Here are my collection of trends and predictions for electronics industry for 2015:
The computer market, once the IC growth driver per se, apparently is approaching saturation status. Communications industry is still growing (6.8%.). Automotive V2X, LED lighting and smart domestic objects are set to drive semiconductor market growth through the year 2020, according to market analysis firm Gartner.
Car electronics will be hot in 2015. New cars will have more security features, smart infotainment and connectivity in them. It is an are where smart phone companies are pushing to. Automotive Industry Drives Chip Demand article says that until 2018, the IC demand from automotive customers is expected to exhibit the strongest average annual growth — 10.8% on average. This is significantly higher than the communications industry, at second place with 6.8%. Demand drivers include safety features that increasingly are becoming mandatory, such as backup cameras or eCall. But driver-assistance systems are also becoming ubiquitous. Future drivers will include connectivity, such as vehicle-to-vehicle communications, as well as sensors and controllers necessary for various degrees of autonomous driving.
Power electronics is a $90 billion-per-year market. The market for discrete power electronics is predicted to grow to $23 billion by 2024 from $13 billion today. Silicon rules power electronics industry, but new materials are pushing to headlines quickly. In the power electronics community, compound semiconductors such as gallium nitride (GaN) are drawing more attention as they try to displace silicon based power devices, which have been doing the heavy lifting for the past 30 years or so. While silicon-based devices are predicted to remain predominant with an 87% share of the market, it is expected that SiC- and GaN-based components to grow at annual rates of 30% and 32%, respectively. There’s no denying the cost advantages that silicon possesses.
Chip designs that enable everything from a 6 Gbit/s smartphone interface to the world’s smallest SRAM cell will be described at the International Solid State Circuits Conference (ISSCC) in February 2015. Intel will describe a Xeon processor packing 5.56 billion transistors, and AMD will disclose an integrated processor sporting a new x86 core, according to a just-released preview of the event. The annual ISSCC covers the waterfront of chip designs that enable faster speeds, longer battery life, more performance, more memory, and interesting new capabilities. There will be many presentations on first designs made in 16 and 14 nm FinFET processes at IBM, Samsung, and TSMC.
There is push to go to even smaller processes, and it seems that next generation of lithography equipment are started to being used. Earlier expectation was for chipmakers to use traditional immersion lithography for production of 10 nm chip, but it seems that extreme ultraviolet (EUV) scanners that allows allow scaling to 10 nm or even smaller is being used. TSMC to Use EUV for 7nm, Says ASML. Intel and TSMC have been injecting money in ASML to push process technology.
2015 promises to see initial FPGA product releases and (no doubt) a deluge of marketing claims and counter-claims. One thing is certain: 2015 will not be boring. There will be FPGA products that use processes beyond 20nm, for example Altera and Xilinx have committed to use the TSMC 16nm FinFET technology. There is publicized (and rumored) race to get to production at 14nm has seen time frames for initial samples move into 2015. However, with both FPGA companies reporting gross margins of close to 70 percent, it would be possible for either company to take an initial hit on margin to gain key socket wins.
It seems that the hardware becomes hot again as Wearables make hardware the new software. Apple invest its time when it released the Apple Watch last quarter, going up against the likes of Google’s Android Wear and others in the burgeoning wearables area of design. Once Apple’s bitten into a market, it’s somewhat a given that there’s good growth ahead and that the market is, indeed, stable enough. As we turn to 2015 and beyond wearables becomes an explosive hardware design opportunity — one that is closely tied to both consumer and healthcare markets. It could pick up steam in the way software did during the smartphone app explosion.
There will be more start-up activity within hardware sector. For recent years, the software has been on the main focus on the start-ups, and the hardware sector activity has been lower. Hardware sector has seem some start-up activity with many easy to use open hardware platforms became available (make development of complex devices easier and reachable for smaller companies). The group financing (Kickstarter, Indiegogo, etc.) have made it possible to test of new hardware ideas are market-worthy and get finance to get them to production.
EEs embrace hackathons aand accelerators. Design 2.0 is bubbling up in the engineering community, injecting new energy into the profession. In many ways, it’s the new Moore’s Law. Easy to use open hardware development platforms have made it possible to design working hardware device prototypes within hackathons.
Silicon Startups Get Incubator article tells that there will be new IC start-up activity as semiconductor veterans announced plans for an incubator dedicated to helping chip startups design their first prototypes. Keysight, Synopsys, and TSMC have signed exclusive deals to provide tools and services to the incubator. Silicon Catalyst aims to select its first batch of about 10 chip startups before April.
MEMS mics are taking over. Almost every mobile device has ditched its old-fashioned electret microphone invented way back in 1962 at Bell Labs. Expect new piezoelectric MEMS microphones, which promise unheard of signal-to-noise ratios (SNR) of up to 80 dB (versus 65 dB in the best current capacitive microphones) in 2015. MEMS microphones are growing like gangbusters.Also engineers have found a whole bunch of applications that can use MEMS microphone as a substitute for more specialized sensors starting in 2015.
There will be advancements in eco-design. There will be activity within Europe’s Ecodesign directive. The EC’s Ecodesign Working Plan for 2015-2017 is currently in its final study stages – the plan is expected to be completed by January 2015. The chargers will be designed for lower zero load power consumption in 2015, as on February 2016, after the 5-watt chargers are no longer at no load connected consume more than 0.1 watts of power. Socket for power supplies values are defined in the new Energy Star standard VI.
LED light market growing in 2015. Strategies Unlimited estimates that in 2014 the LED lamps were sold $ 7 billion, or about 5.7 billion euros. In 2019 the LED lamps will already sold just over 12 billion euros. LED technology will replace other lighting technologies quickly. For those who do not go to the LED Strategies Unlimited permission difficult times – all other lamp technologies, the market will shrink 14 percent per year. The current lighting market growth is based on LED proliferation of all the different application areas.
IoT market is growing fast in 2015. Gartner is predicting a 30 percent compound annual growth rate for the IoT chip market for the period 2013 to 2020. The move to create billions of smart, autonomously communicating objects known as the Internet of Things (IoT) is driving the need for low-power sensors, processors and communications chips. Gartner expects chips for IoT market to grow 36% in 2015 (IoT IC marker value in 2014 was from $3.9 billion to $9 billion depending how you calculate it). The sales generated by the connectivity and sensor subsystems to enabled this IoT will amount $48.3 billion in 2014 and grow 19 percent in 2015 to $57.7 billion. IC Insights forecasts that web-connected things will account for 85 percent of 29.5 billion Internet connections worldwide by 2020.
With the increased use of IoT, the security is becoming more and more important to embedded systems and chip designers. Embedded systems face ongoing threats of penetration by persistent individuals and organizations armed with increasingly sophisticated tools. There is push for IC makers to add on-chip security features to serve as fundamental enablers for secure systems, but it is just one part of the IoT security puzzle. The trend toward enterprise-level security lifecycle management emerges as the most promising solution for hardened security in embedded systems underlying the explosive growth of interconnected applications. The trend continues in 2015 for inclusion of even more comprehensive hardware support for security: More and more MCUs and specialized processors now include on-chip hardware accelerators for crypto operations.
Electronics is getting smaller and smaller. Component manufacturers are continually developing new and smaller packages for components that are mere fractions of a millimeter and have board to component clearances of less than a mil. Components are placed extremely close together. No-lead solder is a relatively recent legislated fact of life that necessitated new solder, new fluxes, higher temperatures, and new solder processing equipment. Tin whisker problems also increased dramatically. You should Improve device reliability via PCB cleanliness, especially if you are designing something that should last more then few years.
Photonics will get to the circuit board levels. Progress in computer technology (and the continuation of Moore’s Law) is becoming increasingly dependent on faster data transfer between and within microchips. We keep hearing that copper has reached its speed limit, and that optics will replace copper for high-speed signals. Photonics now can run through cables, ICs, backplanes, and circuit boards. Silicon chips can now have some optical components in them using silicon photonics technologies. For more than 10 years, “silicon photonics” has attracted significant research efforts due to the potential benefits of optoelectronics integration. Using silicon as an optical medium and complementary metal-oxide semiconductor fabrication processing technology, silicon photonics allows tighter monolithic integration of many optical functions within a single device.
Enter electro-optical printed circuits, which combine copper and optical paths on the same board. Electro-optical PCBs use copper for distributing power and low-speed data, and optical paths for high-speed signals. Optical backplane connectors have been developed, as well as a technique to align the small waveguides to transceivers on the board. The next challenge is to develop waveguides on to boards where the tight bends don’t degrade performance to unacceptable levels.
3D printing will bring structural electronics. With 3D printing hot in the news, and conformable, flexible, or even printed electronics fitting any shape, it is only a matter of time before electronic circuits can be laid-out as part of the 3D-printing process, the electronic framework becoming an integral supporting part of any object’s mechanical structure. For example “structural batteries” have already been implemented in electric cars, in racing-car aerofoils, and in the Tesla pure electric car.
Superconductors are heating up again. Superconductivity will be talked again in 2015 as there were some advancements in the end of 2014. A group of international scientists working with the National Accelerator Laboratory in Menlo Park, Calif., have discovered lasers that can create conditions for superconductivity at temperatures as high at 140°F. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has discovered a law governing thin-film superconductors, eliminating much of the trial and error for companies that manufacture superconducting photodetector. With MIT’s new mathematical law, new superconducting chips can be designed with the correct parameters determined ahead of time.
Frost and Sullivan forecast that “PXI to disrupt automated test” between 2015 and 2018. They predict PXI to achieve $1.75B in annual sales by 2020, up from $563M in 2013. That’s an aggregate growth rate of over 17%. Not bad for an industry that has an overall secular growth rate of 3 percent.