By Kevin Parmenter, Field Applications Manger, Taiwan Semiconductor
There is much discussion in Industrial electronics, namely “Industry 4.0”.
The first wave of revolution in industrial system was mechanical – steam power, the second was electricity and electric motors and the mass production assembly line the third was CNC, computers and automation and the 4th wave promises to be cyber physical systems and automation which employs sensors, energy harvesting, automation and real time data exchange, IoT, Cloud computing -storage and cognitive computing locally and or AI and even 5G, edge computing. The power needed to enable all this will range from energy harvesting and power for sensors and wireless connectivity to robotic, and 480 VAC motor drives, servers, wireless 5G system power and power for the AI computing systems and everything in between.
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"Industry 4.0" Revolution
At APEC this year many of these topics were discussed and one of the common themes I frequently refer to is that technology progress and enabling applications are frequently created on enablement from other developments. For example, Industry 4.0 is depending on wireless technologies, energy harvesting cloud computing and IoT (or IIoT) and AI which is borrowed from the gaming and self-driving vehicle applications. Just as in many other areas of electronics some of the instrumentation and data acquisition – measurement technologies used to require a dedicated rack mount instrument to sense for example machine vibration for predictive monitoring of a motor or a pump or an industrial process of some type. These are now available as low cost wired or wireless sensors and these borrow advancements made in the cell phone industry - accelerometers, Mixed Signal IC’s, Analog and digital signal processing and more to give us something small and low cost which a couple of decades ago used to take up a 19 inch rack space with something heavy enough it would crush its own line cord in two. As I have alluded to before the industrial market is somewhat of a catch all for applications which do not neatly fit into computing, automotive, consumer or what have you. However, the lines are blurring because technologies borrowed from these markets are being incorporated into industrial applications faster than ever before. Key considerations for this market are reliability because downtime or failures in systems which must run 24x7 are expensive and time to repair and get a system back in service are crucial. Thankfully our friends in the automotive industry have made AEC-Q quality levels the standard – industrial customers will thankfully accept these quality levels and extended temperature ranges however they don’t need the PPAP’s and paperwork, but the quality process is just fine and can be successfully transferred to industrial applications. Another aspect borrowed from automotive which can be used in Industrial systems is longevity, just as in automotive system must be supported for a decade or more of product supply. This is in direct opposition to consumer electronics which have unprecedented change rates of every 6 months to a year parts go EOL. If companies wish to be in these markets, product longevity of 10+ years of guaranteed non-obsolesce is going to be a customer check box item along with the AEC-Q quality levels and temp ranges. The market is ripe for innovation and stands ready to revolutionize manufacturing again and drive efficiencies and data awareness in operations which have not been seen before.