China's Viiyong is aiming for a bigger slice of the multilayer ceramic capacitor, or MLCC, market. Image: Facebook

Chinese electronic parts venture Viiyong has raised 2 billion yuan (US$295 million) in a Series B (second round) share issue intended to finance research and development, and mass production of multilayer ceramic capacitors (MLCCs) for automotive applications at two new factories. Viiyong already supplies the Chinese auto, smartphone and other industries. 

Chinese investment banks CITIC Securities and GF Securities investment companies SDIC Venture Capital and Technology Financial Group were reported to have supported the underwriting.

Viiyong’s founder and chairman Chen Weirong has been working on MLCCs for more than 20 years. Viiyong, originally called Guangdong Viiyong Electronic Technology, was founded in 2017. Chen aims to make it one of the world’s top suppliers of MLCCs.

Virtually the whole MLCC industry is targeting the auto industry, which is emerging as the largest demand driver. In May, TDK announced plans to build a new factory dedicated to automotive MLCCs in Japan.

Last December, Taiyo Yuden announced plans to build one in China. Murata is building new MLCC factories in Japan and Thailand. Samsung Electro-Mechanics opened a new factory in China a year ago.

It is a crowded and competitive market, but China is promoting its own companies to facilitate its transition from a low-wage assembly economy to a highly-automated advanced industrial economy.

As present, Murata and the other top-ranked companies lead in terms of materials and manufacturing technologies, on which miniaturization and other improvements in quality depend. These technologies are proprietary.

But the smaller companies have not disappeared and Chinese companies are growing – an impressive feat considering the technical hurdles. Chen and Viiyong seem to have a reasonable chance of catching up with the Taiwanese.

As explained by market leader Murata of Japan, “A capacitor is an electronic component that stores and releases electricity in a circuit. A capacitor is an indispensable part of electronic equipment and is thus almost invariably used in an electronic circuit.”

“The structure of the most basic type of capacitor for storing electricity consists of a dielectric sandwiched between two electrodes. A multilayer ceramic capacitor consists of multiple layers of this structure to enable storage of a greater charge.”

Some MLCCs have more than 500 layers.

Image: Passive Components Blog

MLCCs are used in smartphones and other consumer electronics, automotive, industrial and military electronics, medical and other electronic equipment. Several trillion of them are manufactured each year. Up to 1,100 are used in a high-end smartphones.

Murata continues: “The key to creating a high-performance, multifunctional, and user-friendly 5G-enabled smartphone of the right size will depend on the miniaturization of MLCCs.” Murata’s and the world’s smallest MLCCs are smaller than a grain of sand (0.4 x 0.2 x 0.2 mm).

In automotive electronics, on the other hand, components must operate reliably for long periods of time in a harsh environment characterized by high temperatures, high humidity and high voltage. But miniaturization counts here, too.

According to research organization MarketsandMarkets:

The increasing deployment of electronic devices in automobiles, such as engines, powertrains and infotainment systems, is accelerating the demand for multilayer ceramic capacitors. Constant advances in the automotive industry demand component miniaturization, increase in capacitance and improvements in safety features. Moreover, self-driving vehicles, hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs), plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs), and advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) used in cars inherently require MLCCs… As cars transition from internal combustion engines (ICEs) to battery electric vehicles (BEVs), the number of MLCCs employed increases, frequently by more than five times. BEVs are projected to use more than ~10,000 MLCCs.

This, plus China’s position as the world’s largest producer of electric vehicles, explains Viiyong’s focus on the auto industry.

Data from market research organizations and the companies themselves indicate that the top makers of MLCCs – Murata, Taiyo Yuden and TDK of Japan, Samsung Electro-Mechanics of South Korea, and Yageo and Walsin of Taiwan – control at least 85% of the market.

Estimates vary but Murata appears to have more than 30%, Samsung Electro-Mechanics more than 20%, Taiyo Yuden and Yageo around 10% each, Walsin almost 10% and TDK close to 5%.

The rest is shared by more than a dozen companies, including Kyocera of Japan and its American subsidiary AVX; Johanson Dielectrics of the United States; Samwha Capacitor, Amotech and Avatec of South Korea; and Chinese companies Eyang, Fenghua, Fujian Torch and Viiyong.

Eyang, Fenghua and Fujian Torch serve China’s smartphone, telecom equipment, consumer electronics, automotive, medical electronics, factory automation, aerospace and defense industries. For its connection with the Chinese military, Fujian Torch has been put on the US government’s entities list.

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