Change in the semiconductor industry is a constant, driven by the ebb and flow of trends such as the popularity of the Internet of Things (IoT), demand for ever higher densities, as well as the impending rise of a host of AI-powered capabilities making their way into self-driving cars and advanced robotics.
Coupled with the unrelenting pressure to reduce greenhouse gases and migrating to 10- and 7-nanometer (nm) nodes, and it is no wonder that manufacturers are scrambling to find new ways to meet new market demands while maintaining profitability.
What are some megatrends that are currently driving the semiconductor field?
- IoT: With the number of connected devices expected to surge over 40 billion devices over the next few years1, this translates to a dazzling array of sensors and processing capabilities powered by semiconductor chips.
- Self-driving cars: Each fully autonomous vehicles will have US$550 more semiconductor under their hood than today’s vehicles. With the market projected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 26%, this adds up to a large amount.
- Energy efficiency: To meet the targets set at the Paris Agreement of 2015 necessitates a radical reduction in energy consumption. Aside from using more energy-efficient systems powered by new energy-sipping processors, the process of chip fabrication itself will need to use energy in a more efficient way.
- Smart devices: While smartphone adoption is increasing at a much slower rate, a plethora of smart devices ranging from smart TVs, smartwatches and smart home appliances are expected to surge over the next few years. These will be powered by a variety of small, powerful processors.
- Computing systems: While growth has tapered off for laptops and tablets, don’t expect them to go away any time soon. Indeed, the demand for powerful server systems used in cloud platforms is higher than ever2.
Together, the various trends above can only culminate in heightened demands for semiconductors.
Reducing unplanned downtime
While there are multiple ways to meet the surging demands for semiconductor, the common denominator continues to revolve around ensuring the stability and quality of electrical power. As noted by Nadia Cheriatia of Schneider Electric, the making of a microprocessor entails as many as 300 steps that must be completed at nm-level tolerances.
Getting things wrong at any stage can culminate in the entire batch of chips having to be scrapped. Throw in an inopportune power outage, no matter how brief, and the entire production line of multiple lots – each of which might be valued at tens of thousands of dollars, will be irrecoverable.
It is hence reasonable to invest in a robust power infrastructure to ensure that these mission-critical systems used to churn out semiconductors are never deprived of power. Aside from backup power sources to guard against a protracted interruption to mains power, adequate battery industrial UPS systems must also be installed against transient or intermittent power faults.
Finally, adequate redundancy should also be installed for crucial systems such as controllers, networking hardware, and IT systems used to drive ERP or other manufacturing systems within the factory.
To learn more about business continuity solutions for semiconductors, check out this free guide from Schneider Electric here (Free registration).
Article by Bhagwati Prasad, Vice President, Business Development, Secure Power Division, Schneider Electric
1 – https://www.idc.com/getdoc.jsp?containerId=prUS45213219
2 – https://www.electronicdesign.com/industrial-automation/article/21808770/intel-buoyed-by-rebound-in-demand-for-server-chips