Anticipating Technological Innovation and Connecting It with New Product Creation
The arrival of the IoT and AI age will spur innovation in a range of technologies needed to address the explosion in next-generation data transmission volume and speed. The products of our business group are developed in anticipation of this innovation, thus allowing for new products or expansions of existing products to be developed at the right time.
With regard to NGK's electronic components business, the strong growth in HDD piezoelectric micro-actuators is projected to continue. The rapid increase taking place in digital data volume is driving an expansion in demand for large-capacity, inexpensive HDDs aimed at data center backup servers. In order to capture this growing demand, we are working to bolster our production capacity and expand our lineup of customer program-compatible development products. Also, the proliferation of technologies which allow for ever faster mobile communication speeds is helping expand the market for advanced SAW filters, which utilize NGK bonded wafers. We are also developing technology to further enhance voice quality, which is receiving progressively better assessments from customers. Moving forward, we are prioritizing production capacity enhancements in preparation for a rapid growth in demand.
With regard to ceramic packages, the increase in infrastructure investment focused on the establishment of 5G next-generation high-speed communication standards is projected to foster an increase in demand for next-generation high-frequency packages for communication base station power semiconductors.
With regard to metal-related products, apart from our beryllium copper, which is our core focus, we introduced a new copper-nickel-tin alloy material to the market in 2016. As a material used for high-performance conductive springs incorporated into smartphones, various automotive sensors, and many other devices, this product has a vast array of applications in the IT and electronics industries. For the future, we are working on enhancing its formability in order to expand its applications and marketability and, thus, sales.
In addition to IoT and AI, another global trend taking place is the adoption of electromotors in the automotive industry in response to environmental regulations. This trend is also helping drive more widespread adoption of hybrid automobiles. This increasing adoption of electromotors is fueling demand for automobile on-board power modules, which we are using to expand the scope of sales for our insulated circuit boards. We are also looking ahead to the widespread proliferation of power charging infrastructure and are working to expand sales channels for beryllium copper used in charging outlets.
In April 2018, our business group took over the theretofore company-wide projects to develop micro-lenses for UV LEDs*1 and gallium nitride (GaN) wafers*2 and moved these into commercial production. Demand for these products is predicted to ramp up from 2020 onward as alternatives to ultra-high-pressure mercury lamps in response to the Minamata Convention on Mercury, which went into effect in August 2017. We are working to meet this demand by getting the products into mass production early.
Over the course of its history, NGK has been a company which produces long-lasting products and which cultivates business in areas with comparatively long-term, predictable demand; however, our business group is a bit different. Our focus is on figuring out how to address the shifting needs of the electronics industry, which can and do change significantly in only a short period of time. When some new need explodes onto the scene, we must be ready to meet it straight away or else risk missing the opportunity entirely; thus, as a matter of course we actively develop our business in directions that entail a certain amount of risk. As we move forward, we will continue creating new products that help ensure the ongoing growth of our business enterprise.
- *1: Micro-lenses for UV LEDs: These lenses can be used to improve the sterilization efficiency of UV LEDs, which are seen as a replacement for mercury lamps as a sterilization light source, by narrowing their irradiation area. These lenses are made from quartz, which is known to be difficult to work but with which we are able to create complex shapes thanks to the use of our proprietary technology.
- *2: GaN wafers: Used as a substrate for ultra-bright lasers and LEDs. Expected applications include projector and stadium light sources.
We offer a variety of ceramic electronic components, such as our high-frequency device packages which have earned the top share of the global market.
Electronic components for communication devices
By combining multilayer technology and high-frequency circuit design technology, we provide multilayer dielectric filters and couplers that are used in increasingly diversified base stations for mobile communications.