Following its corporate motto of “Contribute to culture and industry through creativity,” TDK has used its technical expertise in magnetics technology ever since the company’s founding to create products that are truly of use to society. While strengthening our operations in the key areas of the automotive, ICT Network, and industrial equipment & energy, we are operating on the leading edge of technology, developing products that are beyond the reach of our competitors.
The prevalence of electronic equipment and therefore the number of electronic components found in an automobile is still on the rise. To take just one example, whereas the combustion engine used to be the central part of the power train, electrical systems and electrical motors are increasingly being incorporated to save energy and to create a more sophisticated system. Furthermore, society demands that automobiles be safe and dependable, and to meet these requirements the technology for electronic control of brakes, steering, and other aspects is also advancing. On the other hand, reducing the weight of automobiles is another important requirement as this contributes to improved fuel economy.
Beginning more than 40 years ago, TDK directed its attention to the electrification of the automobile and started to offer magnets for motors at first, and successively a range of products for the automotive field, including inductors, capacitors, and so on. Products for automotive use are subject to particularly high reliability requirements as they deal with safety and security. And because high quantities are used, manufacturers cannot easily switch the product on the grounds of cheaper cost. The large TDK portfolio for the automotive sector comprises not only passive components but also magnets, power supplies, and various other products. Providing exactly the right product that meets the customers’ specifications, and delivering it promptly and in large quantities is the source of our strength.
Fields on which TDK will focus in particular from now on are magnetic sensors. These sensors enable finely graded control of power steering, and thereby contribute to lower fuel consumption and reduced power requirements. By harnessing magnetic head technology that is TDK's forte, the steering angle can be detected with superior precision and minimal tolerance. We are expecting to supply these sensors to fuel economy- conscious car manufacturers in Japan, Europe, and the U.S. and will begin mass production in Japan from fiscal 2016. We further intend to apply the technology also to rotation sensors and to linear encoders for providing position information. The ultimate aim is to turn the sensor business into a future pillar of earnings.
For somewhat further down the line, we also have the configuration of wireless charging systems in view. Toward this end, we concluded a technology transfer license agreement with WiTricity Corporation in April 2014. By applying our expertise in magnetic materials technology and circuit technology, we are working toward the early realization of wireless power transfer systems for electric vehicles and other mobility applications.
Automotives are continuing to evolve, changing in response to the demands of society and concerns for the environment. TDK is wholeheartedly supporting these developments by supplying advanced electronic components.
ICT products including smartphones, tablets, and personal computers continue to evolve into a high-level social infrastructure intricately connected via wired and wireless networks. In recent years, the increasing amount of information means that more and more data has to be communicated at higher speeds. In this area, TDK is focusing on the progress of LTE, and we also expect the 5G market to emerge eventually. Terminals that support LTE incorporate more complex circuitry, which calls for components with reduced space requirements, as well as highly effective power management. The TDK product range includes SAW filters that support the frequency bands currently used by mobile phones and smartphones, but we are already one step ahead. Looking towards the 5G market and beyond, we have BAW filters suitable for the entire range up to the very high frequency bands that cannot be handled by SAW filters. We will aggressively pursue further development of SAW/BAW filters for such applications.
In the ICT area we also expect growth in demand for our actuators which are piezoelectric material components used in camera modules. Voice coil motors (VCM) for autofocusing and optical image stabilizers (OIS) are currently increasingly being used smartphones for the Chinese market, and further increases in sales are to be expected.
The shipping volume of smartphones has up to now drastically risen, but there are signs that the trend is slowing compared with the time when these products were first introduced. However, the move to LTE and the changeover from 3-mode to 5-mode support means that smartphones are still changing and evolving, and the demand for electronic components can therefore be expected to keep growing. However, TDK is not simply basing its projections on smartphone growth alone. We are already putting new strategies in place for the coming age of the Internet of Things (IoT). This term refers to a world where all kinds of things will have connectivity and will be able to link to each other and to the Internet. This will enable automatic recognition and automatic control on a previously unheard-of scale. We believe that collaboration with chip designers will be a key strategy for the ICT market in this regard, and we are working towards the development of module products in conjunction with chip manufacturers and semiconductor manufacturers. The final target is the creation of products and solutions with high value added including also packaging and design aspects.
The wearables market is taking off, and we expect to offer an expanded range of strategic products also for this market in the future. We are actively pushing ahead with the development of proprietary technologies that are indispensable in this area, such as semiconductor embedded substrate (SESUB) and embedded thin-film capacitors (TFCP).
Smart cities implementing the next-generation power distribution concept called the smart grid are being built in various locales, with the expectation that they will serve as models for the sustainable social organization of the near future. Such developments so far were pursued mainly in Europe, but are now spreading on a global scale. TDK is already supplying a wide range of power electronics products for renewable energy applications such as solar power and wind power systems.
This includes, for example, step-up reactors that convert power for feeding into the grid, aluminum electrolytic capacitors for high-capacity storage, and bidirectional DC-DC converters which serve as vital power conversion platforms. These products contribute significantly to maintaining power quality and ensuring high-efficiency conversion.
TDK is currently bolstering its lineup of energy devices for renewable energy applications, while at the same time harnessing its core competence in magnetics technology to expand sales of power-related products designed for controlling and supplying power.
In the industrial equipment sector, we are marketing strategic products, in particular, wireless power transfer systems and magnetic sensors. Smartphones and automotive applications are the starting points for wireless power transfer systems, but many more applications are conceivable, such as hybrid buses, catenary-free streetcars, cable-less elevators, and more. For example, the principle of a hybrid bus as currently tested under government guidance is as follows. The charging station has a primary coil embedded in the road, and the secondary coil is located under the floor of the vehicle. The bus is stopped so that the two coils face each other. An inverter in the charging station converts the commercial power supply and sends the output to the primary coil. According to the principle of electromagnetic induction, the power is transferred to the secondary coil and is used to charge the battery of the bus.
With regard to magnetic sensors, development efforts are currently under way to enable use, for example, as encoders (position-detecting sensors) for linear motors, as well as applications for industrial robots. The magnetic sensors supplied by TDK benefit from the magnetics technology expertise gained through the development and manufacture of HDD heads. This makes them highly precise in position and angle detection, and they also feature high output and excellent thermal characteristics. The robotics market is considered one of the growth areas for the future.
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