KEMET Corp. held a ribbon-cutting ceremony this week to inaugurate a power film capacitor manufacturing facility at its plant in Simpsonville, South Carolina. The $34.1 million project includes a $15.1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy (DoE), $2.5 million in incentives from the State of South Carolina, and KEMET’s own investment of $16.5 million.
KEMET plans to employ at least 113 people who will manufacture DC bus capacitors for hybrid and electric vehicles – as many as 100,000 per-year. Competing for the DoE grant, KEMET cited a current shortfall in DC bus capacitor manufacturing capacity in the U.S. Since DC bus capacitors are critical components in inverters, increasing manufacturing capacity in the U.S. has potential to lower costs and shorten design time for U.S. automakers developing hybrid and electric vehicles.
KEMET is importing relevant design and manufacturing expertise, including machinery of its own design, from its facility in Bologna, Italy, where it currently manufactures film capacitors for hybrid and electric vehicles in Europe.
KEMET chief technology officer Phil Lessner said KEMET is already working with U.S. automakers and tier one suppliers to qualify parts. The initial production line is expected to be operational in 2012, and KEMET has room for a total of four lines.
The Simpsonville plant is also an innovation center for the design and manufacture of tantalum and ceramic capacitors. Transportation industry capacitor requirements account for approximately 16% of KEMET’s business. Lessner notes that automakers are placing electronic controls closer to car engines, for which capacitors, including ceramic and aluminum electrolytic devices, must be able to operate at 150°C or 175°C. Noise and vibration requirements have also increased, as has the need for overall reliability. To that end, KEMET redesigned its ceramic capacitors to make them less prone to failure as well as to reduce the impact of failure.