In 1988 management bought out KEMET from Union Carbide and followed up by taking the company public in 1992. Since the turn of the millennium KEMET has grown organically and by a series of acquisitions including such well-known names as Arcotronics, Evox-RIFA and most recently NEC-Tokin, said Lessner.
The development and volume production of tantalum capacitors remains at the heart of the company. "We've always been a leader in tantalum capacitors with significant market share – 25 percent of the market. In ceramic capacitors we're a smaller player and therefore with a focus on specialty ceramic capacitors," Lessner said.
"The other lesson we learned in the 1990s was that significance in the home North American market was not enough. We needed to be significant in Europe, which is why we made some of those acquisitions. We now make film capacitors in Italy, Macedonia, Finland and Bulgaria. We make electrolytic capacitors in Portugal and Sweden."
For the Asian part of the story KEMET had licensed some technology from NEC. This led to a joint venture with NEC-Tokin that existed from 2012 to 2017. At that point KEMET took 100 percent ownership and created Tokin Corp. as a wholly-owned subsidiary. "This brought us into the area of magnetics, chokes and piezoelectric actuators, with factories in Japan, Vietnam and China," said Lessner.
"We are all things passive and we are looking for expansion opportunities, this includes value-added modules which can include active components. We continue to use innovation in metallurgy and chemistry; for example, in automotive electronics where hardening components for harsh environments is non-trivial; providing corrosion resisitance and longer life times.:"
Lessner acknowledged that this module approach increasingly takes KEMET into packaging considerations but said there is still progress to be made with basic materials. "In MLCC we haven't reached the fundamental limit. The company has recently introduced three new dielectric materials one of which – U2J – offers a threefold improvement in dielectric constant," said Lessner.
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