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Renesas Technology still dominates the Microcontroller Market

 2009-05-15

"Lead, follow, or get out of the way." – Thomas Paine, English Writer (1737-1809)

Renesas Technology still dominates the Microcontroller market with an estimated 20 percent share worldwide. Freescale Semiconductor is also a major player with 11 percent share. Microcontrollers (MCUs) are an important semiconductor product that performs simple functions in numerous low powered and automatically controlled devices. End markets for MCUs include motor control for home appliances, automobile engine control systems, and toys, office machines, and other small electronics. A new report available at Electronics.ca Publications indicates that total sales from this market will reach $12.3 billion in 2009, an 11 percent decline from 2008, primarily due to weak sales in the automotive and personal electronics end markets.

Automotive has traditionally been the largest market for MCUs due to numerous safety and control features, including tire pressure monitoring, electronic stability control, and airbag control. Increasing complexity in these automotive electronics is expanding the need for higher-performance 32-bit MCUs with more embedded memory. However, there is still significant consumption of 8-bit and 16-bit products, especially in airbag control modules and in body electronics. It is predicted that this will continue to be a major end market for MCUs over the next several years, with an estimated $3.7 billion or 30 percent of the total available market (TAM) in 2009. However, this segment will no longer have the market presence as it did in the past, as the importance of new end markets in industrial lighting, alternative energy, and IC cards continues to emerge.

Industrial and residential LED lighting is one such emerging application. Although LED (Light emitting diode) lighting has existed since the 1960's, it has only recently begun to appear in the residential and commercial market for space lighting. Microcontrollers in this product segment are used for control and power savings, and have been forced to adapt to growing demand. This includes wireless standards for remote monitoring, which brings the promise for cities to wirelessly pinpoint power outages and centrally manage lighting based on weather conditions, time of day, and traffic conditions. MCUs in this market are typically more complex 16-Bit and 32-Bit embedded devices, and include products such as Texas Instrument’s 32-Bit Picollo series.

Recently, the importance of alternative energy, including wind and solar, has pushed consumption of microcontrollers for advanced motor control and energy monitoring. In solar micro-inverter panels, new generations of highly developed MCUs are utilized for their higher power conversion efficiencies as compared to traditional centralized inverter systems. This also results in simpler wiring and reduced installation costs. In wind turbines, embedded microcontrollers have also led to more reliable power generation. Also, as is the case with industrial LED lighting clusters, wireless standards are used to provide better system monitoring through networking.