NDK has been developing crystal devices for automotive applications since the beginning of the move toward the electrification of automobiles in the early 1970s, and signed a contract in 1983 to supply crystal devices to Delco Electronics, an affiliate of General Motors of the United States. The world took notice, and NDK gained clients worldwide, including NIPPONDENSO (now DENSO Corporation) in Japan, making NDK the pioneer company supplying crystal devices for automotive applications. NDK currently commands 55% market share* of crystal devices for automotive applications and achieved sales of ¥18.3 billion in FY2020, making NDK number one in the world in both name and reality. (*NDK estimate)
[Market share of automotive crystal devices (Fuji Chimera Research Institute, NDK estimate)]
Our crystal devices are used in various applications in automobile.
We began by supplying our products that contribute to automotive safety, such as electronic fuel injection systems for engines and controllers for brakes, transmissions, and airbags. Our supply portfolio now encompasses components for speedmeters, audio systems, Tire-Pressure Monitoring Systems (TPMS), and Remote Keyless Entry systems (RKE).
[Crystal devices for automotive applications]
Currently, the market expansion potential is limitless for crystal devices for ADAS and self-driving vehicles, which are the next-generation in automobiles. Our products are used for sensor instruments with millimeter-wave radar, LiDAR, and in-vehicle cameras. Our products are also used for telematics which is linked with GPS in order to combine the information gathered externally with the information from the sensor instruments.
Based on these trends, the number of crystal devices used in automobile are: 70 to 100 crystal devices for luxury cars; 30-40 devices for mid-priced cars; 20 devices for low-priced cars; and roughly 30 crystal devices per car on average. The number is expected to grow by more than 5% each year.
Growth potential for automotive crystal devices
One of the key factors behind NDK becoming the world leader in automotive crystal devices is our comprehensive support capability, which is essentially in our DNA. From the planning and development stages to mass production and delivery, our fully integrated manufacturing, engineering, quality, and sales divisions work closely together to meet the needs of our customer.
For example, meeting customer product specification begins with applying our design engineering from the initial development stages. In the 1980s, lead-type products that had been the mainstream until then, were being replaced by Surface-Mount Devices (SMDs). However, repeated exposure to the harsh hot and cold temperatures in which automobiles are used led to cracks occurring in the solder of the printed circuit boards and crystal units. We solved the problem by engineering a special terminal structure for our automotive packages that boosted solder crack resistance.
As this experience shows, it is necessary to develop products with higher robustness than general consumer products, considering predicted severe environments and how vehicles are used. We fully recognize this fact in developing products to ensure automotive parts function reliably over long periods. Through the combination of simulation testing for repeated cooling and heating cycles as well as vibration and impact with design engineering for onboard components refined over decades, NDK are developing highly robust in-vehicle products by selecting materials to be used and structural design.
At the prototype production stage, we apply rigorous verification processes for defect prevention. For crystal units, which are passive components, the oscillation conditions must be optimal for the circuit, and we verify that they match through evaluation testing directly on the circuit board, which ensures stable operation. To keep pace with the increasing speed of product development at our customers, we are carrying out verification processes not only in Japan but in the United States and Germany. We are also carrying out this process in China where development is advancing at an extremely rapid pace.
Our activities at the mass production stage take full advantage of our ability to supply high-quality, highly reliable products. NDK has obtained International Automotive Task Force (IATF) 16949 certification at all of its domestic and overseas factories that manufacture automotive crystal units. Based on extremely strict automotive quality standards, we apply that quality to products for applications other than automotive.
NDK acquired ISO/IEC 17025 accreditation for its laboratory systems in 2008 to further assure all customers of the reliability of its testing results. NDK tests its automotive products in compliance with the AEC-Q200, which is industry standard, as well as for conformance with the needs of individual customer requirements related to usage conditions. Our testing equipment includes apparatuses to conduct random continuous drop testing for crystal devices for keyless entry systems, assuming key fobs are often dropped, and centrifugal accelerators for crystal devices used in TPMS, which are exposed to gravitational acceleration in tires for hundreds of hours.
Our systems ensure that our products maintain consistent industry-standard quality and enable us to meet detailed individual specifications that have earned the trust of automobile manufacturers and automotive component makers around the world.
Automakers generally produce a car model for 5 to 10 years, and car owners use it for 10 years. Auto industry suppliers are required to supply parts not only at the time of manufacturing, but also in case of failure for replacement demand through the product usage period. NDK has systems in place to ensure continuous supply of automotive quality crystal devices and a successful track record of meeting the strict demands of automotive component manufacturers.
The automobile industry is undergoing a once-in-a-century transformation that is attracting new market entrants and parts suppliers with no previous experience providing automotive components. We will continue to contribute to all areas of the automotive industry by broadening the quality concepts and methods we have learned over the years from automotive component manufacturers from our standpoint as a components maker.
All automotive crystal unit production factories in Japan and overseas have IATF 16949 certification.
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