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Interview with Rüdiger Scheel, Murata

"We hope that the very bottom has been reached!"

Rüdiger Scheel
© Murata

Murata could supply the automotive industry with significantly more passive components – only the lack of semiconductors prevents it, assures Rüdiger Scheel, Vice President Mobility at Murata Europe. To meet rising demand in the future, manufacturing is being massively expanded globally.

Markt & Technik: Mr. Scheel, in the last few months the situation in the automotive sector seems to have worsened rather than relaxed. How do you perceive the current situation from Murata’s point of view?

Rüdiger Scheel: We hope that the very bottom has now been reached! Murata also buys semiconductors for various products itself. September and October were the period with the worst delivery performance of our semiconductor suppliers. Since then, we have seen gradual improvements. We assume that there will be a significant improvement by the first quarter of 2022. Of course, not to the extent that the supply bottlenecks are eliminated completely, but at least to the extent that the situation is easing. We had planned our deliveries to the automotive industry at the best-case level – with a semiconductor shortage of 10 to 20 percent, this plan is not feasible of course. For this reason, it is currently just as difficult to make an exact forecast for the automotive industry for 2022, as our customers’ forecasts are based on planning without IC and raw material shortages.

To get an idea of ​​the MLCC requirements of today’s vehicles – how high is the MLCC requirement of an average car today, and where are the requirements for the ramping up electric vehicles?

In a good car with an internal combustion engine but without driver assistance, there have been approximately 5000 MLCCs in the past. Depending on the features, between 10,000 and 20,000 MLCCs can be found in a Tesla 3 today. The electrification of the car and the driver assistance systems used are responsible for this. With a high-performance Nvidia or Intel/mobileye core in one of the high-end electric cars for the real-time evaluation of driver assistance sensors such as camera, radar, ultrasound or lidar, we can reach beyond 20,000 MLCCs in the vehicle today. This number could increase even further in the next few years.

You don’t just supply MLCCs to the automotive sector. How is the current situation with inductors, for example?

Currently, we do not face a shortage in MLCCs, because a shortage in semiconductors prevents our customers from processing as many MLCCs as we are able to provide, but regarding inductors the situation is rather different. To supply power-hungry processors, you also need corresponding inductors. The demand for ferrite beads and ferrites is growing rapidly. In the field of metal compounds, we are seeing huge demands from the smartphone market, particularly for small components. For higher power applications, we are currently expanding our product range, for example for the automotive sector.

What are the current development trends in MLCCs for the automotive sector? Higher capacities, more robust design, suitable for even higher temperatures?

Higher capacities in smaller designs are a steadily continuing trend. For MLCCs with XR7/C0G dielectric, operating temperatures of up to +125 °C are common. The next category would then be operating temperatures of up to +150 °C. This of course does not mean that MLCCs will fail at higher temperatures. Our products meet requirements that are significantly higher than those of the AEC-Q200. If standard temperatures of up to +180 °C emerge in the future, we would be able to specify in this direction, with appropriate consideration of the mission profile. When it comes to robustness, soft termination is used wherever it is necessary. One rising trend, however, is the increasing demand for high-voltage SMD capacitors for the 500 to 3000 V voltage range. These requirements come from the powertrain segment in electric vehicles.

Murata introduced silicon capacitors this summer. Is this a capacitor design only for the telecommunications sector or is it also suitable for use in the automotive sector in future?

From today’s perspective, this is a niche product. It is used wherever there are high demands on temperature stability and minimal capacitance drift. Obviously, this solution is also ideal when highly integrated solutions need to place the required capacitances directly next to or underneath high-performance processors or ASICs. So far, corresponding solutions have gone into medical technology, for example. The silicon capacitors are being implemented by Murata Integrated Passive Solutions in France, the former IPDiA. In the automotive sector, we see future applications in power electronics.

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