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I am an electronics beginner trying to shop online for capacitors but so far I am failing miserably.

My biggest question right now has to do with capacitor series. Below is a list of a couple of capacitor series categories in case I am not being clear on what I am talking about:

  • 125L Series
  • 2C20 Series
  • 2C25 Series
  • A Series
  • Aximax Series
  • C052C Series
  • C315 Series
  • C322 Series
  • TCD Series
  • WKO Series

Below is the link to the page that contains the capacitor series. The capacitor series are listed under a filtering table column named "Product Range".

http://www.newark.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/Search?st=ceramic+capacitor&catalogId=15003&categoryId=800000009504&langId=-1&storeId=10194

I would like to know if someone could tell me what role does the capacitor series plays when choosing a capacitor. So far, it looks to me like capacitor series is just a form factor but I have a feeling is more than that.

Also, if it’s ok, could someone tell me what series capacitor should I be looking at if the use that I have for the capacitors is just for beginner projects?

Thanks.

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The series is the manufacturer's product family. The products in a series will have something in common, like a target application or package type, and will often share a datasheet. For example, if you select the Ceralam MR series on the Newark page, you'll find about 50 ceramic through-hole capacitors made by AVX. Here's the datasheet for the whole series. A series datasheet describes the whole product line. It should tell you how to construct a part number for a specific capacitor. Here's how the Ceralam MR datasheet does that:

Ceralam MR part number breakdown

The next several pages give the package dimensions for the different styles and list which capacitance values are available in each style. Finally, there's some mechanical information that's used in mass production systems.

For beginner/hobbyist purposes, I recommend ignoring the series. First, narrow down the results based on the main parameters (capacitance, voltage, etc.), then look at the package and size, then look at the price. If you still have a lot of options, pick whichever datasheet is your favorite. :-)

The best parameter to start with is actually package, on the far right. Since you're buying in small quantities, you only want things like cut tape, bulk, and tube packaging. Tape and reel is for when you want to buy thousands of units at once. This knocks out a lot of duplicate part numbers from your list.

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A capacitor "series" is a bunch of specific capacitor models manufactured with the same process. For example, the Panasonic FK series of electrolytic capacitors have particularly high ripple current tolerance (for electrolytics), which is why I use them often in switching power supplies. Other series are optimized for other parameters, like maximum capacitance per volume, for example.

Within any one series, there will be different capacitance and voltage combinations, and sometimes a set of different cases. But, the relative importance of the many possible secondary criteria and the technology used to implement them will be common across all the models of a series.

The series name itself carries no meaning; it's just a arbitrary label used by the manufacturer. Series names will be unique within a manufacturer, but there is no guarantee that a different manufacturer doesn't use the same series name as another, but that it has a totally different meaning within that manufacturer.

If you're not familiar with specific series when browsing capacitor listing on a distributor web site, just ignore them. Figure out what parameters you care about and select on those. For capacitors, the capacitance and voltage rating are of course the primary electrical criteria, but things like maximum ripple current, ESR, lifetime at some temperature, size, cost and other parameters all matter different amounts across designs. That's why there are series.

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