Resistor makers ride current trends in electronics while maintaining production of traditional models and improving quality and efficiency to secure foothold.
China suppliers of resistors forecast lead and chip variants will still coexist in coming years despite the latter’s bigger share of aggregate output. Many attribute this to the differing applications and technical difficulties in realizing chip configuration for resistors with elevated power, stability and reliability. Since the more compact unit cannot support uses requiring greater than 3W, lead models continue to be adopted in large-power environments. These include military, aviation/aerospace and industrial equipment, household appliances, and automotive and medical electronics.
Makers therefore expect lead variants to sustain their 20 percent portion of the country’s overall output in the next few years. They are also optimistic the segment will grow by 20 percent in 2011 amid recovering demand and as foreign counterparts have stopped manufacturing this type.
Chip configurations, however, will be the focus of R&D activities because of their expanding market base. Stimulating demand are the mobile communication, computer and accessories, illumination, and consumer and automotive electronics sectors, which maintain a more than 10 percent growth rate yearly. The major adopters are cell phones, LCD TVs, laptops, set-top boxes and various other portable devices.
Annual worldwide demand for chip resistors has exceeded 1,000 billion units. Locally, orders are boosted by China’s Consumer Electronics Subsidy Program and 3G network. With these stimuli, companies in the country forecast production volume of such models will surpass 20 percent in 2011.
To suit various applications and ride the miniaturization trend, makers are releasing variants with elevated precision, stability, reliability and frequency, yet slimmer profiles. Although counterparts in Japan, Taiwan, South Korea and the US continue to lead initiatives in producing compact versions, mainland China enterprises have started bringing down output of larger units.
The share of 0805 forms, for instance, will decrease to 20 percent in the next few years. The type, together with 1206, is expected to be replaced by 0603 kinds, which are currently the mainstream. The first is mainly used in large industrial, medical and communication equipment, and the last adopted in consumer electronic and IT products. The 0603 configuration will continue to account for 40 to 50 percent of China’s output in coming years.
The smaller 0402 version, meanwhile, will rise in yield, with the proportion projected to reach 25 percent. The trend, however, will not last long as more compact 0201 models are increasingly adopted in portable devices such as mobile phones, laptops, and MP3 and media players.
Japan makers continue to dominate the supply of 0402 and 0201 high-precision chip resistors. They are also the first to realize commercial production of 01005 variants. As it will take a while for China companies to catch up, they are, for the meantime, channeling efforts toward controlling quality and costs better to strengthen competitiveness. Local enterprises are sourcing raw materials from overseas providers and implementing strict QC to ensure stability of products. To manage outlay effectively, they are improving manufacturing efficiency and using more automated equipment.
Through these efforts, makers are confident China will remain the world’s largest producer of resistors. Accounting for more than 30 percent of global supply, the country yielded 850 billion units in 2009, according to the China Electronic Components Association. Turnout last year is estimated to have exceeded 1,000 billion. During the first eight months, in fact, the area exported $765.4 million worth of the component, posting a 47 percent increase from 2009. Given bullish demand, CECA pins the line’s annual growth rate in the next three years at 20 percent.
Worldwide, the market will cross the $5.2 billion mark by 2015, forecasts Global Industry Analysts. The major catalysts are HDTVs, mobile phones, laptops, portable electronic devices and automotive equipment.
The line in China can be classified based on functionality, form factor and materials used. The first category comprises fixed and variable models. In terms of design, units come in chip and lead configurations. For the last, there are cement, wirewound, and metal-, carbon- and metal-oxide-film variants.
To cater to different buyer requirements, makers are expanding range. Shenzhen KHX Electronics Co. Ltd, for instance, has included light-saving fusible and other special types to attract more customers. Its main products are film, metal-oxide fixed, cement/ceramic, high-power tube, aluminum-housed wirewound and thick-film kinds. Lead versions dominate the supplier’s output with a 90 percent share.
Models from Sichuan Yongxing Electronics Co. Ltd are mainly used in aviation/aerospace, military and automation equipment, household appliances, communication devices and new energy power sources. The maker provides more than 100 varieties in about 1,000 specifications. Its selection covers metal- and metal-oxide-film, chip, fusible, cement, wirewound and RF flanged units. There are also trimming, rotary and slide potentiometers, fixed and variable attenuators, and resistor networks.
The main inputs are ceramic rod, resistive film, copper string, tin, iron cap, paint and packaging materials. The first two are sourced from Taiwan, Japan, Germany and the US, and the rest locally.
Although there is currently no supply issue, outlay is expected to increase in the long term. In the next six months, however, the majority of manufacturers will keep prices of resistors at current levels due to tightening competition.
Form factor classification: Suppliers offer chip kinds in 2512, 2010, 1812, 1210, 1206, 0805, 0603, 0402 and 0201 configurations. At present, the 0603 and 0402 are the mainstream, but several companies have realized production of the 0201 to take advantage of increasing demand from miniaturized electronic devices. A few major enterprises, including Guangdong Fenghua, have also started mass manufacture of 01005 models, which are considered the next hot trend.
Thick-film chip versions rule output. These are made by depositing metal thick-film conductor on a high-purity aluminum oxide ceramic substrate and applying a layer of glass protective coating for uniformity and stability. The film layer is 4 to 8μm thick. Most companies adopt the 8mm taped packaging as it is suitable for automatic surface mounting.
Although the high technology barrier leaves thin-film variants in relatively small supply, they are expected to increase in number in coming years. These products boast reduced current noise, and improved temperature coefficient of resistance or TCR, tolerance and stability. They also perform better thanthick variants in matching impedance in high-frequency circuits because of the smaller electromotive force and third harmonic component.
For the lead variety, manufacturers focus on models that suit large-power applications. Shenzhen KHX, for example, has released the HPR series comprising units that support 10 to 2,000W. The resistance values are between 0.1ohm and 100kohm, and the tolerance ±5 and ±10 percent.
Composition range: The mainstream types in this category are carbon- and metal-film, and wirewound units. Product development emphasizes high precision and low temperature coefficient. Most models of the second variant have a typical precision of 0.1 to 1 percent, with values varying depending on the target application. Several companies are aiming to reach 0.05 percent. The TCR is 10 to 100ppm/C, and makers are planning to reduce this to 5ppm/C.
For wirewound variants, the current precision options are ±1, ±2, ±5 and ±10 percent, and the TCR 20, 50 and 100ppm/C. Suppliers are planning to launch more units in the ±1 to ±2 percent range, and with 20ppm/C. For types with a lower resistance, the target is ±0.1 percent.
The RX24 model from Sichuan Yongxing is a series of wirewound power versions in an aluminum housing. The rating can be 5, 10, 20, 25, 50, 100, 200 or 300W. The resistance is between 0.1ohm and 30kohm, the tolerance ±1, ±2, ±5 and ±10 percent, and TCR 100ppm/C.
For the cement category, the trends are small dimensions, high reliability and overload capability, protection against humidity and shock, improved heat dissipation, and low noise and annual resistance value shift.
Ceramic types, meanwhile, are the focus of R&D at Shenzhen KHX. They consist of clay, alumina and ceramic filter blended and pressurized into a resistive core and then covered with a molded outer insulating layer. The company’s HVA series has -40 to 155 C operating temperature, ±10 and ±20 percent tolerance, and high peak power. The resistance ranges from 470ohm to 100kohm. With a rated power of up to 5W, the units can replace 1 and 2W carbon varieties. These are used in radars, motor drives, broadcast transmitters, X-rays, lasers and medical defibrillators.
Special resistors: Makers are developing special resistor types such as force-, light- and temperature-sensitive models to widen range. Xiamen Set Electronics Co. Ltd, for instance, has created thermally protected metal-oxide varistors. The type boasts higher reliability and enhanced safety feature compared with traditional MOVs. With the built-in thermal link, fuse or cutoff, it can sense variations in the MOV’s temperature immediately and disconnect the varistor from the circuit to avoid failure.
Suppliers of resistors in Hong Kong are increasing product development efforts and promotion for resistor arrays to buoy up revenue. The latter generates higher profit margins compared with single chips as it is favored by many customers because of the low per-resistor cost. The type also has reduced board space and weight, and less component placement required.
Regardless of packaging, the outlook for the whole industry is positive. Makers expect higher revenue amid growing demand. Last year alone, the territory’s exports of carbon film versions increased by 49 percent in value YoY. That of variable models, including rheostats and potentiometers, grew by 29 percent. Overall, Hong Kong shipped about 15.6 million kilograms of the component worth $622 million in the first 10 months of 2010, according to customs statistics.
The territory’s industry is dominated by distributors, wholesalers or sales agents without OEM or ODM capability. Fewer than 10 companies have their own production facilities and resources for OEM/ODM business for resistors, although they have factories turning out other kinds of electronic components.
Most enterprises are small and midsize operations, with capacity ranging from a few million units to almost 5 billion per month. Squeezed profit margins in many conventional types, including axial and thick-film chips, have driven the majority of makers to take up trading. Manufacturers that remain currently focus on specialized kinds such as variable and thin-film chip, and network arrays.
Hong Kong Resistors Mfy Intl Ltd is one of the major suppliers of through-hole and SMD models. Its selection also includes chip, fusible, wirewound, cement, large-watt, metal electrode leadless face, and metal-, carbon- and metal-oxide-film versions. Resistor and chip arrays are likewise available.
SMD component provider Skymos Electronics Ltd churns out mainly resistor networks, and chip resistors, varistors and NTC/PTC thermistors. The products come in 0402, 0603, 0805, 1206 and other popular packages.
United Sources Industrial Enterprises offers most major brands of fusible, wirewound, wirewound cement, and metal, carbon and metal oxide film units in axial, chip, radial and network forms.
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.
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