MEMS still has a long way to go to meet the challenges of commercialization! Critical success factors include efficient process transfer from breadboard to production. There is a need to pay attention to customers’ needs. More resources need to be adopted from the semiconductor industry, said Roger Grace, president, Roger Grace Associates.
There is a need to create significant awareness as to the unique solution benefits of MEMS based systems and establish defensible product differentiation. Firms need to better understand customer/market needs.
Emerging opportunities include single MEMS based system solutions, especially in analytical instruments, double magnetic MEMS, triple point-of-care bio, energy harvesting/storage, etc. There are barriers to commercialization of MEMS. Until recently, it is plagued by lack of high-volume apps. There is lack of well-defined direction from roadmaps, industry standards and associations. Packaging and testing costs are typically at 70 percent of total value. There is also a lack of focus on customer needs and lack of capital formation opportunities, risk averse investors.
Besides, successive bubble busts, i.e., biomems, optical telecom, have seen wary investors. There are very fragmented markets, many small companies and few large players. Also, there are limited ‘success stories’ of MEMS/MST companies, eg., Invensense. There are new market opportunities for large volume apps, eg. in automotive, CE, etc.
Downturn hit research hard! R&D remains a novelty for most firms. Now, there is an increase in university and R&D labs for MEMS development. There is still plenty of R&D available from DARPA, SBIR and STTRs. Now, we are seeing a healthy amount of activity in new devices and systems research.
As for DfM (design for manufacturing), Invensense’s ‘shuttle’ process may finally become a usable standard. New approaches are also changing the paradigm of cost structure. Examples are Invensense gyros, Freescale chip-stacking accelerometers, ST, etc.
While there seems to be strong MEMS infrastructure, there is some fraying at the ends. The industry needs to remain competitive and lean. As for profitability, while the margins don’t seem great for high volume MEMS devices, they are holding on somewhat. The general consensus of the VC community has been that MEMS has lot of growth potential, but it doesn’t have a good track record of producing profitable firms, as yet.
The lack of DfM emphasis and the absence of a coherent package and test capability is the lack of management insight. As for standards, the creation of the first Standardized Sensor Performance Parameter Definitions is a huge step in the right direction.
Xilinx Inc. has announced solutions for significant and growing gaps in ASIC and ASSP offerings targeting next-generation smarter networks and data centers. It has been acquiring and developing a SmartCORE IP portfolio and a critical mass of application specialists and services that leverage Xilinx’s All Programmable FPGAs, SoCs, and 3D ICs.
To find out more about how are Xilinx’s solutions targeting growing ASIC and ASSP gaps for next-gen smarter networks and data centers, I spoke with Neeraj Varma, director, Sales-India, Xilinx. He said: “Over the past several years, Xilinx has been making a transition from the leading FPGA vendor to a provider of All Programmable Solutions for Smarter Systems. With its All Programmable 7 Series FPGAS, All Programmable SoCs and the VivadoTM Design Suite, Xilinx now offers a comprehensive set of solutions that provide end-to-end system implementation.
“Through strategic acquisitions, investments in silicon products and IP development, Xilinx has started to replace entire ASSPs and ASICs in the communications market by offering a complete IP cores portfolio which allows customers to design Smarter Systems for networking, communications and data center applications.
“Xilinx is calling this set of IP cores, SmartCORE IP, because they are the critical application-specific building blocks needed to develop smarter networking and communications systems. We are responding to market need and that need has accelerated recently as the viability of ASICs and more recently ASSPs have been severely challenged. Xilinx is a generation ahead in SoC and tools and its leadership at 28nm borne out with revenue ramp.”
Developing SmartCORE IP portfolio
What is meant by Xilinx acquiring and developing a SmartCORE IP portfolio and a critical mass of application specialists and services?
According to him, 28nm design process devices require a new and a different set of tools to exploit all the capabilities. That was one of the reasons for Xilinx to invest heavily in resources and time to come up with the Vivado Design Suite, to be able to support the large designs and get them into production with minimal effort and ease.
Vivado supports the growing use of IP blocks to reduce the complexity of the designs which are very critical in the implementation of complex networking and communications systems. This is one of the main reasons Xilinx spent years to develop strategic partnerships and making acquisitions such as Omiino (OTN IP solutions), Modelware (Traffic Management and Packet processing IP solutions), Sarance (Ethernet and Interlaken IP solutions) and Modesat (Microwave and Eband backhaul IP solutions) to offer a comprehensive set of IP cores to design Smarter Systems for networking, communications and data centre applications.
How are the solutions going to address the challenges with ASICs and ASSPs?
He said that ASICs and ASSPs targeting the communications, networking, and data center equipment markets have been disappearing at a surprisingly rapid pace due to many factors, including escalating IC-design costs and the need for much greater levels of intelligence and adaptability—all driven by wide variance in application and device requirements.
Additionally, the equipment markets no longer accept “me too” equipment design, which means that ASSP-based equipment design has almost vanished due to limited flexibility. These growing gaps are pervasive across all markets.These challenges, coupled with the rapidly increasing design costs and lengthy design cycles for both ASICs and ASSPs have created significant solution gaps for equipment design teams.
ASSPs and ASICs are either too late to market to meet OEM or operator requirements, are significantly overdesigned to satisfy the superset requirements of many diverse customers, are not a good fit for specific target applications, and/or provide limited ability for customers to differentiate their end products. Equipment vendors face many or all of these gaps when attempting to use the solutions offered by ASIC and ASSP vendors.
Last week (March 11, 2013), Cadence Design Systems Inc. entered into a definitive agreement to acquire Tensilica Inc., a leader in dataplane processing IP, for approximately $380 million in cash.
With this acquisition, Tensilica dataplane processing units (DPUs) combined with Cadence design IP will deliver more optimized IP solutions for mobile wireless, network infrastructure, auto infotainment and home applications.
The Tensilica IP also complements industry-standard processor architectures, providing application-optimized subsystems to increase differentiation and get to market faster. Finally, over 200 licensees, including system OEMs and seven of the top 10 semiconductor companies, have shipped over 2 billion Tensilica IP cores.
Talking about the rationale behind Cadence acquiring Tensilica, Pankaj Mayor, VP and head of Marketing, Cadence, said: “Tensilica fits and furthers our IP strategy – the combination of Tensilica’s DPU and Cadence IP portfolio will broaden our IP portfolio. Tensilica also brings significant engineering and management talent. The combination will allow us to deliver to our customers configurable, differentiated, and application-optimized subsystems that improve time to market.”
It is expected that the Cadence acquisition will also see the Tensilica dataplane IP to complement Cadence and Cosmic Circuits’ IP. Cadence had acquired Cosmic Circuits in February 2013.
What are the possible advantages of DPUs over DSPs? Does it mean a possible end of the road for DSPs?
As per Mayor, DSPs are special purpose processors targeted to address digital signaling. Tensilica’s DPUs are programmable and customizable for a specific function, providing optimal data throughput and processing speed; in other words, the DPUs from Tensilica provide a unique combination of customized processing, plus DSP. Tensilica’s DPUs can outperform traditional DSPs in power and performance.
So, what will happens to the MegaChips design center agreement with Tensilica? Does it still carry on? According to Mayor, right now, Cadence and Tensilica are operating as two independent companies and therefire, Cadence cannot comment until the closing of the acquisition, which is in 30-60 days.
PMC-Sierra Inc. has launched the PM5440 DIGI 120G, said to be the industry’s only single-chip OTN processor supporting 10G, 40G and 100G speeds for OTN transport.
Elaborating, Kevin So, senior product line manager, PMC, said: “PMC is the first to integrate support for 12x10G, 3x40G or 1x100G in a single piece of silicon to address OTN transport (point-to-point), OTN aggregation (multiplexing) and OTN switching deployments. For example, with DIGI 120G, an OEM can design a line card on a P-OTP that supports 12x10G supporting per port configurable multi-service like OC-192/STM-64, 10GE, OTU2 or Fiber Channel.”
Using the same chip and same software investment, they can also design a 3x40G card supporting 40GE, OC-768/STM-256 or OTU3. Another card can be designed to support 100GE or OTU4. An OEM can design 10+ cards across multiple platforms leveraging a single R&D investment using DIGI 120G. This also translates into the lowest cost of ownership for the OEMs, while achieving a time to market advantage.
How does OTN allow for flexible aggregation and switching from 1G to 100G? For that matter, what can this device do?
OTN is a defined as a carrier grade protocol to transparently carry and switch and aggregate multi-service traffic including 1GE all the way to 100GE over a WDM. The protocol is an ITU-T standard, and supports ODU0 (which is 1G) to ODU4 (which is 100G). In addition, OTN defines something called ODUflex, which is a flexible container that can be adjusted up and down from 1G to 100G in increments of 1G.
PMC’s DIGI 120G supports all these OTN container rates and enable the ability to multiplex and switch traffic between them. In addition, DIGI 120G provides the ability to scale ODUflex to carry packet traffic ranging from 1G to 100G without service interruption. DIGI 120G is a single chip solution that uniquely enables the transponders, muxponders and line cards on ROADMs and P-OTPs.
What are the innovations done by the PM5440 DIGI 120G? What if there is some new chip coming out?
Reducing line card power and bill-of-material by more than 50 percent, PMC’s DIGI 120G stands uniquely differentiated as:
* Industry’s only single-chip solution delivering 12x10G, 3x40G or 1x100G port densities.
* Industry’s highest number of 10G ports enabling 2x higher density 10G OTN line cards.
* Industry’s highest gain 40G/100G enhanced-FEC extending optical reach by 2x vs GFEC.
* Industry’s only 120G OTN solution with OIF’s OTN-over-Packet Fabric Protocol (OFP).
* First OTN processor to enable hitless packet traffic scaling with ITU-T’s G.hao/G.7044.
* Flexible per port client-mapping of OTN, Ethernet, Storage, IP/MPLS and SONET/SDH.
* Synchronous Ethernet (SyncE), 1588v2 Precision Time Protocol (PTP), and Ethernet Link OAM (802.3ah) delivering per port Carrier Ethernet performance.
To deliver these innovations, PMC integrated well over a billion transistors. The level of silicon integration is unprecedented – requiring engineering capabilities unmatched in the telecom industry. So added that PMC worked closely with tier-1 OEM customers from the start at the requirements phase in order to tailor the solution for their systems. As a result, the DIGI 120G is a key architectural element of their system.
By when does PMC sees enterprises ‘really’ going in for products with PM5440 DIGI 120G, to support Big Data? And, what happens if they still don’t?
So noted: “We have been working with our customers for the last few months developing their line cards using DIGI 120G. We are confident they will take their products using DIGI 120G to production in 2013.”
Does PMC actually see a reconfigurable optical add-drop multiplexer (ROADM) revolution?
According to So, a couple of things are happening in the ROADM market. On the photonics side, products are now available to allow service providers to deploy very flexible wavelength switches that are color independent, direction independent, wavelength contention-free and support flexible ITU grid widths.
On the platform architecture side, we are seeing a move away from traditional muxponders and transponders line card architectures where the client ports are fixed to a specific optical uplink port (wavelength). Instead, OEMs want to de-couple the client ports from the uplink optical capacity for great flexibility and in order to achieve better bandwidth utilization especially as the industry starts deploying 100G wavelengths.
Services in the network, especially those from the metro network edge is still largely 1G or 10G rates. To achieve this flexibility, central fabrics are added to the ROADM platform to support OTN switching. PMC’s Metro OTN processor family, including our latest DIGI 120G, enable OEMs to build line cards that can switch OTN and packet simultaneously in these platform architectures.
Finaly, is the bandwidth of common modulation format for 100G and beyond too broad for ROADMs?
Kevin So concluded: “OTN, as a protocol, is designed to scale to beyond 100G. The standard bodies are already working on this now. ROADMs, as a hardware platform will scale, but new components and technologies will likely be needed to take them beyond 100G.”
This is a continuation of my coverage of the fortunes of the global semiconductor industry. I would like to acknowledge and thank Mike Cowan, an independent semiconductor analyst and developer of the Cowan LRA model, who has provided me the latest numbers.
According to the WSTS’s Jan 2013 HBR (posted on March 8th, 2013), January 2013’s actual global semiconductor sales came in at $22.824 billion. This actual sales result for January is 2.9 percent higher than January’s sales forecast estimate, namely $22.180 billion.
Plugging January’s actual sales number into the Cowan LRA forecasting model yields, the following quarterly, half-year, and full year sales and sales growth forecast expectations for 2013 compared to 2012 sales depicted in the table.
It should be highlighted that with last month’s publishing of the final 2012 sales result by the WSTS, the Cowan LRA Model for forecasting global semiconductor sales was updated to incorporate the full complement of 2012′s monthly sales numbers, thereby capturing 29 years of historical, global semiconductor (actual) sales numbers as gathered, tracked and published each month by the World Semiconductor Trade Statistics (WSTS) on its website.
As described last month, the necessary mathematical computations required in order to update the complete set of linear regression parameters embedded in the Cowan LRA forecasting model for determining future sales were carried out. The newly derived set of linear regression parameters therefore reflect 29 years (1984 to 2012) of historical global semiconductor sales as the basis for predicting future quarterly and full year sales and sale growth forecast expectations by running the Cowan LRA Model.
Therefore, the table given above summarizes the model’s latest, updated 2013 sales and sales growth expectations reflecting the WSTS’s January 2013′s actual sales as calculated by the model’s newly minted set of linear regression parameters.
Note that the latest Cowan LRA Model’s expected 2013 sales growth of 6.6 percent relative to 2012 final sales ($291.562 billion) is more bullish than the WSTS’s adjusted Autumn 2012 sales growth forecast of 3.9 percent as well as the WSTS’s Autumn 2012′s original forecasted sales growth of 4.5 percent which was released back in November of last year.
In addition to forecasting 2013’s quarterly sales estimates the Cowan LRA Model also provides an forecast expectation for February 2013’s sales, namely $22.436 billion. This sales forecast yields a 3MMA forecast for February of $23.571 billion assuming the no or minimal sales revision is made to January’s actual sales.
Finally, the table provided below details the monthly evolution for 2013’s sales and sales growth forecast predictions as put forth by the Cowan LRA forecasting model dating back to September of last year.
Note that the most recent 2013 sales growth forecast is up compared to the previous two forecasts of 5.5 percent and 3.6 percent, respectively.
It should be mentioned that the previous 2013’s sales growth forecast for Dec 2012, namely 3.6 percent, was based upon a sales forecast estimate for Jan 2013 versus the latest sales growth forecast estimate of 6.6 percent, which utilizes Jan’s actual sales result just released in the WSTS’s January 2013 HBR, Historical Billings Report.
Components Direct is a leading source for authorized end-of-life and excess electronic components. The products are guaranteed grade A factory sealed direct from the manufacturer and inventoried in a ESD 20.20 certified and ISO 9001 certified state-of-the art-facility. Components Direct is headquartered in Milpitas, CA with locations in the US and Asia.
It has a leading cloud-based platform for excess and obsolete (E&O) inventory. In 2012, Avnet and Components Direct entered in a strategic relationship. Components Direct is the exclusive channel for Avnet’s factory authorized excess and end-of-life components.
Compared to leading industry giants, such as Element14 and RS Components, Components Direct, currently, doesn’t have a detailed menu showcasing listed products, at least not on the home page, as yet. One hopes that’ll make an appearance soon.
Speaking on the mission of Components Direct, Anne Ting, executive VP, Marketing said: “Components Direct is the premier authorized distributor for excess and end-of-life electronic components. We are the only company working directly with manufacturers and their franchised distributors to offer 100 percent guaranteed traceable E&O components as well as technology services to combat counterfeit components and other gray market activity.
“For our supplier partners, we enable them to put excess product back into the control of an authorized source, as opposed to the gray market. For buyers, we provide them with a secure, authorized one-stop shop for excess, obsolete and unsold factory components.”
Combating gray market
How important is it to combat the gray market? Why will this endeavor stop/lessen gray market activity?
According to Ting, the gray market is a serious and growing problem. As early as 2008, a study by KPMG and the Alliance for Gray Market and Counterfeit Abatement (AGMA) stated that as much as $58 billion of technology products were passing through the gray market, and the problem has only gotten worse.
The gray market is rampant throughout all industries, with everyone from engineers, to procurement professionals and consumers impacted negatively when the products they purchase are advertised as new and authentic, but in reality could be used, refurbished or even worse, counterfeit.
In fact, a 2012 study by market research firm IHS found that over 12 million counterfeit electronics and semiconductor components
have entered the distribution chain since 2007, with 57 percent of all counterfeit parts obsolete or end-of-life components. Many of these parts make their way into mission-critical industries, such as defense and aerospace, where a malfunctioning counterfeit part can mean the difference between life and death.
While provisions in the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act have enabled the government and trade groups to make some progress towards regulating the supply chain to ensure that components are only sourced directly from the manufacturers or their franchised distributors, the problem has not abated. The Act empowers the federal government to hold contractors financially responsible for replacing counterfeit products.
This, together with other changes, puts more responsibility on suppliers of electronic component to have risk mitigation procedures in place. The issue is become more topical and the industry must act in order to comply with the new legislation.
Components Direct takes this problem seriously, and provides supplier insights and tools to help combat gray market activity. In a recent study we conducted for a leading semiconductor supplier of both analog and digital devices, we discovered that over 124 million units of their product were floating in the gray market across 6,500 plus part numbers.
Over 70 percent of the products were found in Asia, and 20 percent also appeared in both North America and EMEA. The product age spanned many years with date codes of less than one year accounting for 22 percent of their gray market product. A further 5 percent had date codes over 11 years, demonstrating that whether you were an OEM looking for the newest product, or a military sub-contractor looking for obsolete components, no end customer is immune to the presence of unauthorized product.
Components Direct’s technology tools and services track gray market activity and provide suppliers with unprecedented visibility to their product leakage in the gray market by part number, region, data code etc. This data enables our suppliers to trace leakage in their supply chain and lessen potential unauthorized product from getting into the gray market.
Additionally, Components Direct provides suppliers and buyers with a secure, factory authorized channel for selling or purchasing 100 percent guaranteed traceable components. “We only sell products that come directly with manufacturers or their franchised distributors and all our products are inventoried in an ESD 20.20 and ISO 9001 certified facility,” said Ting.As an extension of the manufacturer, Components Direct provides the supply chain buyer with complete confidence and peace of mind that all products originate directly from the manufacturer and have been properly stored, handled and packaged. Sourcing from an authorized source like Components Direct eliminates the risks surrounding product quality, reliability and liability. Read more…
Sensor fusion encompasses hardware and software elements. There can be many data sources, such as MEMS. non-MEMS, etc.
The obvious question: why sensor fusion? Tony Massimini, chief of technology, Semico Research Corp., USA, said that it is useful for power savings, and the initial reason was to improve accuracy and reliability of inertial measurement units (IMUs, etc. If we look at the progression of sensors to sensor fusion, there have been simple interrupts such as screen orientation, tap detection, fall detection, and so on. IMUs are available for location-based services (LBS) and navigation, and IMUs are available and other data sources, etc.
Senosr fusion enhances user experience with portable devices. The growth is driven by smartphones. Competing devices will add more features to keep up with smartphones such as tablets, notebooks (ultraportables). Key growth markets today will provide basis for future end use markets (see graph: systems with sensor fusion). The market will likely grow at CAGR of 58.8 percent till 2016.
New end use markets and applications include areas such as gaming, HUD (heads-up display), sports, health and fitness, personal navigation, personal medical, context awareness, voice recognition, visual recognition, augmented reality and automation.
Sensor fusion is used for enhancing the user experience. For instance, add data to 3D axes frame of reference. Sensor fusion offers always ON and low latency. You can also connect to external sensors — wearable for health and fitness. Life tagging is possible too, e.g. photo and video library for context aware services. Next, there is improved security with biometrics.
Summarizing the sensor fusion market, the MEMS sensor ASPs continue to erode. There are an increasing number of sensors. There are improved MEMS sensors, including hardware accelerators. There is interaction with cloud for data. It also enables application innovations. Finally, there are new end use markets.
This is a continuation of my coverage of the fortunes of the global semiconductor industry. I would like to acknowledge and thank Mike Cowan, an independent semiconductor analyst and developer of the Cowan LRA model, who has provided me the latest numbers.
With the ‘closing out’ of the final, overall sales result for 2012 by the WSTS, the Cowan LRA model for forecasting global semiconductor sales has been updated to include the full complement of 2012′s monthly sales numbers, thereby incorporating 29 years of historical, global semiconductor (actual) sales numbers as gathered, tracked and published each month by the World Semiconductor Trade Statistics (WSTS) organization.
The necessary mathematical computations required to update the complete set of linear regression parameters embedded in the Cowan LRA forecasting model have been carried out.
The newly derived set of linear regression parameters reflect 29 years (1984 to 2012) of historical global semiconductor sales numbers as a basis of predicting future quarterly and full year sales and sale growth forecast expectations by exercising the Cowan LRA model.
Therefore, the table given here summarizes the model’s latest 2013 sales and sales growth expectations as a function of the model’s range (low, expected and high) for January 2013′s sales forecast estimates as generated by the newly, updated model’s linear regression parameters.
It is estimated that in 2013, the global semiconductor industry is likely to reach $302.022 billion, a growth of 3.6 percent.
Note that next month’s forecast will be based on January 2013′s actual sales number, which is anticipated to be released by the WSTS at the end of the first week in March. Once posted, the model will be rerun to yield the quarterly and full year sales, and sales growth expectations for 2013, respectively.
Today, Feb. 14th, has turned out to be a great day for me! I received an email early morning, which stated: PC’s Electronic Components Blog is featured on the list of 100 Top Resources for Electrical Engineers that we published on ElectricalEngineeringSchools.org, USA!
Wow! This happens to be my sixth world title in a row!! The picture of the award badge is given alongside!!!
I am so very happy that my blog on electronic components has bagged an award! I had started my career writing about electronic components for Asian Sources Media, now Global Sources, in Hong Kong.
Back in those days – 1994-1995, there used to be some presence of electronic components made by local manufacturers, especially in Naraina Industrial Area, New Delhi. I still remember, very clearly, doing the rounds of Naraina, along with my friend, Dolly! Back then, most of the components were made for colour TV sets, and a few makers had just started making components for cellular phones.
Today, there are big-sized, very large representatives of electronic components in India.
I recall one of my earlier stories was on DIP switches. There used to be slide and rocker types of DIP switches. I wonder whether they are still used today! Maybe, they are, in some electronic devices! I also recall there used to be some demand for TV antennae at that time, as well as for cell phone antennae! How time has flown by since!!
May I take this opportunity and offer sincere thanks to all of my readers, well wishers, friends and acquaintances I have made over the years for their continuous love and support! Without you, no award is ever possible!
I’d like to conclude by taking the names of two gentlemen, who have spurred me on to write blogs on components, electronics and semiconductors, as well as telecom. They happen to be Alfred Cheng. country manager, Hong Kong, Global Sources, and Spenser Au, former publisher, CTG and now, CEO, Global Sources, Hong Kong, who made me work on the Telecom specs tables.
A word is also due for Raj Gopinath, my editor-in-chief at Asian Sources, and Daniel Tam, who replaced Spenser, back in 1999, as publisher of CTG. Special mention needs to be made of Claudius Chan, who I consider as a ‘guru’ of electronic components. Whatever I am today is largely due to my time spent at Global Sources! Thanks a lot, my dear friends!!
Alfred just sent me a mail saying: Hi Pradeep, How many more prizes would you like to win, my friend? I wish I could write as good as, maybe 50 percent as good as you do since we used to work together in the electronics industry. Thanks a lot, my friend!
I had the pleasure of interacting many times with Norman CM Lui, CEO, Skymos back in 2006. Established 1983, Skymos Electronics Ltd is one of the foremost designers and manufacturers of chip components, specializing in multilayer chip inductors, ferrite chip beads, multilayer chip ceramic capacitors, chip resistors and resistor networks. It has been awarded ISO 9001 and 9002 approval.
It was among the few suppliers offering multilayer chip inductors, ferrite chip beads, chip resistors, low-temperature co-fired ceramic capacitors (LTCC), etc.
Back then, he spoke of the applications of MLCCs that were generally in Bluetooth, GPS, cable TV equipment, satellite, etc. For example, taxis plying with GPS would need high Q (quality) MLCCs. New applications include converged handsets, MP4 players, PS3, digital cameras and video cameras; flat-panel high-definition TVs; dual-core multiprocessors (for motherboards, notebooks, desktop PCs and scanners); and automotive electronics.
Lui said most suppliers were more concerned about the 3H – high capacitance, high voltage and high frequency – for MLCCs, as well as high Q (quality factor). The frequency of MLCCs had become much higher as the termination is done on the top, instead of the sides.
Various types of dielectric were being used for MLCCs – such as the BaTiO3, NP0/C0G, XSR/X7R and Y5V/Z5U, respectively. The X5R allowed more capacitance for MLCCs and dielectric constant (K) was higher. The NP0/C0G group supported capacitance ranging from 1pF to 1µF and up to 10nF.
As for the electrodes, Pd/Ag was being used and Ni was also being used currently. For Pd/Ag electrode, the termination was in Ag/Ni/Sn. For Ni electrode, termination was mainly in Cu/Ni/Sn. Skymos is currently focusing on the Pd/Ag electrodes for MLCCs.
One major development was the use of BME (base metal electrode). Lui said that moving from the current electrode to BME would require lot of investment of about $50 million. For using BME, suppliers would need to install all new equipment, especially for the furnace, which would be used to oxidize the Ni element.
Another development has been the improvement in capacitance. Using BME for 0402, suppliers can produce MLCCs with high capacitance, such as 2.2µF, 3.3µF/6.3V, etc. Earlier, capacitance was 0.47µF using Pd/Ag electrode. The BME could enable higher capacitance due to an increase in the number of active layers.
For instance, the dielectric was 8-10 microns when using Pd/Ag electrodes. Using BME, the dielectric became 2-3 microns. The corresponding values for 0603 type is 10µF/6.3V using BME, 47µF for 0805, and 220µF for 1206. MLCCs have replaced those applications that previously required tantalum capacitors.
Another development has been the advent of the MLCC array, which has more applications in the PC industry. This array can reduce the EMI. Skymos is offering this MLCC array. It also improves the high Q, voltage and capacitance.
On the issue of MLCCs vs. ultracapacitors, Lui said, suppliers could already reach up to 220µF capacitance via MLCC, which were replacing tantalum capacitors. The tantalum capacitors were now being used for applications requiring 220µF-330µF capacitance. As a result, all other types of capacitors were dropping in demand, as compared to MLCCs. Ultracapacitors were intended to replace the Ni battery. However, there has also been a shift to oxide batteries.
The supplier’s R&D strategy includes focusing on 3H and possibly, BME. It also reduced the insulation loss and noise by grounding. The MLCC combined a capacitor and a filter. I hope Skymos has produced 20KV MLCCs. It was already offering 10KV MLCCs.
Most of this data actually appeared in Global Sources Electronics Components magazine in 2006!