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Japan's Murata taps electronics prowess to build tiny auto parts

Top capacitor supplier eyes business as cars go electric and autonomous

Murata has begun mass production of the world's smallest ferrite beads -- used to suppress electromagnetic interference -- for advanced driver-assist systems.

KYOTO -- Murata Manufacturing is leveraging its know-how from producing electronics parts to shrink automotive components, seeing an opportunity presented with vehicle electrification.

More electronic parts are being used in cars as they go fully or partly electric and take over work from drivers. And as such parts become more densely packed, demand for smaller components is poised to grow.

Murata began mass production in April of the world's smallest multilayer ceramic capacitor for automobiles. With an electrical capacitance of 1 microfarad, the product is about 60% smaller than the previous smallest capacitor offering the same performance. Mass production of a 10-microfarad model has also begun.

Murata is the world's top supplier of multilayer ceramic capacitors, controlling about 40% of the global market. These products help to maintain stable voltage inside a circuit and reduce noise. They are used in electronic devices including smartphones and personal computers, in addition to automotive control systems and advanced driver-assist systems. They are increasingly employed in vehicles, with a typical passenger car containing 1,000 to 5,000.

Murata has been improving technologies for decreasing the size of particles in the ceramic powder used to make the capacitors for smartphones and other devices, offering miniaturization that rivals cannot emulate. It will apply the same technology for automotive products.

In June, Murata began mass production of the world's smallest ferrite beads -- used to suppress electromagnetic interference -- for advanced driver-assist systems. They take up half the space of earlier models on circuit boards, according to the company.

Autos increasingly use high-performance processors to crunch data sent from sensors and cameras in driver-assist and automated-driving systems. Such products as capacitors and ferrite beads are essential in supplying stable electric current to these components. The need is growing for safe, small parts.

Sales of automotive electronic parts have slumped in recent years along with vehicle sales. Murata projects a 15% drop in its automotive electronics sales for the fiscal year ending March 2021 on a 20% decline in auto sales volume. Although Murata has not disclosed sales targets for its new products, an official said it anticipates its products to be adopted by more parts manufacturers involved in driver-assist and other technologies.

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