Microcontroller: Making may happen in India soon

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India has acquired global chip design capabilities and a technol­ogy ecosystem (an interdependent community of technology and service companies, operating within a com­mon framework and architecture, with different roles for many specialist players) that proffers a vast range of competencies, such as chip design, firmware development, application software and user interface. Many MNCs are setting up engineering centres in India and exploring prod­ucts unique to India. With potential for electronic products growing in the domestic market, demand and hence manufacture of these products, are bound to increase in the coming years.

By Jesus Milton Rousseau S

Thursday, July 19, 2009: The same applies to the micro-controller milieu in India. Damien Leconte, regional product marketing director, MMS division, Asia Pacific, ST Microelectronics, a company that designs and manufacturers microcon­troller units (MCUs), says, “There are a number of semiconductor companies which are designing microcontrollers in India but they are manufacturing them overseas. Nevertheless, the production of microcontroller based applications is rising in India.”

Ravi Kishore Ivaturi, senior tech­nical sales engineer, Infineon Tech­nologies India Pvt Ltd, another MCU designer and manufacturer, adds, “In the industrial segment, 85 per cent of the design and development of appli­cations are conducted purely in India. Whereas, in the consumer segment,

applications are developed in India but the technology comes from either a joint venture or an international design house outside the country. In the automotive segment, almost 80 per cent of microcontrollers are currently being imported but in the future, manufacturing bases (at least for Indian requirements) could be set up in India, too. It is, therefore, the opportune time for microcontroller manufacturers to invest in India for design inputs during the inception stage itself.”

Applications lead to demand

In India, microcontrollers are widely used in the industrial (energy meters, UPS/inverters, battery management and industrial drivers), automotive (engine control units, body and safety applications) and consumer (washing machines, air conditioning, water purifiers, etc) ambits. The impact of unreliable energy availability for both consumer and industrial usage has resulted in high demand for home UPS and inverters. The push towards utilisation of renewable energy re­sources, both from the government as well as from private players, has also increased and is likely to fuel the demand of microcontroller usage in India for inverter and battery manage­ment applications.

In the consumer segment, inspite of the copious employment of micro-controllers, application areas are still limited to basic controls (on/off). Now, with the Bureau of Energy Effi­ciency providing incentives to original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) for efficient energy consumption, along with the stringent regulations which are being enforced, demand for microcontrollers is expected to increase in the field of motor control, for improved performance and effi­ciency of washing machines (closed loop control), air conditioners and refrigerators.

The automotive circuit has also witnessed proliferation of micro-controllers, especially for engine management and fuel injection but unfortunately, the technology has been limited to tier 1 players only. However, changing specifications and cost factors are forcing many Indian design houses and tier 1 play­ers to develop indigenous designs for electronic fuel injection (EFI), for two-wheelers and four-wheelers. “In fact, major automotive OEMs have also initiated their own designs for engine management systems. Body electronics—dashboard controls and remote keyless entry, has been one area where India has played a major role, with approximately 60 per cent of the requirements being sourced and manufactured in the country. The future appears to be promising for other areas of body control, too, such as door modules, climate control, heating ventilation air conditioning (HVAC) and light control modules,” says Ivaturi.

“There has been an increase in the use of microcontrollers enabling higher resolution displays, touch panels, voice guidance and a host of other functions. The trend will take an upturn in the coming years,” says Ganesh Guruswamy, vice president and country manager, Freescale Semi­conductor India Pvt Ltd.

Other newly emerging applica­tions based on microcontrollers fall under the spectrum of lighting, for both ballast and light emitting diode display panels. In the telecom sector, the necessity for microcontrollers is manifested in several blocks of power interface units for network towers. “Also, vehicle tracking systems are another area of application,” adds Leconte.

Market Trends

  • People are switching over from traditional complex instruction set computer architecture to reduced instruction set computer architecture and further to programmable system on chip controllers
  • There is a shift from read-only memory based to eFlash (ranging from 4 K to
  • 1.76 MB)
  • Shift in implementation of digital signal processor (DSP) functionality for better performance
  • There has been an increase in the use of microcontrollers, enabling higher reso­lution displays, touch panels, voice guidance and a host of other functions
  • Transition is taking place from 8-bit to 16-bit. The new applications are moving to 32-bit based applications with more enhanced features, real time, low power and low cost operation
  • Core voltages are being lowered up to 1.5 V for better power management
  • 32-bit internal bus are being implemented for better performance
  • 90nm technology is also being successfully implemented for better yield and lower cost
  • Manufacturers are implementing a lot of peripheral features inside the controller itself, like inbuilt LCD drivers, stepper motor drivers, universal serial interface controller (USIC), direct memory access (DMA) controllers, dual and fast analog to digital converters (ADC) with varied bit configuration (8/10/12 bits), peripheral event controllers (PEC), internal oscillators and electrically erasable program­mable read-only memory (EEPROM) functionality
  • On the high end controller segment, the manufacturers are already talking about bringing out dual tricore processors soon

A report from Frost & Sullivan states that 8-bit MCUs have found ready acceptance in numerous emerg­ing markets across segments, while the 16-bit and 32-bit MCUs are driven by automotive, high end consumer products and industrial controls.

Demand growing in India

The advancing need for high per­formance as well as the increasing implementation of stringent emission and safety regulations in automobile industries across the world has greatly benefited high power microcontroller segments. “Globally, the growth of demand for microcontrollers is rapidly increasing in the consumer, automo­tive and industrial segments. In India, the demand for microcontrollers is growing most rapidly in the industrial segment, followed by the consumer and automotive segments,” informs Ivaturi.

Desmond Tan, senior marketing manager, Fujitsu Microelectronics Asia Pte Ltd, an MCU designing and manufacturing firm, adds, “The demand for microcontrollers is gaining momentum in the consumer, commu­nication, automotive, industrial and medical segments. At Fujitsu, we are amplifying our projects especially in the consumer electronics and automo­tive segments.”

Industry analysts, therefore, pre­dict that the day is not far away when manufacturing of microcontrollers will see the light of day in India.

However, as of now, there are no Indian microcontroller manu­facturers, forcing the users to either import or procure them from local sourcing agents. Leconte says, “Pay­ing import duties proves to be more expensive than purchasing from lo­cal markets. Customers, therefore, prefer to buy microcontrollers from distributors.”

“Importing is preferred for large quantities but for small orders, local suppliers are a more feasible option,” comments Viral Purohit, proprietor, Sunrom Technologies, manufacturers of microcontroller programmers and development boards.

Buying TipS

  • Whether one obtains microcon­trollers from a manufacturer or distributor, there are some issues to be considered before making the purchase. Following are some guide­lines that will help you to make the right choice.
  • For automotives, the devices should be automotive electronics council qualified and offer an ex­tremely high degree of reliability and operational performance, across a wide range of operating parameters
  • For industrial and consumer seg­ments, the devices should have a high level of integration embedded electrically erasable programmable read only memory, watchdog timer and internal high accuracy oscilla­tors and flexibility universal serial interface controllers configurable serial communications, peripheral event controllers, direct memory access interface, etc
  • Comprehensive support tools should be preferred
  • Go for low power modes
  • Go for function specific peripher­als
  • Look for low cost reconfigurabil­ity
  • Buy from authorised distributors
  • Check supplier’s repute
Electronics Bazaar, South Asia’s No.1 Electronics B2B magazine

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