NOVACAP is a leading global manufacturer of application-specific capacitors used in computers and in the telecommunications, aerospace, avionics and medical industries. April Terreri powers the story.
Capacitors should be among the worshipped superheroes of our society. But they are not. They are tiny little components working day in and day out in every cranny of our world. You could fit hundreds of them on your fingernail. But don’t be fooled by their size. The exponential power they deliver relative to their size is astounding, and society at large should know more about them. Certainly, more would be known in an instant about these little power buckets if all the capacitors in the world suddenly disappeared.
NOVACAP knows capacitors better than most. The Valencia, Calif., company spent 20 years dedicated to the engineering, design and manufacture of multilayer ceramic (MLC) chip capacitors. These range from general-purpose, low-voltage units to very high-voltage, high-reliability, special-application capacitors. NOVACAP’s ceramic chip capacitors are used in equipment employed by the military; they are used in telecommunications, aerospace, avionics and medical products. They also power the PC you use every day.
“One primary industry we serve is the telecommunications industry, which uses MLC chips for wired and wireless teledata and telecom equipment,” says Dr. Andre P. Galliath, president and co-founder of the company. “Another important market for us is the medical industry, for whom we supply high-reliability components used as filtering devices in pacemakers, defibrillators and other implantable circuitry.”
On the low-voltage consumer end of NOVACAP’s product line are ceramic chip capacitors that operate at 25 volts or less. These products are used as surface-mount components in printed circuit boards for myriad applications, but primarily as bypass or decoupling capacitors next to integrated circuits.
The Recognized Leader
NOVACAP’s commanding reputation as a manufacturer of high-quality and high-reliability MLCs for application-specific solutions is well known around the world. The company’s application-specific capacitor products include thin-profile, ring-detect and high-temperature SMT capacitors, as well as capacitor arrays, various leaded capacitors, surge-protect capacitors and capacitor assemblies for switch-mode power suppliers.
Today, many people are alive and healthy thanks to implantable medical devices that monitor or aid the body’s functions in one way or another. NOVACAP is well respected in the medical community for designing and manufacturing components for these life-saving and life-monitoring devices. The company’s products enhance the function of defibrillators, pacemakers and other implanted medical circuits used in the delivery of drugs for pain control, or for the delivery of insulin.
“We have a superbly controlled manufacturing process and a very sophisticated testing department that exposes these high-reliability components to rigorous voltage and temperature testing to guarantee their reliability,” says Galliath.
NOVACAP also produces capacitor planar arrays. “These are very complex structures containing many capacitors, sometimes as many as 50,” explains Galliath. The planar array units are used in connector assemblies that are installed over the pins of connectors, as in an aircraft harness, for example. Galliath says, “They filter out any sort of interference that may affect those cables, thereby protecting the integrity of the electrical signals.”
Planar arrays are used extensively in avionic systems, aircraft mainframes and aerospace applications. The primary function of the capacitor arrays is to divert or filter electromagnetic interference to ground. Without this important filtering, electromagnetic noise from motors and other hardware on board, as well as cross-talk from other electrical bundles, would make proper electrical functions impossible. “We are unique in this capability in that we are the world’s premier supplier of these planar arrays for connectors,” notes Galliath.
NOVACAP also makes multicapacitor chip arrays, which perform the work of many capacitors in one single package. This NOVACAP patented product is desirable in circuitry where board space is at a premium, such as in pacemakers, or as a means to reduce board assembly costs by placing a single component, in lieu of as many as 16 devices.
Good Things in Small Packages
Also part of NOVACAP’s line are certified safety capacitors, which are used to protect faxes, modems and computer systems from line voltage surges or lightning. NOVACAP has been unique in providing the smallest chip capacitors suitable for such high-voltage applications. “We are certified worldwide to produce these items, which are sold mostly to the data communications and telecommunications industries,” says Galliath. These products have received certifications from two worldwide certifying agencies, TUV Rhineland in Germany and SEMKO in Sweden. NOVACAP soon will receive additional Underwriters Laboratories approvals on some of its products.
“What is unique about these products is that they are very small devices, usually less than 180 by 80 thousandths of an inch in footprint,” notes Galliath. “But they are very resistant to high voltages and can withstand up to 5,000 volts.”
NOVACAP’s ultrahigh-voltage devices, less than one-quarter of an inch in size, can withstand up to 20,000 volts across their terminals. “Their power is due to the intrinsic properties of the ceramic we use, and the design of the internal electrodes that carry the voltage,” says Galliath. “These devices are used in power supplies, high- voltage multiplier circuits and radar systems.”
NOVACAP manufactures capacitors designed to operate at high temperatures (from 125 degrees to 200 degrees). “These units are required for circuitry operating in harsh environments such as in oil-exploration drill equipment, in automobile engine compartments or in jet-engine and aerospace applications,” says Galliath.
“We also make very high-discharge capacitors that provide huge pulses of energy in a very small package, as the result of their unique ceramic properties,” explains Galliath. These highly efficient capacitors are used to detonate munitions, replacing older, bulkier discharge circuits. They are also used to detonate underground charges in oil-exploration applications. The majority of these products are used by the military.
When you can save your customer more than $20 million by accomplishing what your competitor could not do for that customer, you are stamping an even bigger footprint in your industry. NOVACAP did just that for a very large and notable international telecommunications company. This firm was experiencing severe field failures in its telephone switching stations throughout the country. “It was due to a failure in the capacitors manufactured by a major competitor of ours,” says Galliath.
That other capacitor company could not resolve what turned out to be the mechanical failure of its devices. Fortunately, NOVACAP came to the rescue.
“They tried for months and simply could not help that client, who became quite desperate,” explains Galliath. Just 12 weeks after the telecommunications company came to NOVACAP with its problem, not only had NOVACAP determined the cause of the failure, but it had designed, constructed and delivered a product to satisfy the customer’s needs.
“It was a very difficult product – one that we had never built before, with stringent electrical and mechanical requirements. But we designed and manufactured it with impeccable quality, better performance and we saved our new client over $20 million in repairs. Needless to say, we received their Supplier of the Year Award shortly thereafter,” says Galliath.
“Our technical capability is one of the reasons for our success in manufacturing our unique products,” he continues. “Our capability to do high-reliability testing on our products is another reason for our success. NOVACAP offers the broadest range in the industry of application-specific capacitors. Most of our competitors are producing consumer-level products by the billions, while we focus more on the application-specific products for very unique solutions in the electronics industry.”
Syfer Technologies Ltd., NOVACAP’s fully owned subsidiary located in Norwich, England, offers to the company an advanced capacitor assembly process that has no equal in the industry. “Syfer can design and manufacture very complex and intricate capacitors made up of very thin layers of ceramic with very thin metal electrode plates,” explains Galliath. “There are anywhere from two to 120 very thin electrode layers built into these capacitors, and these metal layers might be separated by as little as one-half of a thousandth of an inch.”
NOVACAP uses world-class manufacturing techniques in its 180,000 square feet of production space (a figure that includes Syfer’s facility). “That means using methodologies that keep things very simple in the manufacturing process so that you build to order with very short cycle times,” says Galliath. Minimizing inventories is part of this philosophy, as is extensive employee training to get the job done right the first time.
“We are making products that help make people’s lives better, so superior quality is absolutely essential,” says Galliath. “People are our most important asset, so we hire the best, train them fully and let them do their work, and we encourage our employees to take ownership in their jobs and in the results of their work.” NOVACAP uses its mission statement to achieve this work environment for its 1,000 employees. This philosophy stresses understanding the customer’s real needs, providing better products and services than competitors can, and asking customers to pay a fair price for NOVACAP’s extra value.
NOVACAP will continue to lead the worldwide production of application-specific capacitors. Combined with Syfer, it is one of the three largest worldwide manufacturers of these unique capacitors. “We will continue our robust growth,” says Galliath, noting the company’s 61 percent growth surge this year. “The world electronics market is a historically high-growth market and the wireless segment will undoubtedly continue expanding even more rapidly, consuming billions of these capacitors.” The company expects a 42 percent growth rate for 2001. Galliath adds, “Being part of Dover Corporation (NYSE:DOV), a $5.6 billion organization, will allow us to expand as our customers’ needs require us to. We plan to be the worldwide premier source of application-specific multilayer capacitors.”