Senior Vice President and Director,
Device Business Unit
After joining Murata Manufacturing in 1983, Sonoda belonged to the Tokyo Branch. He was transferred to Murata Electronics Singapore (Pte.) Ltd. in 1987 and to Murata Electronics North America, Inc. in 1998 for sales and planning operations. He was also dispatched to Murata Company Limited in Hong Kong (2004), Murata (China) Investment Co., Ltd. in Shanghai (2007), and Murata Electronics North America Inc. (2009) before being appointed Vice President and Deputy Director of the Device Business Unit in 2011. He has been serving the Business Unit as Director since 2012, and has also been Senior Vice President since 2013. Sonoda loves running, cycling, and reading books.
Timing devices are used in all equipment incorporating electronic circuits and ensure the correct operation of the equipment.
Murata previously leveraged its ceramic technology to accommodate the demand for these devices. Now we have started developing quartz crystals to meet the customer need for even higher accuracy. Making a specialized producer a subsidiary and exploiting the technology it developed for ceramics, Murata has launched innovative quartz crystals that offer compact sizes, low costs, and high accuracy.
Tapping into the downsizing trend, Murata quartz crystals have been steadily increasing their presence in various applications such as vehicle electronics, wireless communication, and wearables.
“The HCR caused a stir in the area of crystal devices.”
“The size reduction we offered previously has now turned into reality, rapidly accelerating demand.”
“Now we are in the age of more compact timing devices.”
By Making Tokyo Denpa a Subsidiary, Murata Launched an Innovative Quartz Crystal
Murata has maintained a good relationship with Tokyo Denpa (TEW), a successful manufacturer of crystal devices. The two companies entered into a capital and business alliance agreement in 2009, followed by a comprehensive cooperation agreement in 2011. Murata and TEW have worked together in sales as well as in the commercialization of the HCR, a quartz crystal featuring high accuracy and low cost. In August 2013, Murata further decided to acquire 100% ownership of TEW for greater synergy, optimal use of both partners' business resources, and faster decision-making. Since then, TEW has been committing itself to crystal device operations with a focus on timing devices by leveraging all the resources Murata has in development, production, sales, marketing and business management.
Unique Structure Enabled Reductions in Size and Cost, Making a Difference in the Market
The HCR product made a difference in the field of crystal devices by offering a much smaller and less expensive quartz crystal. When the HCR was first launched, the market for quartz crystals was dominated by 3225 (3.2 x 2.5 mm)-size products and was very slow in downsizing. That was where Murata launched a product that featured a unique Cap Chip structure and the functionality of the traditional 3225 size product in 2016 (2.0 x 1.6 mm) size and at lower cost. But we failed to promote downsizing as we expected, because we were only an inexperienced new comer in the market for crystal devices. In 2014, however, the market saw a clear trend toward downsizing, resulting in significant growth in demand for more compact resonators in the markets for smartphones and automotive electronics. An increasing use of more compact modules and assembled products is generating higher demand for 2016 size quartz crystals.
We achieved a further milestone in March 2013 by launching quartz crystals in 1612 (1.6 x 1.2 mm) size designed for Bluetooth®, WiFi®, and other wireless communication technologies used in wearables and mobile devices. In connection with modules, we anticipate a shift toward more compact quartz crystals in 1210 (1.2 x 1.0 mm) size. Accordingly we are accelerating the commercialization of products in this size.
Synergy through Ore Production A New Growth Area for Murata
TEW’s integration in the Murata group has created great synergy for Murata. We position crystal-based products including the HCR as a new growth technology. TEW also produces quartz crystal ore, which has been combined with a design process using Murata’s hallmark packaging technology as well as with an industrial engineering (IE) approach in order to create innovative timing devices. In addition, TEW distributes ore and blanks (component materials), adding a completely new field to Murata’s business portfolio. In partnership with our customers, we hope we can open up applications of crystal devices featuring even higher accuracy.
“The key is strategies of differentiation from traditional players in the crystal industry.”
“Ore and blank production is anticipated to create synergy due to the integration of TEW.”
“We are focusing on filters as a new target for crystal technology.”
Crystal Filters as a New Target
Advancement into Areas Uncovered by Ceramics
The ability to produce quartz crystal ore means we can process it in various ways to use it for products other than timing devices—this is our basic way of thinking when it comes to research. In particular, we focus on filter-related technology as a new target in connection with crystal. Possible applications include SAW (Surface Acoustic Wave) filters for high-frequency noise and SMD type MCFs (Monolithic Crystal Filters) for extracting signals with specific frequencies. This technology is used for high precision communication equipment and is completely new for Murata. So we hope it will allow us to develop business in areas that are not covered by ceramics. Going forward, our marketing will focus on crystal devices for professional wireless equipment. The markets for base stations and satellite equipment in the West, Japan, and China will be further priorities. While differentiating ourselves in terms of specs, we will place particular emphasis on cost flexibility, quick sample delivery, and strong partnerships with local partners to promote sales.
The Trend Lies in Accuracy, Quality, and Compactness
Murata Works on High-Accuracy Crystal Technology
The basic policy for Murata timing device operations includes the development of unique packaging technology, plus production management based on production equipment and process technology. This translates into strategies of differentiation from the traditional crystal device industry and of commercializing products just half a step ahead of the competition. The crystal device industry has a long history and established business customs. As our experience with the HCR shows, that is where products that are too much ahead of the times can be unacceptable. However, the trend is moving toward higher accuracy, higher quality, and more compact size. So we believe it is where we will be able to exercise Murata's full technical potential.
We will work on highly accurate crystal technology covering all phases from ore and blanks to resonator production. The aim is to generate innovations for timing device technology.
“The aim is to win leadership as a timing device house, in particular as a supplier of timing devices in 2016 or smaller sizes.
To this end, we will devote our business resources lavishly.”
Introducing More New Technologies and Developing More Products to Become a Timing Device House
Going forward Murata aims to become a timing device house. As such, we hope to upgrade our lineup on the basis of our previous achievements and aggressively introduce and/or research new technologies to meet all customer needs for resonators. This year and next, we will focus on areas such as professional wireless equipment, surveying instruments, and high precision communication equipment.
More specifically, we plan to increase the accuracy of TCXOs integrating quartz crystals and temperature-compensating circuits, and develop an OCXO, a crystal oscillator with temperature control. We want to win over major clients in the West and China as new customers. We will work with Sales and Marketing to enhance our customer support. Depending on the applications, timing devices come in various types and with widely varying accuracy requirements. This makes it all the more important to provide customers with attractive product and support ideas that match their needs. To this end, we emphasize customer communication, which requires high sales and marketing ability. At the same time, we will need to employ engineers who can design ASICs (Application Specific Integrated Circuits) and proceed while considering the feasibility of joint development and partnerships with outsiders.
In the timing device market, we will strive to establish Murata as a coveted mid- to long-term partner, that is, a player having the power to develop products and make proposals and improvements in a way that helps customers in terms of component quality, production, and supply.
Key Timing Devices from Murata
CERALOCK Ceramic Resonators
These resonators and device elements exploit the mechanical resonance of polycrystalline piezoelectric ceramics. With their small size and at low cost, they can generate reference clock signals at moderate levels of frequency stability and with no need for adjustments. The Murata CERALOCK series finds use in a range of applications such as automotive electronics, communication, personal computing, and medical/health care.
HCR Quartz Crystal
Leveraging the technology developed for the CERALOCK series, this resonator featuring a crystal blank delivers high precision and reliability. While being resin-sealed and therefore non-airtight, the unique Cap Chip structure makes it possible to incorporate a larger crystal blank than competing products. The 2016 type is some 37% smaller and 30 to 40% less expensive than the 3225 products used primarily in consumer electronics.
XRCMD Series of Quartz Crystals
Taking advantage of the HCR technology, the XRCMD series offers airtight quartz crystals ideal for use in wireless equipment. The metal cap and substrate are joined by metallic fusion sealing instead of resin sealing. The airtight construction ensures high frequency accuracy.