Passive Component Industry Nearing Bottom, Embracing AI and Automotive

2023-09-21 Semiconductors editor

In the third quarter of 2023, the passive component industry’s inventory has returned to normal levels. However, it continues to deplete due to sluggish end-demand. Nevertheless, downstream customers in the mobile phone and automotive sectors have begun rebuilding their inventories. Ample Electronic Technology, a major manufacturer of conductive paste and thick-film conductor materials, has already seen a recovery in its August 2023 revenue, indicating that the inventory adjustment process in the passive component industry, which began in the fourth quarter of 2021, has gradually bottomed out over nearly two years.

TrendForce Insights:

  • Upstream operations in the passive component industry are rebounding, but true demand recovery awaits.

In the second quarter of 2023, the passive component industry’s inventory approached normal levels. However, due to weak end-demand, Chinese smartphone and PC manufacturers significantly reduced their component inventories in the second quarter of 2023, leading to continued poor performance for passive component manufacturers. It is expected that after hitting the bottom in the third quarter of 2023, operations will gradually improve. However, the timing of true demand recovery may need to wait until 2024, given the persistently sluggish consumer electronics market.

  • AI servers are on the rise, and inductive components are in demand.

General-purpose servers primarily use molding power inductors, with quantities ranging from 20 to 30, an ASP of approximately $0.07 to $0.1 per unit, and a current rating of only 30 to 40A. In contrast, AI servers have power consumption levels generally exceeding 1000W. To improve transient response performance, each AI server requires an additional 10 TLVR (Trans Inductor Voltage Regulator) inductors, with an ASP of around $0.3 per unit. This significantly increases the revenue of inductance components for AI servers compared to general-purpose servers.

  • Promising prospects in the automotive market, but validation takes time.

Conventional internal combustion engine vehicles require approximately 300 to 500 MLCCs (Multilayer Ceramic Capacitors), while Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs) require between 2,000 and 2,500 MLCCs. Self-driving systems will also drive MLCC demand. For instance, in the case of automotive camera modules, the quantity increases from 2 to 10 to 15. From a holistic perspective, non-self-driving internal combustion engine vehicles require around 3,000 MLCCs, Hybrid Electric Vehicles (HEVs) with Level 2 autonomy need over 6,000 MLCCs, and Level 3 Electric Vehicles (EVs) require more than 10,000 MLCCs. This leads to a significant increase in the revenue of automotive MLCCs.

However, entering the automotive sector is challenging and requires at least 1 to 2 years for certification. Nevertheless, once established, it can secure long-term agreements for at least 5 years. Additionally, compared to the slowing growth of the consumer electronics market, the automotive sector offers substantial opportunities and provides a buffer against the cyclicality of passive component industries.