Learning to ride a bicycle is one of the early passages of life for many of us. Being able to stay upright was the first hurdle, followed by learning to pedal, then turn, to stop without falling over – and ultimately to ride “no hands”.
What is tough for a human is even more complicated for a robot, which is the reason that Japanese electronics company Murata built a bicycling robot to showcase its technology. Murata makes a range of electronic components, which are used in a number of industries including communications, home appliances, industrial electronics and car electronics.
Murata makes a number of products for the automotive market including sensors, sound components, noise suppression products that used ferrite cores and products for power supply. Murata is also a market leader in supplying tight tolerance Ceralock ceramic resonators for automotive microprocessor timing applications.
Automotive Industries spoke to Hideo Sakamoto, President of Murata Electronics North America, and asked him what we can expect from automotive electronics industry – how fast is it growing and why?
Sakamoto: The electronic content per light vehicle (LV) is continuing to expand year on year. Many industry pundits say the yearly growth rate range is 5-7%. Our analysis yields similar results. More importantly, this growth is being driven by new applications that are mandated by government regulation and policy, enabled by standardization or are features that customers want. In other words, the market is being driven by applications that are likely to proliferate across the majority of light vehicle tiers – if not all – and will be a constituent of light vehicle electronics for a long time.
Safety applications, mostly driven by government regulation, typically apply to a broad range of passenger vehicles and are likely contain a healthy dose of electronics. For example, the TPMS (tire pressure monitoring system) motor vehicle safety standard by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), by virtue of the TREAD Act passed by the U.S. Congress in 2000, requires that all 2008 model year passenger cars sold in the U.S. must be equipped with a system to monitor all four tires. NHTSA estimates the manufacturers’ average cost per vehicle (to meet the four-tire, 25% compliance option) between US$39.90 and US$69.65, depending on the technology used. Likewise, electronic stability control (ESC) will be big opportunity in the future with the NHTSA mandate that all model year 2012 passenger vehicles sold in the US must be equipped with a stability control system.
The Controller Area Network (CAN) data bus protocol is increasingly being utilized to implement high speed data transfer among and between ECUs (Electronic Control Units), sensors and other control systems. Additionally, CAN bus may be used to replace wiring harnesses used in a vehicle body electronics applications (e.g. electric windows, lamp clusters, electric mirrors, etc.), which could equate to weight savings, hence improved fuel consumption. CAN Bus transceiver IC chipsets, controller and supporting passive components are contributing to increased electronic content in a vehicle. In the future, we expect a new, higher speed data bus communications protocol being developed and promoted by the FlexRay Consortium to further expand the electronic content in a vehicle.
The expansion of Information and Entertainment (so called Infotainment) applications is being driven by the wants of the customer. Satellite Digital Radio has more than 14 million subscribers but does have some possible challenges to maintain momentum in the near-term depending on whether or not the merger between Sirius and XM Satellite Radio is approved. HD Radio is another digital radio system, albeit subscription free, that we are hopeful will expand. Rear seat entertainment (DVD) is enjoying increased penetration in passenger vehicles, particularly those used by families with children. Telematics has enjoyed growth owing to the popularity of OnStar. While Car Navigation has traditionally been more popular in Europe and Japan, we are seeing more U.S. consumers use portable navigation devices (PND), such as those found in the market from Garmin and Magellan, as well as other GPS manufacturers, for mapping applications.
We expect Bluetooth to find many uses within a vehicle, particularly for hands-free communication. DSRC holds promise but the high cost of infrastructure may hold it back. Nonetheless, wireless / ITS applications are taking hold. Other convenience and safety applications, such as park assist, rear/side video camera and blind spot detection / lane departure warning systems are expected to continue to drive the increase of electronic content in vehicles in the coming years.
Last but certainly not least is the proliferation of HEV/EV vehicles. As are many in the industry, we are expecting the vehicle sales volume to continue to increase because of the need for good fuel economy and reduction of greenhouse gases. We’ve heard anecdotes that the cost of the electronic content of HEV/EV platforms is more than twice that of a general vehicle and nearly 50% greater than the electronics contained in a premium vehicle with a gas engine. This makes some sense when considering that HEV/EV platforms contain semiconductors and other electronic parts, as do vehicles with only gas engines, but also batteries, which are unique to the hybrid or electric vehicles.
AI: How much of your business is from the auto industry?
Sakamoto: In our FY2006, our worldwide sales were more than $5 billion, nearly 11% of which came from automotive electronics. Expect the ratio of our sales to the automotive market to grow.
AI: How did the Murata Boy bicycle-riding robot help showcase your products to the automotive industry?
Sakamoto: He can balance to ride straight, and after detecting an obstacle, either stop or go around it. Moreover, Murata Boy can perform feats that are difficult even for humans, such as standing still in one spot without putting his feet down on the ground. Various Murata sensors embedded in the robot make these accomplishments possible. We are using Murata’s own ultrasonic sensors, ceramic shock sensors, gryo, DC-DC converter, very thin, piezo speaker, Bluetooth module, transparent dielectric lens and lithium ion battery.
AI: What are some of the new products and technologies you plan to unveil this year for the auto market?
Sakamoto: we are investing about 7% of our net sales in R&D. Our research indicates that this percentage is higher than our direct competitors. Just some of the new products resulting from our intensive R&D efforts include:
Although we are the worlds top supplier of multilayer ceramic chip capacitors (MLCC), we are not satisfied with the status quo. As such, we are actively utilizing part of our R&D budget for development of next generation caps, especially for current and future target markets such as Automotive Electronics. A significant new capacitor product that has resulted from our intensive R&D efforts is the EVC series, which is a large capacitance, high voltage (e.g. 22 uF at 300V) ceramic multilayer device that is targeted for the power electronics systems of next generation HEV and EV platforms. Additionally, we will be expanding our Hi-Cap MLCC product lineup by introducing new parts that are intended to replace tantalums with a lower cost, higher performance solution. Also, the GCG series is a product that we developed for conductive glue mounting, so we will be promoting for high temperature applications.
We intend to introduce automotive grade RF inductors, ferrite beads and a common mode choke coil for use in CAN Bus and FlexRay applications.
As the worlds largest supplier of ceramic resonators for automotive, we intend to advance our technical leadership for timing applications by promotion of our tight tolerance ceramic resonators to replace crystals in CAN Bus timing requirements and introduce our +/-500ppm resonator for USB timing requirements in an automotive temperature range.
Our piezo sounders are positioned to replace electromagnetic chimes, as a lower cost solution for sliding door and lift gate warning.
New position sensors to be promoted include the SV3H series, which we believe is the world’s first contact linear analog SMD potentiometer rated for 10M cycles. We expect this to be utilized in adaptive front lighting system, throttle control, steering position sensor and brake control applications.
We are introducing thermistor products for LED lighting, USB over current protection, and over temperature for Li Battery applications. For HVAC and side mirrors where instant on heat is a requirement, we are promoting our ceramic PTC heater products.
LOW TEMPERATURE CO-FIRED CERAMIC FUNCTIONAL SUBSTRATES:
Our LFC low-temperature co-fired ceramic substrate (LTCC) products for automotive applications are now produced in eight-inch-square panels, which we believe is the world’s largest size featuring high dimensional accuracy and a very flat surface. We are actively promoting our LFC® functional substrates for multilayer high-density wiring substrate for automobile multi-chip modules where high reliability is required under high temperature such as in engine rooms.
WIRELESS CONNECTIVITY SOLUTIONS:
Murata’s Bluetooth module will be introduced strategically to the market, as a leading edge, cost effective solution to implement wireless connectivity. Additionally, within the next year or so, we will be expanding on our small form factor WLAN modules product line by commercializing Bluetooth + WLAN combo, Mobile Digital Broadcast TV and WiMAX module solutions.