The End of the Road for Multilayer Chip Capacitors?

The End of the Road for Multilayer Chip Capacitors?

By Jonathan Plummer, Managing Director at EMS

Electronic component manufacturer Murata recently announced it will be making a number of its Multilayer Chip Capacitor (MLCC) parts ‘Not Recommended for New Designs’, meaning they will eventually become end of line (EOL) ‘legacy’ products.

Multilayer capacitor devices consist of alternating layers of ceramic and metal. They store energy in the form of an electric field and can be used to filter signals into different frequencies. The capacitance value is an indicator of how much electrical charge the capacitor can hold.

Although no date has yet been confirmed for when the parts will become EOL, the announcement has sparked some concern within the industry – particularly for businesses already using these components. As such, we wanted to clarify what’s going on and discern the facts from fiction…

Which parts are affected?

The perception amongst the industry is that Murata is trying to force customers to downsize with this announcement. Murata says the decision to make these parts EOL follows the market trend to move customers to smaller alternative products and that it is a strategic decision due to manufacturing restrictions on MLCCs. Despite high demand, these restrictions mean it is presumably no longer profitable for Murata to manufacture and supply these parts.

There have also been some concerns that all MLCC components will eventually become EOL; however, this is not the case. Murata have advised that from the GR* series / ZRA series only parts; ≥ 0402, ≥1uF and ≤100V ≥ 0603, ≤0.1uF and <100V` are expected to become ‘legacy’. This will result in an uphill price hike and, in turn, these particular parts will become EOL.

Existing customers

Naturally, businesses which are already using these parts are worried about what this will mean for their products but there is no reason to – at least not for the moment. Murata says that although it will no longer be supporting distribution, existing customers who already have projects will still be supported with historical volumes. However, there will be no upside volume and parts will not be available to new businesses.

Where possible, Murata will suggest alternative parts – including downsizing alternatives from Murata itself and exact like-for-like alternatives from other manufacturers. If this alternative is to downsize the case size, it may require a board redesign and, in some cases, pick and place machine upgrades.

Because of this, the recommended Murata replacement may not be suitable, but the manufacturer will try to identify alternatives for those businesses which cannot downsize.

There is currently no plan to obsolete any parts other than the ones mentioned previously. However, ‘reservation products’ or ‘preferred parts’ will be on allocation only and susceptible to longer lead times. Murata can quote for the stock it has available now or quote for 2020 delivery.

Alternative solutions

Although there is a definite shift to smaller case sizes, other MLCC manufacturers such as Samsung, AVX and Taiyo Yuden will still focus on larger sizes (0402/0603 (depending on the Murata series) upwards) as they see the opportunity created by decreased production elsewhere, as well as producing products that specialise in high capacitance and voltages which generally mean the use of larger case sizes. These suppliers have also said they will continue to support the larger cases in the long term.

A lot of designs won’t be tied to specific manufacturers anyway, so businesses should be able to find an alternative solution – although it is worth bearing in mind that, going forwards, lead times may be longer from manufacturers offering larger case sizes due to increased demand.

The best advice we can give is for customers designing new products to determine what case size they want to use before starting a project. This will then allow them to choose a manufacturer based on who will be able to support them in the long term with that particular size.

EMS is a UK electronic manufacturing services. 

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