December 2012

Interview

“TDK is and remains a motor of progress”

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Almost half of the TDK Group’s sales revenue derives from the sale of electronic components, modules and systems distributed under the product brand names TDK and EPCOS. TDK President and CEO Takehiro Kamigama explains how customers can profit from the company’s technological expertise and innovative strength.


Where does TDK’s focus lie in the production of electronic components?
On reliable, technologically superior products which are tailored to meet the market’s and customers’ requirements and which we can develop and manufacture as fast as possible and offer at a competitive cost/performance ratio. Today, three main requirements are made of our customers’ systems, equipment and installations and so also of our components: They have to be smaller and more powerful at the same time, consume less energy and not harm the environment.

What markets do you concentrate on most?
We support customers in all industries, and as far as possible always to the fullest extent of our broad product and service portfolio. TDK places special innovative emphasis on solutions for increasingly networked infrastructure systems. These include applications in information and communications technology like smartphones, tablet PCs and servers, which are grouped frequently under “cloud computing.” We also focus on smart grids and green energy. In the area of automotive electronics we supply the classic applications areas of powertrain, safety and convenience; TDK is also strongly committed in the area of e-mobility.

How can customers in the area of future technologies like cloud computing profit from TDK’s strengths?
Through our comprehensive expertise in materials, product and manufacturing technologies. In the case of cloud computing, say, the mobile Internet is pivotal – and therefore also the smartphone, where our product highlights cover all functional groups, from audio components through radio-frequency components to EMC and ESD protection, and wireless power transmission for charging devices. TDK uses not only new materials and thin-film technologies to create extremely miniaturized products, but also employs innovative integration technologies and packaging and also offers MEMS-based solutions. The insertion height of components is noticeably becoming a decisive factor. Because smartphone manufacturers have to integrate more and more functions into their products without sacrificing the accustomed compact and – even more importantly – flat design.

What is technically possible today as regards miniaturization and the flattest possible components?
Take our EPCOS surface acoustic wave filters and duplexers for mobile phones in DSSP® (die-sized SAW package) technology. With this, the at present highest possible degree of miniaturization can be achieved. DSSP components are 40 percent flatter than our miniature components up until now: they have a height of just 0.25 mm. DSSP filters and duplexers are designed mainly for radio-frequency modules in order to also reduce their height even further. Proof of this are our extremely flat modules based on TDK SESUB (semiconductor embedded in substrate) module technology. In order to be able to manufacture even flatter components we use our cutting-edge thin-film technology, which has already proved itself in TDK’s magnetic heads for hard disks.

What role does TDK play in wireless power transmission?
For the convenient wireless transfer of energy we developed extremely flat transmission coils. This technological leap in the supply of power to mobile phones gives manufacturers of mobile devices more freedom in product design. For example, the elimination of the charging socket is a big step in the direction of yet slimmer and even water- and dust-proof smartphones.

Getting back to the future-focused network infrastructures and smart grids, how is TDK positioned in this field?
With a very wide range of advanced TDK and EPCOS products. Take the growing share of power generation from wind and solar power plants and, consequently, the expansion of the network for low-loss power transmission. This is only possible with high-voltage direct current (HVDC) transmission technology. Our power capacitors are key components for power transmission in the HVDC systems that are needed. Our EMC filters, inductive components and aluminum electrolytic capacitors are also fitted in the power supply and control electronics of these systems, and our thermistors are used to monitor temperatures in these systems. Our protection components serve to shield these systems against lightning and the power grids against overload. Yes, even our SAW filters can assume key functions in smart grids – for example, when they are used in advanced metering infrastructures for the wireless recording of metering data. Thus, for example, readings from gas and water meters and electric meters can be made easily and cost-effectively, remotely and without wires. Furthermore, when there is an oversupply of energy in the grid, appliances that need lots of power, like washing machines, can be started up via intelligent control systems, thus cutting energy costs and protecting the environment...


... by which TDK also makes a contribution to mega trends in energy efficiency and environmental protection.
Right, and which, of course, also includes e-mobility. As with conventionally powered vehicles, electronic systems and components which increase performance, efficiency and environmental-friendliness are also in demand for hybrid and electric vehicles. A contribution is also being made to this by, for example, our EPCOS power capacitors for recuperative braking systems and for the DC link of electric drives. TDK is also doing pioneering work in powerful magnets for electric motors. Thus, for example, we now offer magnets that contain substantially less dysprosium, a very costly rare earth metal. In this area we have now developed methods that will enable dysprosium to be dispensed with altogether. TDK has set itself the important long-term technological and corporate task of developing highest-performance magnets that can do entirely without rare earth metals!

How can TDK make so many innovative solutions for such different application areas?
We have our own strong in-house technology organization. Its heart is located at the Technology Headquarters near Tokyo, employing a total of some 800 engineers and experts. They coordinate technological and process expertise across all organizational units and subsidiaries, which in turn conduct comprehensive innovation work in their own R&D departments. In addition, there is our Production Engineering Center, where we develop manufacturing technologies and machines as well as reliable processes for the mass production of new products. This internationally networked, highly motivated and competent team ensures that TDK will continue to reliably maintain its traditional position as a motor of progress.


Comprehensive portfolio by a single provider: The product range of TDK’s components business includes ceramic, aluminum electrolyte and foil capacitors, ferrites and inductors, magnets, high-frequency components like surface acoustic wave (SAW) filter products and modules, piezo- and protective components as well as sensors. The TDK Group also offers products for magnetic applications as well as component assemblies for storage of electric energy, digital storage media and other products.

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