Japan Leads Passive Components Market

By Yoichiro Ando, SEMI Japan

While semiconductor manufacturing is shifting to Asia from mature regions including North America, Europe and Japan, Japanese electronic component manufacturers continue to expand their presence in the global market. This article summarizes developments among major electronic component manufacturers in Japan, focusing on trends in passive components. SEMICON Japan (December 13-15 in Tokyo) will be your opportunity to connect with many of these growing electronic component suppliers in Japan.

The Japan Electronics and Information Technology Industries Association (JEITA) classifies electronic components as follows:

  • Passive components: capacitors, resistors, inductors (coils), transformers etc.
  • Connecting components: switches, connectors, relays etc.
  • Transducers: acoustic components, sensors and actuators (miniature motors etc.)
  • Other: power supplies and radio frequency components (SAW devices, crystal oscillators etc.)

According to JEITA, Japanese manufacturers have a 38 percent share of the global market for electronic components (as of 2015), and a still greater share in passive components and transducers. As with semiconductors, manufacturers based in China and other countries are expanding their sales of passive components, but the market position of Japanese manufacturers remains unchanged.

In the passive components sector, even more than in the semiconductor sector, manufacturers’ proprietary technologies and know-how differentiate leading companies from others in production efficiencies and product qualities. The introduction of new equipment and the headhunting of engineers from competing companies are therefore not enough to catch up with pioneering companies. For this reason, it is likely that Japanese companies will continue to dominate the passive components market.

Trends in the Development of Passive Components

  • Capacitors: Capacitors store electrical energy when a voltage is applied across them, in proportion to the voltage. Capacitors are used in backup and noise filtering circuits, coupling elements and filters. A single smartphone may contain more than 400 capacitors. There are electrolytic capacitors, ceramic capacitors, film capacitors etc., to suit a range of applications. Demand for ceramic capacitors, especially multi-layer ceramic capacitors (MLCC), is increasing from smartphones and other electronic devices that are required to be smaller in size but higher in performance. MLCCs use dielectric film made of barium titanate (BaTiO3) and other high-dielectric ceramics. Reducing the thickness of the dielectric film to around 1μm, and layering it with electrode layers up to around 1,000 layers, has made it possible to miniaturize elements and achieve high capacity.

    In the future, the pursuit of miniaturization, high performance and high functionality will require still thinner films, but manufacturing process limitations with dielectric particles are an issue. Reducing the thickness of barium titanate films to as thin as 100nm also reduces the dielectric constant. To resolve this problem, manufacturers are focusing on the development of new structural materials, as well as using deposition and other thin film processes. Solutions are within sight, but cost issues must be resolved to be used in volume production.
  • Inductors: Inductors (coils) allow energy to be stored in a magnetic field formed by an electrical current. They are used for tuning/resonance, noise suppression, voltage increase etc. There are many different types of coil, but the most common is enamel-coated copper wire wound around a ferrite bobbin. Spiral patterns can be formed on printed circuit boards to create miniature inductors, and even smaller inductors can be formed on an LSI.

    Because of their complex structure, inductors could not be surface-mounted until around 1980 when multi-layer chip inductors are introduced. A multi-layer chip inductor is consisted in layers of core and conductive materials instead of wire wrapping.

    There are two types of multi-layer chip inductor: multi-layer ferrite coils and multi-layer ceramic coils. The multi-layer ferrite coils are made with ferrite magnetic material and operate at frequencies from a few megahertz to 100MHz, and are especially widely used in DC/DC converter applications. The multi-layer ceramic coils (high-frequency coils) are used for the high-frequency circuits of smartphones and other cellular phones.
  • Resistors: Resistors are divided, by structure, into carbon film resistors, metal film resistors, metal foil resistors, wire-wound resistors, etc., and, by package format, into leaded resistors and surface-mounted (chip) resistors. There are also resistor network products incorporating between 4 and 24 resistors, which are used in damping and pull-down/pull-up applications. Metal foil/chip resistor networks are used for high-precision circuits.

Trends among Leading Manufacturers

The latest developments among the major Japanese companies are as follows.

  • Murata Manufacturing: Murata Manufacturing offers a wide range of electronic components, including capacitors、inductors, resistors and crystal oscillators. The company claims a global market share of 40 percent in MLCCs. Murata’s company-wide revenue was 1,135 billion JPY in FY2016 and 369,400 million JPY was from capacitor business.

    To meet strong demand, the company has actively invested in increased production capacity. The company invested 101 billion JPY in FY2014, 175 billion JPY in FY2015 and 158 billion JPY in FY2016. The company plans to invest 170 billion JPY in FY2017.

    In 2016 Murata acquired TOKO for its inductor business and IPDiA for high heat resistant silicon capacitor products. In the same year, Murata also announced a capital and business alliance with Shizuki Electric to develop and manufacture high-performance film capacitors for electric vehicle applications.
  • Kyocera: Kyocera is developing electronic device-related business, centering on ceramic capacitors, crystal devices and SAW devices, and recorded sales of 288 billion JPY in FY2016. Kyocera has maintained a high level of capital investment in this business area, with 14 billion JPY in FY2014, 19 billion JPY in FY2015 and 21 billion JPY in FY2016, and investment is expected to continue at a similar level in FY2017.
  • Taiyo Yuden: Taiyo Yuden’s passive components business centers on MLCCs. Sales of capacitors were 117 billion JPY in FY2016. Company-wide capital investment was 37 billion JPY in FY2015, 33 billion JPY in FY2016 and is projected to fall 18.6 percent year-on-year to 27 billion JPY in FY2017.
  • TDK: TDK’s electronic components business includes ceramic capacitors, inductors and RF components. Sales from those components were 575 billion JPY in FY2016. Among them, ceramic capacitors and inductors sales were 136 billion JPY and 145 billion JPY respectively. In February 2017, TDK sold the majority of its high-frequency components business to Qualcomm. TDK expects its electronic component business sales to fall by 17-20 percent year-on-year in FY2017.

    Capital investment (the purchase price of fixed assets) in 2016 was 167 billion JPY, of which around 90 billion JPY was allocated to the electronic components business to expand production of RF components and inductors.
  • TOKIN (NEC TOKIN): On April 19, 2017, NEC TOKIN was acquired by U.S. electronic components manufacturer KEMET Corporation as a fully owned subsidiary, and changed its name to TOKIN. KEMET manufactures and markets electronic components including tantalum, ceramic, film, aluminum electrolytic and other capacitors, and has manufacturing bases in the US, Mexico, China and Europe. In February 2013, KEMET formed a capital and business alliance with NEC TOKIN, with a view to expanding its capacitor product lineup and its technological capabilities.

Get Connected to the Japan Electronic Components Industry

SEMICON Japan (December 13-15 in Tokyo) will be your opportunity to connect to those growing electronic component suppliers in Japan. Most of the companies discussed in this article will participate to the event as exhibitors, speakers or visitors. Last year, the show had visitors from Kyocera, Murata Manufacturing, Taiyo Yuden and TDK.


Global Update
September 12, 2017