Alternate Solutions for Worldwide TCXO Shortages
The October 2020 fire at the Asahi Kasei Microsystems (AKM) factory in Nobeoka City, Japan, presented a wake-up call for the timing market and its customers. In an effort to ensure supply and mitigate risk, OEMs have qualified multiple Temperature Compensated Crystal Oscillators (TCXOs) from various suppliers. Despite these efforts, however, they have experienced an unprecedented shortage due to AKM being the single source IC manufacturer for the majority of these TCXOs. This article will identify the hardships that have been faced due to this catastrophe and explore current solutions that are available to help combat extended lead times.
OEMs Face IC Shortages
The largest impact of the factory fire has been seen in the mobile, automotive, GNSS, and IoT markets, where TCXOs ranging in size from 2.0 x 1.6 mm to 5.0 x 3.2 mm with a stability from 0.5 ppm to 2.5 ppm are often required. This is because AKM has been the primary supplier of ICs for the TCXOs used in these applications, where normally hundreds of millions are sold annually. Alternative options are limited and would require an OEM to qualify larger (5.0 x 3.2 mm) and therefore more costly TCXOs that are typically developed for ultra- stable applications used in markets such as telecom, infrastructure, or defense.
The Current Status of the AKM Factory
The latest update from AKM is that they are transferring the production of their TCXO ICs to a new factory and expect to be able to supply the market again in the latter part of 2021. However, they will only be manufacturing ICs for 2.0 x 1.5 mm and 2.5 x 2.0 mm packages used predominantly in the mobile and automotive markets. Although this is positive news, there are still many questions left unanswered, including:
Should OEMs Switch Suppliers?
Oscillator manufacturers, like OEMs , have difficult decisions to make. Although there are other TCXO IC suppliers on the market, many of them are smaller, with limited capacity and utilize different compensation techniques. Should manufacturers invest time and energy in approving a new IC and new equipment if AKM is going to be back on their feet by the end of the year? Meanwhile, OEMs are asking themselves the same question, should they re-design their board to accept a larger TCXO and pay a premium, or should they wait?
Ultra-Stable TCXOs Are in Short Supply
Unfortunately, ultra-stable TCXO’s with stabilities ranging from +/-0.05 ppm to +/-0.28 ppm (Stratum 3) have also been impacted. AKM has invested in IC technology for these applications and supply many of the major oscillator manufacturers who are, in turn, selling their devices to Tier 1 telecom infrastructure and defense companies. With AKM’s new focus on the mobile market, the options for those oscillator manufacturers are now very limited.
SiTime is the world’s largest supplier of MEMS-based oscillators and offers TCXOs that provide stability as low as +/-0.05 ppm at frequencies up to 220 MHz (SiT5358/9). MEMS technology inherently benefits from high resiliency to harsh environmental conditions such as extreme changes in temperature, airflow acceleration, and shock. This makes them well suited for both network infrastructure, and defense and aerospace applications where ruggedized performance is key.
Rakon, a global high-technology company that designs and manufacturers world-leading frequency control solutions, has invested in their own IC development for many years and includes their proprietary IC in their ultra-stable TCXOs (RPT5032A & RNT7050A). Their ultra-stable TCXOs offer +/-0.05 ppm stability over temperature and meet phase noise requirements of the telecom, defense, and test and measurement markets. Additionally, they support 7.0 x 5.0 mm and 5.0 x 3.2 mm packages.
Neither SiTime nor Rakon rely on AKM for their ultra-stable TCXO’s. As a distributor for both suppliers, RFMW is in a strong position to help our customers select the best solution for their application whilst avoiding the risks of restricted supply that may be associated with selecting a TCXO reliant on the supply of AKM’s IC’s.
About the Author
Prior to becoming the Manager for the Timing and Passives division at RFMW, Nick John had over 15 years of experience working for Rakon, a global high-technology company that designs and manufactures world-leading frequency control solutions.