A report in Passive Component Industry Magazine claims that capacitors produced by Taiwanese companies are liable to sudden failure as a cheap chemical used in their manufacture was based on an incomplete, stolen process.
Japanese sources reported to the magazine that an unusually high failure rate of low-ESR aluminium electrolytic capacitors produced by Taiwan-based Lelon Electronics, Luxon Electronics, and other makers had been traced to a problem with an aqueous electrolyte that had been used throughout the Taiwanese electrolytic capacitor industry.
A scientist working for Rubycon Corporation in Japan left the company and began working for Luminous Town Electric in China, where he developed a copy of a Rubycon electrolyte used in the manufacture of low-ESR aluminium electrolytic capacitors. Unfortunately, some of his staff defected, taking the formula with them, and began to sell a cut-price electrolyte to many of the major aluminium electrolytic makers in Taiwan - the magazine claims as many as 11 companies were affected.
But the inept defectors only copied part of the formula, making the resultant electrolyte unstable, resulting in catastrophic failure of the finished capacitors. Tests showed the affected capacitors failed after 2000 hours of operation. Intel claims the aluminium capacitors with the poor electrolyte could fail after just 250 hours. Companies are now snapping up non-Taiwanese capacitors in a bid to avoid the faulty parts, causing shortages and price hikes.
Taiwan produces around 22.5 billion aluminium electrolytic capacitors a year - 30% of total global unit shipments - which are used in motherboards and modems; power supplies, monitors, and game consoles. µ
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