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July 10, 2014

Components sector eyes advancing car technologies Posted : July 09, 2014

The article below appears on Electronic Components online: http://www.globalsources.com/gsol/I/Subsystem-modules/a/9000000130765.htm.

Global EMS player IMI discusses the evolving trends in the automotive industry and their impact upstream.
Concepts such as connected and autonomous vehicles are reinforcing the automotive industry’s status as a key market for electronic components, established earlier with the rise of infotainment. For EMS players such as Integrated Micro-Electronics Inc., there can only be opportunities for advancement in this evolution for upstream suppliers.

In an interview with Global Sources, IMI’s Design & Development head Philippe Marquet talked about the trends driving car electronics and how these will benefit the components industry. The company specializes in providing module design and test services, and has vehicle electronics among its areas of expertise.

What are the three most popular components integrated into automotive electronics modules?
The most popular are passive components such as resistors and capacitors, and active devices, including transistors and diodes. But this is due to the quantity used. During the last few years, the great incremental gain came from microcontrollers. In modern luxury vehicles, there are more than 120 units, and in low-end vehicles, a few tens of MCUs. For mechatronic devices, brushed and brushless motors are the most popular.

Given the trend toward infotainment and connected cars, what are the key developments that you see in automotive electronics?
There are three megatrends:
• Vehicle data can be collected and used to create new services and strategies to avoid accidents and traffic jams.
• Connectivity with current and future smart devices.
• Developments in speech recognition, gesture control, touch pads and feedback mechanisms.

Will ECU consolidation happen? How will it be executed?
The risk of ECU consolidation means transferring production to one or two companies. That could kill the competition while bringing the cost advantage. Bigger OEMs are already working in that direction.

This integration will likely come in phases. The types of ECUs include electronic/engine, powertrain, transmission, brake, body, suspension and central control, and central timing and general electronic modules. Taken together, these systems are sometimes referred to as the car’s computer, although technically there is no single computer but multiple ones. Sometimes one assembly incorporates several of the individual control modules. Powertrain control module is often for both engine and transmission.

Some high-class motor vehicles have up to 80 ECUs. Embedded software in ECUs continues to increase in line count, intricacy and sophistication. So managing the growing complexity and number of automotive ECUs is a key challenge for OEMs.

The car industry is highly demanding in terms of reliability. How will this be met at the component and module levels?

The automotive industry requires the use of qualified components, guaranteed through high standards for manufacturing and EOL testing. Testing before building modules into a car reduces the probability of their infant mortality failure in the field.

In fact, implementation in modern vehicles makes them less reliable in their basic function – transportation – but more comfortable and easy for driving. The reliability of such cars depends strictly on the on-board electronics. This feature can be considered in three major aspects:
• Reliability of the components building the electronics modules.
• Reliability of the electronics modules based on the production process.
• Reliability of the electronics modules from their design.

These are guaranteed by respective manufacturers using special organization, procedure, validation and certification.
The industry is creating a step-up, which will reinforce device reliability. The automotive modules such as the braking system steering column, which are considered risks, are now more and more classified under functional safety.

With such categorization, high-level products starting with ASIL D will impose specific functional safety at chip stage. Concerned controllers and specific ICs will have to be redesigned for the new requirement. The module will follow the same logic by using these key ICs.

For global consolidation at module level, specific methods are established. These include FMEDA, PMHF and FTA. Automotive design and development practices are approaching the avionic design methodology.

Will aftermarket players still dominate the automotive electronics modules business? Or will car OEMs take control in coming years?

It is a matter of economics. The aftermarket players deliver mostly spare parts for secondhand vehicles. In common cases, these electronic devices are not as sophisticated as central ECUs, and in-vehicle infotainment and safety systems.

Aftermarket electronics mostly consist of small motor drives, mainly BDS, and sensors, battery maintenance and lighting. Sometimes, these add new functionality to secondhand vehicles, including propane-butane injection, infotainment, video assistant, alarm and navigation systems.

OEMs have to reconsider their prices for these segments in order to dominate. EMS players such as IMI can meet the demands of both segments: OEM and aftermarket.

Please briefly elaborate on the current focus of IMI operations.

IMI Design & Development is focusing its efforts on several platforms such as camera and motor drive. These are linked to emerging businesses, including camera electronics, and demonstrate to our key customers an innovative design capability.

IMI D&D also continues to maintain its core expertise initiated years ago, which covers lighting, power modules, human-machine interface, and short-range wireless and sensing technologies. The last includes positioning, temperature, pressure, photo and video.
Contributed by Majeed Ahmad

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Arthur R. Tan, Vice Chairman and CEO

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Integrated Micro-Electronics, Inc., also known as IMI, is one of the leading global providers of electronics manufacturing services (EMS) and power semiconductor assembly and test services (SATS) in the world.