November 2010

Technological competence

TDK-EPC – driving the mega trends

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The technological competencies of TDK and EPCOS combined under the umbrella of TDK-EPC complement each other very well. Thanks to this comprehensive expertise, the new company is driving the mega trends of environmental protection, energy efficiency and miniaturization. Customers from all industries benefit from a broad range of innovative and groundbreaking solutions.

Three key demands are made on today’s equipment, systems and installations: they should be smaller than ever and more powerful at the same time, consume less energy and have a mini-mal impact on the environment. TDK-EPC is responding successfully to these challenges at the component and system levels by continuously developing new solutions that contribute actively to driving the mega trends of electronics. This success is based on the solid position of TDK-EPC in the four competence areas shown in the Figure.

The seven business groups within TDK-EPC develop technologically superior solutions for use in energy storage and conversion applications as well as for boosting energy efficiency. The same applies to sensorics and signal processing in communications as well as to ESD/EMI and circuit protection. New technologies are continuously being developed on the basis of mature fundamental technologies supplemented by intensive material research and ongoing process optimization. They include innovative packaging technologies and metallization techniques as well as improved ceramic materials and MEMS technology with its high integration potential.

Trendsetter in miniaturization

Miniaturization remains one of the strongest innovation drivers in electronics. The mobile phone industry in particular requires ever smaller component solutions. The compact designs of smart phones that offer more and more functions can only be manufactured with even tinier components and modules. Thanks to new packaging technologies from EPCOS, the space needed for SAW duplexers – indispensable filters for UMTS phones – has been cut by 80 percent since 2004. The latest duplexers in CSSP3® (chip-sized SAW package) technology are no bigger than 2.0 x 1.6 mm2.

TDK-EPC also offers the world’s smallest and lightest multilayer EMC products. The MMZ series of chip beads from TDK, for example, is available in the miniature 0402 case size (0.4 x 0.2 x 0.2 mm3). They are thus suited for use in compact power supplies of consumer products such as digital cameras.

Not only must the components be ever smaller, they must simultaneously combine multiple functions. This applies to the common-mode filters used for EMI protection no less than to the varistors and components for ESD suppression. The response to this challenge takes the form of new TDK common mode filters that offer EMI and ESD protective functions in a combined
component that is unrivalled. These tiny products (1.25 x 1.00 x 0.60 mm3) were made possible by the use of a TDK patented thin-film technology originally developed to form a conductive layer for write-read heads for hard disks.

With its complete RF front-end solutions based on LTCC module technology TDK-EPC has repeatedly set new standards of integration and thus also of miniaturization. With these modules the space requirement on the circuit board can be reduced by up to 90 percent compared with discrete solutions. Chipsets are also integrated in new module generations. Thanks to the RF competence of TDK-EPC, manufacturers of mobile phones can be relieved of time and cost-intensive development work. In addition, if modules are used, the number of components on the bill of materials can be significantly reduced and thus, logistics expenditures as well. Thanks to modules, the reliability of the equipment is also considerably increased.

Using energy efficiently

Ever scarcer resources and ever more rigorous environmental laws are driving the trend to using energy more efficiently. Thus the piezo-actuators used in the fuel injection systems of diesel and gasoline engines help to reduce fuel consumption and optimize emissions. A major advantage of the new generation of EPCOS piezo actuators is that the electrodes are no longer made of palladium, but of copper, which is much less expensive. This additionally increases their operating life by three orders of magnitude, to more than 1012 cycles, which by far exceeds the typical requirements for passenger cars. Temperature, current and pressure sensors, which are distinguished by their great ruggedness and long operating life, also contribute to improving the energy balance of motor vehicles. They measure parameters such as the temperature of the drawn-in air as well as of the exhaust gas, oil and coolant before controllers evaluate this data and use it to optimize the engine performance. Temperature sensors enable improved regulation of air-conditioning systems. Here also, evaporator sensors stand out due to their reaction time of less than 4 s, which is shorter than any of their competitors. This also makes them suitable for innovative air-conditioning systems whose cooling circuits use carbon dioxide in place of conventional coolants that are troublesome to dispose of. EPCOS pressure sensors are used by motor vehicle manufacturers to regulate exhaust-gas recirculation systems, for instance, in order to further reduce the emission values of internal combustion engines by a significant extent.

In order to boost the efficiency of electric drives in industrial electronics, they are operated via frequency converters. Key components for these are DC link capacitors. Thanks to decades of experience by EPCOS in the development and manufacture of aluminum electrolytic and film capacitors, TDK-EPC offers mature and reliable solutions for such application areas. They feature impressively low ESR and ESL values as well as very long operating lives. The new company also manufactures special power capacitors for energy-saving traction converters in rail engineering. More and more high-voltage DC systems are coming into use in order to reduce the losses in power transmission networks. TDK-EPC also supplies power capacitors for their megawatt-class frequency converters.

Lighting technology offers enormous energy-saving potential. Energy-saving lamps and LED lighting systems need about 80 percent less energy than conventional technologies. Together with semiconductor manufacturers, TDK-EPC has developed several reference designs for the electronic ballasts and power supplies of the LED lighting systems and offers a very broad range of inductors, capacitors and thermistors.

TDK-EPC also offers products that help to save energy in consumer electronics applications. The TDK ECO series of remarkably small multiple output power transformers features optimized materials and form factor. Thus, the weight of the component could be reduced by 45 percent while retaining the same high efficiency of its predecessor.

Caring for the environment

When inductive loads such as motors or transformers are operated, reactive power is produced in addition to the desired active power. This is quite useless, but must still be generated by the power plants. It is caused by a shift of the phase angle between the current and voltage and can be remedied by power factor correction (PFC). TDK-EPC is the world market leader in PFC systems with its EPCOS capacitors and offers an extensive product range for various voltages and reactive powers.

Dynamic PFC is steadily gaining in importance. It is used in continuously switched loads such as welding equipment or cranes. Its great advantage is its fast reaction time of only 5 ms, achieved by the use of thyristor modules. Another advantage of these modules is the gentle way in which they switch the capacitors.

TDK-EPC naturally also offers a very wide range of innovative products and solutions for the growth markets of e-mobility and green energy.