting more opportunities for them.
The industry in Taiwan has 20 to 30 manufacturers that provide mostly midrange and high-end units such as DIP and SMD crystals, XO and VCXO oscillators, and SAW filters. Products are widely used in mobile phones, networking and telecom devices, computers and peripherals, and consumer electronics. Automotive electronics is an emerging niche market. Some makers have applied for TS 16949 approval in addition to the regular ISO management certification.
Active players in the line include Aker Technology Co. Ltd, Harmony Electronics Corp., TXC, Siward, Tai-Saw and Taitien.
Aker Technology Co. Ltd
Model: SML-751 Series
Argo Technology Co. Ltd
Chequers Electronic (China) Ltd
Harmony Electronics Corp.
Model: HSX111S Series
Shenzhen SCTF Electronics Co. Ltd
Model: TCXO DIP 14
Note: This article "Diverse applications keep crystal, oscillator and filter R&D active" was originally published by Global Sources, a leading business-to-business media company and a primary facilitator of trade with China manufacturers and India suppliers, providing essential sourcing information to volume buyers through our e-magazines, trade shows and industry research.
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