During our usual round of contacts over a cross section of the U.S. capacitor industry, we found an even greater sense of optimism this month, almost without exception. Time and again we heard comments about exceptionally high quote activity and a slowly growing increase in order levels.
The U.S. markets indicators for durable goods, housing, industrial productivity, automotive sales, military orders, and consumer confidence all point to a year that should see a reasonable if not robust last half recovery trend. This is despite the negatives of a seemingly confused stock market and somewhat higher unemployment, although the latter is really a lagging indicator, not a leading indicator. Inventories in virtually every sector are finally moving down, but it does seem like the electronics area is the slowest to recover.
Vishay Intertechnologies new annual report has some very upbeat forecasts for components. In the report, many graphs showing total world market dollar sales projections from 2001 through 2005 are very revealing: for automotive passives consumption, double last years pace; for passive components in computer peripherals, 71%; for the consumer segment, 83%; for communications, 76%; for industrial/medical sectors, 83%; and for military and aerospace, 44%. Granted that in most cases, the largest increases come in the 2003 to 2005 period, but each graph shows increases as well for this year.
Another plus for potential improvements on profitability is the availability situation on many raw materials. For instance, with tantalum and niobium now in abundant supply, prices for finished components should remain at more reasonable levels (for the customer) and possibly allow a trickle down of profits from lower costs (for the manufacturer). At the same time, since many companies made great outlays to expand production facilities before the market tripped over itself, there should be little lag time to get up to speed as the improving demand requires.
Across the globe, semiconductor forecasts even for this second quarter are surprisingly bright. This is a great leading indicator for passive component demand, particularly in the tech sector. Texas Instruments and Novello profit statements have offered a boost for Asian stock markets. Brokerage houses internationally are moving back into bullish terms as they speak about companies such as Nokia, Vodaphone, NTT, Infineon and France Telecom, to name a few widespread examples.
There is word via the "Wall Street Journal" that a rebound appears underway in Asian electronics. At Quantum Computer, Inc., in Taipei, the worlds largest laptop maker, "consumer products fueled a 29% year-on-year jump" in first quarter sales. South Koreas exports of all types grew close to 10% in April compared to a year ago. China has moved so swiftly in the on-line arena that it now is second only to the U.S. in the number of people with at-home access to the internet, according to a Nielsen/NetRatings survey. Australias gross domestic product level rose 1.3% in the first quarter of 2002 making the "Down Under" country at the top of the world in that category. Internal households and building expansions have been sparking this happy rebound.
Total euro-zone countries appear to be getting much closer to a recovery mode with the overall manufacturing output index having slowly moved into the "plus" column. Nonetheless, some increases are smaller than expected, particularly in Germany. French growth estimates for 2002 have been forecast at 1.5%, somewhat lower than earlier thought.
In South America, all eyes are on Argentinas wild swings of fortune in its politics and its economy. Much too soon to make a guess on that situation, but at least most observers dont foresee a major impact or "domino effect" for other countries in the region. Brazil has already seen a couple months of back-to-back increases in industrial output, though still at levels under that of a year ago. Moodys Investors Services has upgraded Mexicos debt rating, the first such independent investment grade status given to the government...a good sign for development investment in the months and years ahead. As of this writing, however, the peso has dropped 5% in value in just a few days creating both plus and minus situations for manufacturers there, particularly those with ownership from outside Mexico. Exports should benefit, but if profits are in pesos, there can be a downside. Best guess is that this situation will stabilize with little long term impact.
Parallax Power Systems of Bridgeport, Conn. and New York City has agreed to purchase the Aerovox brand name and the companys business in New Bedford, Mass. The Aerovox facility in the business park will be leased to Parallax by Key Bank of Cleveland, Ohio, according to an article in the "Standard Times" newspaper. This arrangement is good news for the 270 or so employees in New Bedford. It is possible that another bidder could change this plan during the upcoming June bankruptcy court auction, however most observers feel that the Parallax arrangement will prevail, leading to a closing of the deal on June 18.
Aerovox president and CEO Robert Elliot also announced the sale of its Mexico City plant. The facilities there that manufacture film and electrolytic capacitors will be purchased by Nuevas Generacion Manufacturas. S.A., a Mexican firm.
As for BHC Aerovox, Ltd., the electrolytic operations in Weymouth, U.K., the Evox Rifa Group will acquire all shares, making the Group a major European force in the dielectric marketplace as they gain BHCs large capability in motor start and power electronics capacitors. In fact, this places them high in the global field of capacitor suppliers counting in their existing lines of plastic film and paper lines.
Its difficult to view the end of this portion of Aerovox history without recalling its thousand-plus employees of the 1950s and 1960s, followed by a brief break-up that saw the emergence of what is now AVX moving off to become a ceramics powerhouse and the concurrent creation of the interim Belleville Industries name with Cliff Tuttle at the helm. Shortly, the Belleville name was granted the right to assume the Aerovox label once again. A stellar cast of purchasing, engineering. sales, finance and administrative people brought the company to another high point some years ago...including those like Ron Murphy, Phillip Fox, Earl Sherman, Jack Chmura, Fred MacDougal, Bernie Lane, Larry Bromley, John Hutzler and Ron Rice, just to name a few. Hopefully the Parallax influence will mean even newer high points for the future.
In more film capacitor acquisition news, Electrocube, Inc. of Monrovia, Calif. on May 1 announced its purchase of the Seacor, Inc. manufacturing operations in Westbrook, NJ. Electrocube is heavily into AC and DC film capacitors as well as RC networks, snubbers, filters, aluminum foil transformers, aircraft lighting ballast and other custom components. The Seacor acquisition broadens Electrocubes presence in high voltage PET film caps, high pulse OPP films, X2 suppression, motor start and electrolytic standard/high ripple current capacitors. Along with its top level engineering talent already in place, Electrocube will also now have available the supporting role of Sol Birenbaum, president of Seacor, who has held the respect of so may in the capacitor field for decades. The operational facilities will shortly be moved from New Jersey to Electrocubes plant. This activity comes on the heels of a very good business level in April, according to Electrocube national sales manager Gloria Snyder, who is enthusiastic about the future potential of the product combinations now available.
Also on the film scene, Cornell Dubilier announced on April 5 its acquisition of the Distribution Division of North American Capacitor Companys Mallory Products Group from the Vishay subsidiary which was purchased last November. C-Ds president Jim Kaplan describes the distributor operation as an excellent fit for his company and indeed the Mallory distributor capability as an in-house operation has an almost legendary history and reputation. Tom Green, former VP sales for NACC will be the general manager of the new C-D division selling the Mallory products.
Maxwell Technologies of San Diego, Calif. has an April 20 news release to the effect that it has consolidated its ownership of its I-Bus/Phoenix and Electronic Component Group operating subsidiaries. CEO Carl Eibl said the move simplifies the companys capital structure by making both units wholly-owned subsidiaries. The firm feels this streamlining effect will further enhance its leading capabilities in power and computing to develop and market electronic components along with its power and computing systems in multiple industries. An aggressive schedule of new product introductions in the second and third quarters is setting the stage for growth over the balance of this year.
Dupont Electronic Technologies has purchased a near 17% equity interest in Merrimac Industries. This agreement allows the two firms to combine efforts to ferret out and meet the demands of markets for high frequency modules and electronic components. You will likely be hearing more about this in the very near future.
Vishay announced on April 15 that it had agreed to acquire Tedra-Huntleigh BV, which produces and sells load cells used in digital scales by the weighing industry. Chairman and CEO Dr. Zandman stated that Vishay has made this strategic decision to create substantial value for its strains gauges product line. The first move in this plan was Vishays January acquisition of Sensortronics, a U.S. load cell manufacturer.
Kemet Corp. reported an 0.5% increase in net sales for the quarter ended in March as compared to the previous quarter, although well below year-ago sales figures. Chairman, president and CEO David Maguire noted that total unit shipments have now increased for two consecutive quarters. Average selling prices declined approximately 9% and sequential revenue grew slightly in the March 2002 quarter. Referring to the ongoing drive to reduce inventories, he notes that in their distributor channels, inventory already has been cut by 66% from its peak in January 2001. He adds that some electronics end markets, such as notebooks and servers, appear to have stabilized and have begun a growth pattern again.
AVX Corps CEO and president John Gilbertson noted that sales unit volumes increased in the first quarter this year, but as predicted, selling prices continued to be under heavy pressure due to industry capacity remaining in excess of near-term demand. He forecast that sales for this second quarter will increase about 5% sequentially. In general, sales for the past quarter were off last years first quarter by slightly over 50%. Meanwhile, the sales of suppression devices are fairing well, ceramics are hanging in there, the newest and smallest 0402 tantalum chips are on a roll...and all in all, a brighter last half for 2002 appears to be a realistic probability.
Wilson Greatbatch Technologies (WGT), best known for its development and manufacture of power sources and components used in implantable medical devices, has reported record first quarter revenue and net income. Revenue at $36.6 million was 23% above a year ago. It may be a surprise and certainly of interest to many that of this quarterly total, almost $6 million represented revenue from capacitor operations, a 65% increase over the March 2001 quarter. See their website at www.greatbatch.com
LATE BREAKING NEWS: On June 6, Maxwell Technologies annouced the acquisition of montena Components of Switzerland. This will include the facility there and montena's EC and high voltage capacitor lines as well as their film and battery winding machine manufacturing lines. We will have more details in the next issue.
In a very general sense, companies have been saying that the overall industrial market is holding up relatively well, the air conditioning sector has finally come alive as it should have two months ago, the medical field is strong, power supplies not bad, military/space is busy as one might expect, and surprisingly, some elements of the telecommunications industry are reviving.
American Radionic of Florida is one of those reporting the overdue pickup in demand for air conditioning parts as well as in other market segments. John Sedlak of UPE of Richfield, Ohio, U.S. representative for ICAR and for Evox Rifa capacitors confirms much the same, noting growing interest in power oriented components. This is good news for his lines of high voltage electrolytics which now extend up to 550 VAC for applications such as motor drive units. Cornell Dubiliers newest in the plug-in electrolytic area is the rugged 3-pin series 4CMC, 400C, 420C, 450C and 401C. The "C" suffix denotes extended cathode versions of C-Ds well know plug-in lines. They offer low core-to-core thermal resistance, the isosceles lead wire layout prevents reverse installation and the tops are made of rugged nylon for superior vibration performance. Also new is the type AEB surface mount electrolytic for high voltage applications up to 450 VDC...ideal for power supply inputs, lighting ballast and other high voltage ripple filtering, by-passing and decoupling applications. Find out more about these and the newest in film designs and other caps at www.cornell-dubilier.com
Sorrento Electronics of San Diego, Calif. is doing very well with defibrillator applications, with integrated products for the National Ignition program and with inverter modules, including electronic ignition for launch systems. More government contracts on the way! Check at www.HVpower.com for info on custom units, the series DM and PD discharge units S, SS and DE plastic case caps along with the series C high energy storage capacitors.
Epcos, Inc. is promoting its new SIKOREL® series of axial-leaded and solder-star aluminum electrolytic caps. These are designed for use in heavy duty automotive applications including valvetronic, active front steering, electro-mechanical brakes, electro-hydraulic brakes, direct-unit injection systems and 42 volt systems. Latch on to www.epcos.com to learn more about SIKOREL as well as the EPCOS caps for compact fluorescent lamps, electronic ballasts for LEDs and for HID automotive lamps plus transformers for halogen lamps. Theres a handy two page product profile called "Film Capacitors for Lighting Applications" you may want to check out.
Speaking of films, we should note that Electrocube has a 730 series 85°C film capacitor designed to replace polystyrene devices. The stability and other properties are very similar and the units are rated at 100 and 200 volts with cap values from 0.001 to 20 mfds. To learn more, try the web at www.electrocube.com
United Chemi-Cons Rosemount, Ill. office has been promoting the PXA series of surface mount capacitors that use a solid functional-polymer electrolyte for long life available in two reflow temperature mode levels of 210 to 230°C. The units have a 2000 hour life at 105°C, Values range from 33 to 1000 mfds with voltage ratings of 2.5 to 16 V with low ESR and excellent ripple current capability. See the good folks at www.chemi-con.com
Kemet Corp. of Greenville, SC is making the most of its recent entry into the world of aluminum capacitors with its A700 series of surface-mountable polymer. The AO-CAP is an ideal alternative to high capacitance ceramics. Its excellent high frequency performance, low ESR and small size all help to make the design a "step up" from existing aluminum-organic capacitors. Kemet also has announced new high cap values in its Y5V dielectrics...15 and 25 mfds. chips in a 1206 package at a 6.3 V rating. These parts are primarily designed for power supply decoupling. Learn more at www.kemet.com
TDK has introduced a new MLCC in a 4532 (EIA 1812) case size which they describe as "unmatched" in the industry. The 100 mfd. ceramic chip features ultra low ESR, thus very high ripple and current carrying capability. Add to these the benefits of high reliability, no polarity, and X5R temperature characteristics. For the latest news on all their capacitors and TDKs VC-21S radial insertion machine, tune in the web at www.component.tdk.com
Vishay has released two new tantalum chip capacitor lines. Most recent is the Vishay/Sprague CC and EC families of low profile conformal coated units in 8 case sizes. These offer the tops in volumetric efficiency for energy storage, filtering and by-pass applications in many end products. Capacitance range is from 0.1 to 100 mfds. in the CC series and from 0.47 to 220 mfds. in the extended range CE series. The other units of note announced in late March are additions to the 592D series in low profile "X" and "Y" cases designed for noise suppression and capacitive decoupling. They feature very high cap ratings of 1000 to 2200 mfds while offering ultra-low ESR levels. (See www.vishay.com )
NWL Capacitors of Riviera Beach, Florida offers superior performance in high current DC filter and pulse capacitors with their E-Series dry film designs. The product line makes use of the latest technology in segmented electrode metallizing of polypropylene film. See the web at www.nwl.com for details. Also in Florida at their Longwood plant, Dearborn Electronics is promoting its custom made film capacitors and EMI filters that are priced not at the special design price but at standard prices. See www.dearbornelectronics.com
Back up in Myrtle Beach, SC, AVX Corp. is now offering its AQ series of porcelain and ceramic multilayer caps for RF and microwave applications. They provide great stability under stresses of changing voltage, frequency, time and temperature, and they are now available in 0603 case sizes. Their fine grain, high density, high porosity dielectric is resistant to moisture and features internal palladium electrodes. When it comes to miniaturization demands, AVX refers to its new 0402 TACMicrochip™ addition to its tantalum lines. Very low ESR means enhanced high frequency performance. Applications range from handsets to satellite systems. The TAC series more than doubles the amount of active tantalum as compared to a conventional lead frame device, thus allowing the use of a smaller part or counting on a higher capacitance for the previous space used.
ITW Paktron of Lynchburg, VA has extended its low-shrinkage PET polymer multilayer film capacitor listing to include the ST3 and ST4 series. The unit designs allow for ESR levels of 1 ohm at 1000 Hz. Typical self-inductances are 6 and 9 nH. Specs include values of 1 and 2.2 mfds. at 100 VDC. See more at www.paktron.com
From Cazenovia, New York we see STK Electronics is boosting its MPX series of metallized polypropylene films. Hard to believe, but beside their safety approvals from the US and Canada, the cap series has been awarded approvals as well from 10 European agencies. These are plastic case units in the cap range of 0.0047 to 2.2 mfds. and working voltages of 276/250 VAC at 50/60 Hz. (www.stkelectronics.com)
MACHINES AND MATERIALS
In general, this is the era of overcapacity for nearly everyone, given the dramatic fall in the market place after large facility expansions of a couple years ago. On the machine end, we hear reasonable to very optimistic news. Notable among the machine people is montena of Switzerland which is reporting healthy activity for their high voltage Metronic and the new Jumbolina AC winders, especially for the China market and in Europe. Assembly equipment is doing well also, particularly with their partner Antom. For more information, check the site at www.montena.com
We have been hearing some cautiously optimistic comments for some capacitor materials and services. For instance, we note that component test systems from ESI in Portland, Oregon is showing renewed signs of life.
Note also that test gear manufacturer QuadTech of Maynard, Mass. has come out with two new products. The Guardian 6100 has been added to its line of electrical safety test gear. This is aimed squarely at the medical device market. Without changing the connection to the device under test, the 6100 is able to perform up to 9 different critical safety tests in sequence. QuadTech also offers a new LCR meter in its widely recognized Digibridge family of impedance measuring instruments. The 1730 model features measurement of 10 impedance parameters, 0.1% accuracy, test frequencies up to 100kHz, high resolution LED graphical display, plus monitoring of AC voltage and current to the device under test...all this for as much as $1000 less than competing products. Check for yourself as www.quadtech.com
Arbin Instruments of College Station, Texas is busily updating its popular battery, fuel cell and electrochemical capacitor test instrumentation. Much already is available in response to the coming 42 volt automotive systems. With so much to describe, best you check for yourself at their website www.arbin.com
As this issue is being written, the Electrochemical Society meeting is well underway in Philadelphia, PA with close to 40 of its papers on the subject of ECs, or electrochemical capacitors. Of these 40 papers, about one-third are on the subject of asymmetric designs, the so-called "third generation" of ECs. These are similar to the ESMA capacitor construction in that the devices use one battery electrode, one capacitor electrode and an aqueous interface all totally sealed in a single package. Watch too for EC designs making greater use of manganese dioxide with organic electrolytes for reaching 3 volts and perhaps even 4 volts per cell level. We hear that one similar NESS design is already rated at 2.7 volts.
The full week meeting in Philadelphia was preceded by a "Shortcourse" called "Fundamentals and Applications of Electrochemical Capacitors" given by Professor Brian Conway of the University of Ottawa and John Miller, president of JMR Shaker Heights, Ohio. The course covered the nature and significance of "electric double layer" and "Pseudocapacitors" charge storage with comparisons to batteries and standard capacitors. The applications portion covered the two terminal electrical response of ECs and describes how to derive and use an equivalent circuit model.
The above mention of "third generation" design seems to tie in with design work already in progress at Maxwell Technologies. Senior VP Richard Smith notes that this is one of the many projects underway at the San Diego, Calif. facilities. A previously announced cooperative program with Exides battery operations has collapsed due to Exides recent slide into Chapter 11, but Smith confirms that discussions have already taken place with others to consider partnerships for strategic EC-battery programs.
Maxwells small cell plan to ramp up to large scale production has been severely slowed by the present global economic turmoil. The tide is turning, however, and Maxwell now expects to reach a production rate of one million units per month by year end and double that by the end of 2003. Smith sees many power applications in consumer, industrial, telecom and automotive markets that could demand from the industry anywhere from 50 to 125 million parts per year by 2005. For some of the new EC designs for automotive use, we are told to expect in the future to see units selling for about one penny per farad!
Maxwells new large 2700 farad series TC2700 is the first of a family of products utilizing breakthrough low-cost production methods based on simplified design and proprietary materials. Several months ago, the Electronic Components Group president Richard Balanson said large cell unit price now at around $150 will drop to less than $30 in million-unit volumes by 2003 based on moves to improve design and production efficiency. Since that time, we have received word that Balanson has now been named to the newly created position of president and chief operating officer of Maxwell Technologies Inc.
In a brief summary of other company activity in ECs:
Powerstor capacitors are now a big item in the consumer electronic game field, including as we understand, in the popular X-Box.
montena of Switzerland has installed a new line for their big ultracaps used in energy recuperation applications. The companys hybrid car EC solutions were on display along with Volkswagon at the recent Geneva convention.
cap-XX of Australia notes that its major distinguishing feature is the ability to tailor the supercapacitor to achieve a wide and continuing range of time constants. No competitor is known that can duplicate this.
Evans Capacitor of East Providence, RI is not a company just willing to tag along. President Dave Evans reports a very busy production level for his line of Hybrid capacitors for defense construction. He has long developed and maintained a close relationship with the military needs for the advantages provided by ECs.
We could go on at length about the various electric/hybrid and fuel cell programs in the works here in the U.S. and elsewhere, but there is no way to cover it all here. We urge you, instead, to attend HYFUSYS1 (Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Systems for Stationary, Automotive and Portable Applications) September 9-12 at the Broward County Convention Center in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The event is a showcase fair with 100 exhibitors and about 50 technical papers. Then keep in mind Shep Wolskys 12th annual International Seminar on Double Layer Capacitors and Similar Energy Storage Devices. This is the very popular 3 day seminar and exhibit which occurs this year December 9-11 at the Embassy Suites Resort in Deerfield Beach, Florida. You dont want to miss this one! Check both shows at www.powersources.net
As you would expect, this years March meeting of CARTS (Capacitor and Resistor Technology Symposium) staged by Leon Hamiter was a great session with over 250 attending the New Orleans event. A last minute panel discussion feature on the subject of niobium capacitors was so well received that plans are already in the works for an expanded version for next year. The CARTS Europe show this year will be held October 14-17 at the Holiday Inn Resort in Nice, France. Next years U.S. show will be held March 31 to April 4 at the Chaparral Suites in Scottsdale, Arizona. For all the show info and for copies of proceedings, etc., visit the Components Technology Institute website at www.cti-us.com
The ECA, EIA, IEEE and CPMT are all involved in presenting the May 28-31 Electronic Components and Technology Conference (ECTC2002) at the Sheraton Hotel and Marina in San Diego, Calif. Hope you had a chance to link up with it through www.ectc.net
The next biggie is Supercom 2002 with its broad overview of the world of communications. The show is held June 4-6 at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta, GA. While there, be sure to stop by the ECA and EIA sponsored Electronics Components Pavilion.
We were saddened to hear that on May 5th. that Dick Grouse, capacitor engineer and metallizing machine designer of great note, died at the age of 84 in Apex, North Carolina. He was well known for his work with the former Metallized Products Co., which joined American Metallizing to become Am-Met in the early 1970s. He later had his own firm, then collaborated with Sol Birenbaum of Seacor for special design work. After retiring, he did some consulting work with companies such as G.M. He will be missed by many in the film and paper dielectric trade who were active in the 40s through the 80s. He has been credited with being a pioneer in the development of the "large wheel" cap winder which was later utilized by Siemens. He is also credited with major contributions to the development of double metallized dielectric systems with opposing margins to allow for the use of a single layer in a capacitor, and he gave life to a variety of industry design firsts in capacitor construction.
IN CONCLUSION. . .
We trust that we will all be heading into summer with smoother economic sailing. We look forward to reporting much good news in the next quarter. In the meantime, please pass along the word to friends in the trade about the Newsletter available through the FaradNet website !!