Vice President, Device Business Unit
After joining Murata Manufacturing in 1983, Satoshi Sonoda was stationed at the Tokyo Branch. In 1987, he was dispatched to Murata Electronics Singapore (Pte.) Ltd., and in 1998, he was dispatched to Murata Electronics North America, Inc. to work on sales and planning. After being dispatched to Murata Company Limited in Hong Kong in 2004, Murata (China) Investment Co., Ltd. in Shanghai in 2007, and Murata Electronics North America, Inc. in 2009, he was assigned to become the Vice President and Deputy Director of the Device Business Unit in 2011. He has been holding the current position since 2012. His hobbies are running, cycling and reading.
Stable growth is projected for the automobile market.
For Japanese automobile industry having the world market in its scope, the key to strong growth lies in growing markets of emerging nations.
Meanwhile, in advanced nations, demands for electrification and electronic devices are expected to accelerate due to safety features for safe driving and accident prevention becoming mandatory, and EVs and HEVs forming a new market. Murata started supplying car radio-related devices to the automobile industry over 40 years ago, and since then, we have made many contributions to the industry through entertainment products including car audios and navigation systems.
Ceramic resonators were also introduced to the driving system 25 years ago and upheld the very stable timing device business to this day.
How do we capitalize on our track record to penetrate new and growing markets? Cars must be safe, yet must be comfortable and fun at the same time.
As Murata's looks in the direction of its own future endeavors, they are in sync with the very direction the automobile industry is aiming at. Murata now can finally fulfill the dream of fully contributing to the automobile industry.
Automobiles are becoming a mobile IT equipment with tremendous amounts of useful data.
Name of the game will be how we gather and integrate such information.
This is the area Murata's sensor and communication technologies will shine.
Already More Than 40 Years We Have Been Working with the Automobile Industry
It has been a long time since Murata started supplying devices to the automobile industry. In 1971, General Motors (GM) introduced Murata's ceramic filters to its car radios. This was the result of efforts by Akira Murata, the founder of Murata Manufacturing who traveled to the United States and aggressively pioneered the market. Getting fully involved with the automobile industry was Murata's big dream then. Over 40 years ago, we built a plant in the United States and started production locally.
Ceramic resonators were introduced to the automobile industry about 25 years ago, and their market continues to enjoy steady sales to this day. This is so-called timing device, and is used to generate a reference signal (clock) for electronically controlled circuits. Its use started with the car radios, and was later used for engine control. Monolithic ceramic capacitors are general purpose devices also widely used in automobiles.
Developing Products Keeping Several Years in Scope Contributing to Information System Integration
Time flows more slowly in the automobile market compared with the consumer equipment market. As automobiles have long life cycles, their development period is 5 to 10 years. Consequently, us component manufacturers develop automotive components keeping a few years in scope. Murata mainly caters to Tier 1car electrification equipment manufacturers who directly supply their products to automakers. Suppliers including that of car navigation systems are aiming at shifting from manufacturing in-vehicle information terminals to vehicle information system integration.
In the far future, one possible area Murata may contribute to the automobile industry is drivers' bio-information sensing. Although collaborations withTier 0 manufacturers (automakers) and Tier 1 manufacturers (electrification equipment manufacturers) will be essential, we should propose new solutions to monitor driver conditions by sensing heart rate with a pressure sensor or sense CO2 concentration (a cause of sleepiness) with a CO2 sensor. Cars are already IT systems on wheels, and will continue to become smarter.
For Cars, Safety Is the Top Priority This Is Where Sensing Technology, Murata's Strong Suit, Can Contribute
Murata is currently contributing to the automobile industry through its sensing technology by supplying information to drivers. Piezoelectric ceramics is used in the ultrasonic sensor of PAS (Parking Assist System)which emits ultrasound and receives the sound reflected from an object. PAS is implemented by calculating the distance to an object measuring the time it takes to emit and receive ultrasound. We will develop units with longer detection distance for more advanced intelligent sensing applications such as autonomous parking system and blind spot detection (BSD) .
As electric stability control (ESC) is becoming mandatory in many countries, Murata is aiming at introducing many devices including accelerometer, gyro sensor and a combo sensor offering both features for ESC units. In the United States, TPMS (tire pressure monitoring system) is already mandated. This system continuously monitors tire pressure and temperature while a car is in motion using sensors with built-in transmitters located inside tires and transmits resulting data wirelessly. Demands for Murata's accelerometers are quickly increasing as they were introduced to the wake up function for the system in order to conserve power consumption of the TPMS.
Ultrasonic Sensor for PAS (Parking Assist System)
Ultrasonic sensors have become a key device for a wide range of applications including distance measurement systems, parking assist systems and theft alarm systems. Murata has succeeded in development and mass-production of small and highly reliable pin connection type, waterproof ultrasonic sensors suitable for mass-production based on Murata's own long-standing ceramic technology and ultrasonic sensor design technology. Waterproof ultrasonic sensors, mainly used for parking assist systems, are expected to have very strong demands as the number of cars sold in the emerging market, and usage ratio of parking assist systems grow. In addition to waterproof types, Murata supplies various open structure type, and high-frequency type aerial ultrasonic sensors for a wide range of applications.
Tier 0, Tier 1, Tier 2 ･･･
Tier means strata or levels. In the automobile industry, the top level contractors supplying parts and products directly to automakers are called Tier 1. Tier 2 supplies products as well as modules and components to comprise the products to Tier 1 companies. Tier 3 companies further supply items to Tier 2 companies. Automakers, that manufacture finished products, are called Tier 0. Average gasoline- and diesel-driven cars as well as hybrids are made up of about 30,000 components, and many of them are modularized together to be assembled on the line. Modularized products are delivered directly from Tier 1 companies to assembly plants. Typical automakers deal with over 100 companies in Tier 1 alone. Some Tier 1 companies are owned by Tier 0 companies and are often located near Tier 0 assembly plants to supply components. Although Murata is either a Tier 2 or Tier 3 company, components we supply are highly technical with advanced features, making it essential for us to gather information from Tier 0 and Tier 1 companies prior to development and production.
Cars are becoming ever more advanced and multi-featured.
Ultrasonic sensors assist parking, accelerometers and gyro sensors will be sure to
prevent skidding and contribute to "Driving, Turning and Stopping."
From Entertainment to Fundamental Features of "Driving, Turning and Stopping"
Murata has been supplying numerous components and modules in the entertainment aspects of automobiles. However, cars are moving vehicles thereby our keyword, from now, is "safety." Entertainment is exemplified by car audios. Murata has been strong at technologies to enable playing DVD's for the rear-seat passengers and communication technologies to wirelessly transmit data from mobile phones and music players to be replayed on board. However, we did not go much past capacitors and ceramic resonators in terms of making contributions to fundamental features of "driving, turning and stopping."
In the Medium-term Plan drafted in time for 2010, Murata regarded the automobile market as the new market for pioneering, and has been making several proposals as the "hopeful newcomer" in the industry. Sales ratio of automobile market products was 12% in 2010, but later grew to 15%, and now we are aiming at 20%.
Expanding MEMS Business Strengthening Our Timing Device Business
Murata has acquired VTI Technologies in Finland in January 2012 and established an overseas subsidiary, Murata Electronics Oy. VTI, a company mass-producing MEMS (Micro Electro Mechanical System) accelerometers and MEMS gyro sensors for ESCs, was judged the right company to acquire when Murata made a decision to pursue full-fledged expansion of MEMS business.
Ceramic resonators command 95% share in the automobile market. Murata keeps in scope the development of new products with crystal resonators using quartz crystals that provide higher precision than ceramics, in the timing device business. Ceramic resonators have an excellent oscillation start-up property, while crystal resonators make high precision clocks required for processing high-speed and large-capacity data communication. We wish to contribute to the automobile market as a supplier capable of supplying components to respond to Tier 0 and Tier 1 manufacturers' demands, and offering stable quality, delivery, technical support and cost.
Aiming at expanding market share with two resonator technologies,
ceramic and crystal, improving domestic sales structure and securing
international sales systems, we are now ready to firmly understand Tier 0
and Tier 1 requirements.
Having Reorganized Domestic Sales Structure Let Us Outperform Expectations
Domestically, we have established a new Sales & Marketing Dept., Automotive to form a marketing and specialized sales structure. Demands are growing in North America and show stable growth in emerging nations. Demands are especially skyrocketing in China, India and Brazil, and markets are expected to expand as their infrastructures ready. As for devices, development of highly fuel efficient eco cars and market expansion for safety systems have stimulated growth of the semiconductor market for automobiles.
Murata plans to train FAE (field application engineers) locally in emerging markets, especially in China, to strengthen local services. In Europe and the United States, specialized sales structure for Murata Electronics Oy products will be prepared. Let us come up with new solutions in collaboration with semiconductor manufacturers while capitalizing our high share in the ESC market. In terms of quality, which is our top priority, we will establish "Quality Assurance Dept.," an independent department within the Sensor Products Division, to improve design quality and maximize our quality control and assurance throughout processes. Although this market is somewhat different from consumer markets, we are fully determined to respond to market expectations.
Crystal Resonator HCR®
HCR® is being used as a device to generate clock reference signals for ICs used in various electronic equipment. For automobiles, they are used in ECU (Electronic Control Unit) . ECU is used in all sorts of control-related positions on an automobile including driving systems such as engine control and transmission control, safety systems including ABS (anti-lock braking system) and airbag control, car body control systems including meters, air-conditioners, wipers, lights and anti-theft systems, and information systems including battery management system, navigation, car audios, electronic toll collection systems (ETC) and in-vehicle cameras. Some ECUs are used together via communication system for monitoring. Functions of ECU are becoming increasingly advanced as more ISS (idling stop system) for improving fuel efficiency, as well as motor controls in EVs (electric vehicles) and HEVs (hybrid electric vehicles) . Murata supplies a very small crystal resonator, HCR® developed through material, design and process technologies nurtured through development of ceramic resonators.