The pain of lack of core in the industrial control industry behind the shortage of inverters

The phenomenon of car core shortage has become a problem that the world is paying attention to. In order to solve the problem of car core shortage, governments, automobile manufacturers and semiconductor manufacturers are coordinating production capacity. TSMC, which does not focus on automotive semiconductors, has increased its output of MCU, a key component of automotive semiconductor products, by 60% compared to last year. At the same time, many domestic and foreign automotive manufacturers have announced that they will develop chips to alleviate the core shortage problem. With the efforts of all parties, we have seen some car companies that have stopped production, such as Toyota and GM, whose production has begun to recover in the second half of the year. The CFO of Volkswagen said that it has seen the supply of chips stabilize.

However, when people from all walks of life focus on the automotive industry that is closer to life, those industries that are far away from daily life are also suffering from a lack of core, and the industrial control industry is one of them. On November 23, Schneider Electric issued a notification letter stating that due to the lack of Ethernet chip supply, sales of related products will be suspended worldwide and orders will not be accepted. It can be seen that the lack of cores has affected leading companies in the industrial control field. If this problem is not resolved, the impact of the lack of cores on the industry will be more serious.

Industry 4.0, which originated in Germany, refers to the use of data-driven artificial intelligence to complete the transformation of the industry. Its keys include the Internet of Things, digital transformation, digital twins, and the use of AI and big data to plan production. The realization of this concept will help build an internationally competitive manufacturing industry, thereby paving the way for improving overall national strength, ensuring national security, and building a world power. In industry 4.0, because industrial automation can reduce manufacturing costs and increase efficiency, industrial automation is regarded as an inevitable trend in industry 4.0.

There are many links involved in industrial control automation. Generally speaking, they are mainly divided into the control layer, the drive layer, and the execution layer. The semiconductor is an indispensable key device at any level. As far as an Ethernet communication module is concerned, it contains MCU, IC chip, SDRAM chip, etc. If it is a more complex control layer, control chips such as CPU, graphics card, and BIOS chip are also needed.

The pain of lack of core in the industrial control industry behind the shortage of inverters

Perhaps because there is no star company like Tesla, or because it is too far away from the public, the “core disease” in the industrial control field does not seem to have attracted attention. But in fact, the lack of cores of industrial control products has been reflected in multiple levels, including the shortage of products such as PLC, DCS, and inverters. Among them, the delivery time of the inverter has been extended from 4-6 weeks to 16-24 weeks.

The role of the frequency converter in industrial control is to change the period of the moving magnetic field by changing the frequency and amplitude of the AC motor power supply to smoothly control the motor speed. The inverter adjusts the voltage and frequency of the output power supply by opening and closing the internal IGBT, and provides the required power supply voltage according to the actual needs of the motor, thereby achieving the purpose of energy saving and speed regulation. In addition, the inverter has many protection functions. , Such as overcurrent, overvoltage, overload protection and so on. The IGBT and current sensor in the frequency converter all need MCU to control. However, compared to the automotive industry, a single car requires dozens of hundreds of MCU requirements, and the demand for one MCU per inverter is insignificant.

In addition to the gap in the magnitude of the demand for a single machine, there is also a huge gap in the scale of the automotive market and the inverter market. Data show that in 2020, the operating income of China’s automobile manufacturing industry will reach 8.16 trillion yuan, while the market size of China’s inverter industry in 2019 will be 49.5 billion yuan. Under such a scale gap, the bargaining power and order priority of inverter manufacturers cannot be compared with automakers.

The frequency converter is not the only product that is out of stock in the industrial control field. The core shortage problem in the industrial control field urgently needs to be brought to the front.

Domestic replacement of industrial MCUs is still difficult

According to IC Insights data, industrial control/medical care accounts for 25% of the global MCU downstream application market. But such a huge market is still occupied by foreign manufacturers for most of the market share. According to data from the Prospective Industry Research Institute, in 2019, the top five manufacturers accounted for more than 80% of global MCUs; and China’s MCU market share was also divided by more than 80% of foreign manufacturers.

The main reason why it is difficult to realize the domestic substitution of MCU in the industrial field is the strict requirements of the industrial field on MCU performance. Take the inverter as an example. Its interior is full of high-power Electronic components, so the MCU needs to have a certain degree of high temperature and low temperature resistance. At the same time, the industrial environment in which the inverter works is faced with tests such as electromagnetic interference, corrosive gas, vibration and impact, which requires the stability of the MCU.

As can be seen from the above table, although industrial-grade MCUs are not as strict as automotive-grade MCUs, their threshold is still much higher than that of consumer-grade MCUs. At present, most domestic MCU companies can only realize the substitution of consumption and low-end industrial control fields, so they cannot become the main force in solving the shortage of industrial control fields.

In addition, the low degree of localization in the industrial control market has also affected the process of domestic MCU replacement to a certain extent. According to data, in 2019, the industrial control brand Siemens ranked first in the world with 13%. In addition, half of the top 10 were American brands, including Emerson, Rockwell Automation, etc.; China’s leading industrial control company Huichuan Technology ranked 37th, with The scale of 884 million US dollars occupies 0.4% of the global industrial control market. Foreign companies occupy most of the market share. These foreign companies will not give priority to domestic MCUs. Domestic MCU manufacturers have limited space to enter. It is even more difficult for domestic MCUs to enter the industrial field.

Where is the way for localization?

The relationship between the integrated circuit industry and the industrial control field is actually complementary. Integrated circuit products are an important part of supporting industry, and the improvement of the industrial level can directly affect the related processes of integrated circuit production. It can be seen that countries with strong industrial control industry are also relatively leading in semiconductor technology, so localization is very important to the industrial control field and semiconductors.

However, several domestic MCU manufacturers have made certain breakthroughs.

Zhaoyi Innovation released the GD32W515 series Wi-Fi microcontroller based on Arm? Cortex?-M33 core. The highest frequency of GD32W515 series MCU is 180MHz, equipped with up to 2048KB of on-chip Flash and 448KB of SRAM, and can also support 32MB of external Flash. The power supply voltage is 1.6-3.6V, the I/O port can withstand 5V level, and the industrial temperature range is –40 to +85°C.

National Technology’s N32G455 series (general enhanced) adopts 32-bit ARM Cortex-M4 core, supports floating-point operations and DSP instructions, up to 512KB on-chip FLASH, 144KB SRAM, integrates up to 17 high-performance analog devices, 18 digital Communication interface, built-in more than 10 kinds of cryptographic algorithm hardware acceleration engines, has also been applied in robotics, digital power supply, UPS (uninterruptible power supply), servo controller and other fields.

Hangshun’s general-purpose MCU family based on ARM Cortex-M0 and Cortex-M3 cores has also been applied in high-end industries.

In the field of industrial control, Inovance Technology is the leader among domestic manufacturers. At present, Inovance technology has achieved product coverage of the information layer, control layer, drive layer, execution layer and sensor layer in the industrial automation field. In Inovance’s main operating income, inverters accounted for the highest proportion; at the same time, the year-on-year growth rate of main operating income from 2017 to 2019 exceeded 20%. Some core functional components of Inovance technology have been adopted by Foxconn.

The localization of the industrial field cannot rely on the efforts of a certain link, and the joint breakthrough of the entire industry chain must be achieved in order to realize the localization of China Industrial Control.

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