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Multilayer ceramic capacitor industry takes miniaturization, low-profile route

Companies are developing low ESL/ESR, high-performance MLCCs to suit portable, automotive and industrial applications.

China multilayer ceramic capacitor manufacturers are pursuing a multipronged R&D strategy to ensure releases match stiff requirements in varied electronics products. For one, makers are seeking to boost the range of applications of 0603 to 0402 series. Unlike the former, 0402 units can reduce 40 to 50 percent of the effective surface mounting area, and the parasitic inductance and resistance coming from the PCB layout. With capacitor dimensions streamlined significantly, the ESL and ESR are likewise lowered.

Multilayer ceramic capacitor
The MLCC-1-1 model from Shenzhen Weidy has 100pF to 2.2µF capacitance and operates at up to 1kV.

Suppliers are also emphasizing high-density mounting, which has strict requirements in size, shape, precision, terminal contact and taping form. There are companies seeking to nominate the use of narrow pitch tape, which is environment-friendly and renewable. Some are employing electromagnetic compatibility strategies that become especially important when designing low-voltage portable devices that are built to last. This complements rising market demand for broadband MLCCs that feature reduced ESR/ESL. When applied to high-frequency ICs, such versions reduce the electronic interference, stabilize the power voltage, lessen the number of capacitors from the circuit design and increase the bandwidth for noise suppression.

R&D efforts are likewise geared toward improving the electrical characteristics covering capacity density per unit volume, frequency response, DC bias voltage and loss coefficient. Increasing the reliability is also a priority, especially among suppliers targeting automotive and industrial applications that demand rigorous operating attributes both in temperature range and voltage.

Rising demand for MLCCs is driven by the proliferation of multifunction devices that need high-speed, low-power ICs, compact modules and numerous interfaces. Mobile phones, laptops, video game consoles and FPDs are currently the key applications for the line, which is leaning toward miniaturization in reflection of trends in consumer electronics.

China manufactures more than a third of the world’s passive components, and capacitors account for 30 percent of sales. The sector generated $7.4 billion in revenue last year, up by 5 percent from 2009 according to the China Electronic Components Association. MLCCs contributed $4.4 billion or 60 percent.

Local makers supply nearly half of the global market for this line. In China, the sector takes up 80 percent of the total chip capacitor output and has been growing at an annual rate exceeding 30 percent for the past three years. In 2010, the yield volume hit the trillion mark.

There are more than 20 manufacturers, led by TDK, Yageo, Eyang, Chao Zhou Three-Circle, Tianjin Semco, Shanghai Kyocera, Beijing Murata and Guangdong Fenghua. Together they represent 80 percent of the country’s aggregate turnout.

In preparation for rising demand, makers are looking to increase capacity utilization from the current 70 to
90 percent. In particular, the expansion is aimed at raising output of products for portable electronics. Shenzhen Weidy Industrial Development Co. Ltd and Shenzhen Topmay Electronic Co. Ltd, for instance, said orders for lead and SMD types are climbing.

Acknowledging that material development is also key to growing the line, makers are looking to incorporate ultrathin ceramic layers to improve the capacitance. In the next few years, R&D work on inputs will center on those with high dielectric rate via barium titanate with enhanced crystalline attributes.

Products & target applications
Hong Kong: MLCC makers seek to streamline design
Taiwan: Compact MLCCs main trend
Product gallery

Products & target applications

China manufacturers’ selection ranges from lead to SMD multilayer ceramic capacitors. The mainstream units in the latter category are the 0603 and 0402. Several foreign-owned companies can provide 0201 and even 01005 models.

MLCCs may also be classified according to their properties, materials and production process. The NP0 and C0G have stable temperature characteristics, small capacitance and high prices, unlike the inexpensive Y5V and Z5U. The X7R and X5R are positioned as midrange.

Based on temperature attributes, the C0G with BME technology and X7R X5R with low ESR are widely applied in portable devices.

The general capacitance of a C0G variant is below 1,000pF. A conventional NME model has a loss tangent value range of (2.0~8.0)x10-4, 31 to 50 percent higher than the new C0G MLCC employing BME with (1.0~2.5)x10-4. This makes the latter suitable for low-power products with T/R modules, including GSM, CDMA and 3G mobile phones, cordless handsets, and Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and GPS devices.

The most popular C0G types are the 0402, 0603, 0805 and 1206, which have -55 to 125 C operating temperature and 0±30ppm/C COG, 0±60ppm/C COH. These are applied in various high-frequency circuits, which cover oscillators and timers.

The Y5V varieties are generally 0402, 0603, 0805 and 1206. They operate in -25 to 85 C, with temperature characteristics of 30 percent, -80 percent. These capacitors are utilized in blocking and bypass circuits.

The Z5U MLCCs are usually of the 0402, 0603 and 0805 configurations, with 10 to 85 C operating temperature and 22 percent, -56 percent characteristics. They are similarly found in blocking and bypass circuits.

The general capacitance of an X7R (X5R) is above 1,000pF, with sizes 0402, 0603, 0805, 1206, 1812 and 2220 among the mainstream. These operate in -55 to 125 C, with a temperature characteristic of ±15 percent. Such releases are employed in blocking, coupling, bypass and frequency discriminator circuits.

The X5R has the same applications. Variants in this category usually come in 0402, 0603, 0805 and 1206 sizes and work in -55 to 85 C with a temperature characteristic of ±15 percent.

PH multilayer ceramic capacitors are popular in 0402, 0603 and 0805 formats. They operate in -55 to 85 C at 150±60ppm/C, conditions suitable for temperature compensation circuits.

High Q value components are available in general, high power and RF versions. The first type has an elevated self-resonant frequency, which fits similar applications in 0402 to 0805. The second has that feature as well, plus greater power suitable for wireless communication stations and transmitter electronic circuits in 1206 to 2215 sizes. RF high Q variants have a very low ESR and ESL. These have temperature characteristics of 0±30ppm/C (-55 to 125 C) and are available in 0603, 0805, 0505 and 1111 formats. The main applications are mobile base stations, wireless communication and RF impedance matching networks.

As for middle-high voltage MLCCs, there arelow-loss 100 to 4,000V, encapsulated 4,000 to 5,000V, and X7R and Y5V high-capacitance 100 to 4,000V and 100 to 250. Buyers will find X5R and Y5V high-capacitance variants for filtering and bypass circuits in 1206 to 2225 forms.

For ultrasmall configurations, the most compact on offer is the 01005, which features a negligible parasitic inductance and suits reflow soldering. It finds applications in microwave parts, portable devices and high-frequency circuits.

Similarly, the 0201 fits hearing aids, ICs and low-temperature co-fired ceramic applications, while ultrathin models are in IC films or cards.

The 0508 and 1206 low-ESR capacitors are primarily used in high-frequency circuits.

There are also 250VAC and safety variants, and arrays on offer, the most popular of which are the 0612 and 0508 quadruplex and the 0508 double.

Some enterprises supply niche markets. Chengdu Hongming UESTC New Materials Co. Ltd, for instance, has been providing the military and aerospace sectors for years. Equipped with advanced facilities from the US, the EU and Japan, the maker turns out high-performance high Q value, high-power RF, high-temperature and DC-DC converter models.

Ceramic, BME and NME are the key materials for MLCCs. For the second, the use of nickel and copper to replace NME such as silver and palladium has been crucial in product development and cost reductions. More than 80 percent of available units now adopt BME technology.

Hong Kong: MLCC makers seek to streamline design

Multilayer ceramic capacitors from Hong Kong come in a variety of dielectric materials to satisfy different requirements. Faced with the miniaturization trend, suppliers are keen to develop smaller yet more efficient products. One particular challenge for high-capacitance models is the thin dielectric layers, which affect the rated voltage adversely and reduce the life span. These issues, however, are generally expected to be resolved through advances in materials science and processing methods.

Increased adoption among design engineers across many industries has pushed multilayer ceramic capacitors to the mainstream in the past few years. Certain variants have even replaced tantalum types. The former is now used in netbooks, e-book readers, gaming devices and other touch-panel applications. While these will remain the top user bases for the line in the next 12 months, LCD TVs, smartphones, computers, digital cameras, portable media players and automotive electronics are close behind.

Intel’s new processor microarchitecture and chipsets are expected to give passive components, particularly multilayer ceramic capacitors, additional boost. Notebook PC based on the new platform could see an increase in MLCC use from an average of 600 units to 700 or 800. A steady decrease in prices in the next few years, partly due to competition, will also help seal the segment’s popularity.

There are about 10 suppliers of the line in Hong Kong. Some makers are official distributors and sales agents of well-known brands. Others own factories that produce various passive components.

Fenghua (Hong Kong) Electronics Ltd, established in 1992, also provides chip resistors, resistor networks and aluminum electrolytic capacitors. Its selection comprises 0201 to 3035 sizes and NP0, X7R and Y5V dielectrics, and capacitor network, axial and radial lead, and temperature-compensating series.

Pro-An Electronic Co. Ltd offers the in-house Kome brand, and many other passive components from Yageo. Its axial and radial lead series are available in wide capacitance, temperature coefficient, voltage and tolerance range, and industry standard sizes. The chip capacitors are in NP0, Y5V and X7R types of assorted miniature releases.

Skymos Electronics Ltd specializes in chip components, including multilayer chip ceramic capacitors, chip resistors, LTCC filters, multilayer chip inductors and ferrite chip beads. It also provides monolithic MLCCs in radial and axial lead varieties. All products comply with EIA standards.

Taiwan: Compact MLCCs main trend

Suppliers in Taiwan are moving toward compact multilayer ceramic capacitors to satisfy huge demand from portable electronics for components suitable for thinner and lighter, yet more powerful gadgets. Many companies have introduced their 0201 product line aimed at smartphones, e-book readers, netbooks and tablet PCs.

The mainstream sizes are 0402, 0603, 0805 and larger. The key applications are desktop PCs, laptops, monitors and motherboards.

There are about 30 to 40 manufacturers of the line in Taiwan. The major players are Holy Stone Enterprise Co. Ltd, Walsin Technology Corp. and Yageo Corp.

Most makers are gearing up for mass production to reduce costs. To boost competitiveness, some provide customized services for niche applications. Holy Stone, for instance, is among the very few companies in the aerospace supply chain.

Yageo seeks to develop mini units in 0201 and 01005 configurations with high capacitance and voltage for the latest generation of handsets. It has introduced a series of X7R that remains stable even in 125 C, making it suitable for LCDs and LED lighting systems. The company is also looking to design its own ceramic dielectric powder and metal paste formula to reduce reliance on upstream vendors. To date, Japan and South Korea players lead in materials knowledge, particularly on ceramic dielectric powder and liquid solvent formulas.

Related reports:
Film capacitors: Lead film capacitors dominate supply
Aluminum electrolytic capacitors: Aluminum electrolytic capacitor makers retain foothold in low-end, midrange sectors

Multilayer ceramic capacitor
Product gallery

Chengdu Hongming UESTC New Materials Co. Ltd
(mainland China)

Model: HCC4101-0805
Delivery: 10 days
Description: High-temperature chip; 102pF capacitance; ±1% F, ±2% G, ±5% J, ±10% K tolerance; 50V nominal voltage; R≥10,000Mohm insulation resistance at C≤10nF; 0±30ppm, -55/150 C temperature characteristic; in 0805 size

Multilayer ceramic capacitor

Fenghua (Hong Kong) Electronics Ltd
(Hong Kong)

Model: MLCC
Description: NP0, X7R, Y5V dielectrics; choice of dielectric determined by the temperature stability required; capacitance value and tolerance depending on circuit requirements; also in capacitor network, axial and radial lead, and temperature-compensating series; in 0201 to 3035 sizes

Multilayer ceramic capacitor

Hitano Enterprise Corp.

Model: 6560
Description: Capacitance as low as 0.1pF; ±0.05pF tolerance; high SRF characteristic; BME technology with copper inner electrodes; in 2020 to 6560 sizes; for high-frequency power converters, adapters, inverters, ballasts

Multilayer ceramic capacitor

Holy Stone Enterprise Co. Ltd

Model: HVC Series
Description: Up to 1kV operating voltage; surface mount suited for wave and reflow soldering; C0G NP0, X7R dielectrics; in 0603 to 2225 sizes; for LAN/WLAN interfaces, backlighting inverters, DC-DC converters, ballasts, modems, power supplies; RoHS

Multilayer ceramic capacitor

Shenzhen Topmay Electronic Co. Ltd
(mainland China)

Model: TMCC05-01
Delivery: 10 days
Description: Up to 104pF capacitance; ±0.1pF B, ±0.25pF C, ±0.5pF D tolerance; withstand voltage is 2.5 times of operating voltage; 25, 50, 63, 100VDC rated voltage; 0.15% maximum dissipation factor at 20 C, 1 MHz, 1VDC; R≥10,000MQC insulation resistance at C≤10nF, ≥10nF and CR≥100s

Multilayer ceramic capacitor

Skymos Electronics Ltd
(Hong Kong)

Model: MLCC Series
Description: Up to 10μF capacitance; up to 10kV DC rated voltage; in 0402 to 2225 sizes; ultrastable CG NP0/C0G, stable X7R, general-purpose Y5V (Z5U) versions available

Multilayer ceramic capacitor

Yageo Corp.

Model: High Voltage Series
Description: ≥1.2V rated DC withstand voltage; NP0, X7R dielectrics; in 1206 to 1812 sizes; for power systems such as switching power supplies, DC-DC converters and DC-AC inverters, PCs, HDDs, LCD panels, ADSL modems; TÜV, UL

Note:This article 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.

All price quotes in this report are in US dollars unless otherwise specified. FOB prices were provided by the companies interviewed only as reference prices at the time of interview and may have changed.

Disclaimer: All product images are provided by the companies interviewed and are for reference purposes only. Those product images featuring products with trademarks, brand names or logos are not intended for sale. We, our affiliates, and our affiliates' respective directors, officers, employees, representatives, agents or contractors, do not accept and will not have any responsibility or liability for product images (or any part thereof) which infringe on any intellectual property or other rights of a third party.

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