Global MLCC Shortage Continues, Drives Demand for Alternative Technologies

March 12, 2021 by Alessandro Mascellino

This article highlights the shortage of MLCCs continues around the world, causing manufacturers to look for alternative technologies from companies such as Empower Semiconductor.

The shortage of MLCCs continues around the world, causing manufacturers to look for alternative technologies from companies such as Empower Semiconductor


A circuit board using MLCCs. Image used courtesy of AVNet.

Multilayer Ceramic Capacitors: an Overview

Multilayer ceramic capacitors are typically the component of choice for applications needing small-value capacitances.

MLCCs can often be found in bypass capacitors, in op-amp circuits, filters, and other components related to a variety of applications in electric vehicles, factory robots, and 5G equipment.

In terms of the advantages, these components feature a reduced parasitic inductance, thus delivering better high-frequency performance when compared to aluminum electrolytic capacitors. They also offer better stability over temperature, though that depends on the temperature coefficient.

Generally speaking, MLCCs are built out of alternating layers of metallic electrodes and dielectric ceramic, hence their name.


A Continuing Global Shortage

The global shortage of MLCC first reached worrying levels in 2018, fueled by excessive demand, and a limited number of companies producing the components.

According to Paumanok Publications, in 2018, Samsung Electro-Mechanics, Murata, and Taiyo Yuden alone held 60 percent of the total market.

The crisis was further exacerbated by the fact that several manufacturers focused on the production of capacitors with smaller sizes and higher capacitance used in applications like cars and smartphones. 

On the other hand, other firms limited the production of capacitors for industrial and other markets since the margins were lower.

This specialization caused an increase of capacity in the market, but not for commercial commodity parts.


Diversifying MLCC Production

During the following two years, manufacturers’ efforts in ramping up production capacity started to affect the market, and by 2020 the shortage had been brought at least partially under control.

Then the Covid-19 pandemic happened, disrupting logistics chains, production cycles, and transportation, in addition to an already pressing lack of fully trained staff caused by an even larger demand for MLCC at the beginning of 2020.

According to data by Grandview Research, the demand for MLCCs will grow further in the near future, with an estimated 5% growth by 2025 spearheaded by 5G deployment activities. This would bring the total value of the market to $12 billion.

Given these predictions, and the uncertainty brought about by the pandemic, it is now clear that manufacturers should at least consider potential alternatives to MLCCs for the near future.


Empower’s E-CAP Capacitor Technology

To tackle current and future MLCC shortages, Empower has announced last month it has increased the production of its E-CAP silicon capacitors.


A mockup image showing the structure of the E-CAP capacitors. Image used courtesy of Empower.


According to the company, E-CAP have a smaller footprint than traditional MLCCs, while offering better performance and improved reliability.

In particular, Empower believes E-CAP can be an ideal replacement of MLCCs as a power supply bypass capacitor in applications like in-package for SoCs and Processors. As well as low voltage DC/DC voltage regulators.

The new technology reportedly offers superior stability with no DC-AC bias or temperature de-rating, and no significant effects of aging. 

Empower currently offers E-CAP in two standard products (EC1001 and EC1100) with additional configurations coming in the next few months. Both are available as 150mm thickness in Tape & Reel.

Empower’s EP70XX IVR family, which is known for its superior performance and high power density, was the first application for E-CAP, when the technology was first launched in late 2020.

For more information about Empower’s E-CAP capacitor technology, you can follow this link here.