API Capacitor’s guide to alternative sources was featured in the September issue of Electronics Sourcing Magazine UK. Click to read the feature (Pg. 20-22).

Read the full, unedited guide here:

API Capacitors Guide to Sourcing Discontinued, Obsolete and Retrofit, Replacement and Spare Capacitors.

Over the past decade or two the capacitor industry has seen some of the major OEM’s either ceasing manufacture completely or discontinuing product lines, effectively making the capacitors within them obsolete.

This can leave purchasers and engineers that are trying to replace a part from a discontinued line of capacitor, or a no longer existent manufacturer, in a rather tight spot.

If you have found yourself in this position and are concerned about the availability of an older part which you need, read our guide and consider the alternative sources available.

Why would someone want to find obsolete, retrofit, discontinued, spare or replacement parts?

Often engineers are tasked with refurbishing or maintaining the life of older equipment or machinery. The problem these engineers face is that the designs for equipment originally manufactured 10, 20 or 50 years ago will typically include components which have since been discontinued. This leads to a difficultly finding replacement parts for products which are worn but essential to prolonging the life of the equipment they are a part of.

Similarly, a part in a piece of equipment may have reached the end of its life or experienced a failure. In situations like this, end users may seek to buy a one off part rather than placing a batch order, which would typically be the only type of order an original manufacturer will deal in.

Where can I find electrical components that have been discontinued or spares?

If you are in doubt about the availability of an item, call the original manufacturer or a trusted distributor.

When contacting the original manufacturer, just bear in mind that they may not be too helpful when it comes to an obsolete part. An OEM will always try to upsell the inclusion of one of their new parts rather than help you to keep an obsolete part in your equipment design. You may just have to trawl their archive of old specifications and provide this to an alternative source manufacturer.

There are many alternative sources for purchasing older parts than the original equipment manufacturer (OEM). If a part is no longer available to buy through its original manufacturer, more often than not an alternative manufacturer will be able to match the design, and manufacture an interchangeable part to fit the equipment which needs servicing.

In some instances it may be possible to source obsolete components from a distributor, with what is often a large mark up. If capacitors are stored correct to manufacturer’s instructions, most types will not age. However if you are considering sourcing electrolytic capacitors from a distributer with an inventory of old stock, be aware there is a product shelf life on this type.

Where can I find discontinued capacitors?

There are independent capacitor manufacturers who are able to manufacture interchangeable parts to replace discontinued OEM capacitors.

Typically capacitors can be manufactured and designed to order as per application requirements, which means a solution can be provided for almost any spare or replacement capacitor request.

What do I need to use an alternative source?

With the design or specification for the original part, your alternative source will be able to manufacture the part to your requirement and application with no problems.

If the original design or full specification is not available, your alternative manufacturer will be able to design an equivalent part if you provide them with details of the following:
– product and capacitor application
– required capitance and tolerance
– any temperature or humidity requirements
– whether the capacitor will be subject to any high current discharge
– the physical part measurements or size
– the rated voltage
– the actual working voltage which will be applied to the part

Whilst some purchasers may not have these technical details, the engineering department will certainly know the requirements and conditions the part will need to perform under.

Replacing old or discontinued Parts

Whilst you may be safe if the required item is a legacy part, certain parts, for example diodes or fuses, are much easier to replace than an item such as a high voltage capacitor. Trying to find an exact replacement part can face obstacles including strict minimum order quantities and unknown specifications for discontinued items.

API Capacitors is a UK based manufacturer who are able to reverse engineer parts and redesign them to specifications which match the original. Equivalent designs for new and old OEM capacitors including (but not limited to) VISHAY, EPCOS, TDK, NWL and Electronicon can be produced. Our specialist skills make replacing a high voltage capacitor as easy as replacing nuts and bolts.

API Capacitors produce interchangeable parts equivalent to those made by the original source offering an alternate source. This can be extremely useful for buyers needing to source a part which has become obsolete or require a quantity below the original manufacturers minimum order quantity. The manufacturers specialities reside in producing equivalent parts to serve automotive, commercial, military, aerospace, power generation, marine and rail organisations that still require them.