Using Automotive-Grade Components for Your Industrial Applications

Kevin Parmenter, Director, Applications Engineering. TSC, America



Kevin Parmenter, Director, Applications Engineering. TSC, America

­The “Industrial Market” as defined by today’s electronics industry encompasses many applications that don’t fit into other categories. These applications have some similar characteristics; the main one being the need for high reliability. Basically, much of the equipment in the industrial market is intended for harsh outdoor applications exposed to repeated electrical transients and surges, or environments with wide and extreme temperature ranges, like aluminum smelting plants.

Another characteristic of the industrial market is the longevity of the equipment itself. I call this the Halley’s Comet effect: Once engineers design and prove a product, it’s common for a design to stay unchanged in production for a decade or more with no changes. Compare this to the fast-paced consumer electronics market where products reach an apogee of production and then in six months to a year the product is discontinued, and the industry is onto the next thing. The design cycle time for many industrial products is longer than the ramp rate to EOL time of many consumer products. We’ve seen warranties for industrial equipment go from a year to two years to five and seven years or more.

What does this mean for the design engineer? Don’t look for parts designed for the consumer electronics market for your industrial applications. When you approach a component supplier as an industrial customer, for instance, they may be focused on the consumer market and  your attempt to modulate their behavior to meet your needs will not be successful.The problem is that your production quantities will be a round-off error compared to consumer electronics market numbers, so you will end up chasing EOL issues before you even go into production. Additionally, consumer electronics components are typically rated and designed for 0-70 degrees C operation. But industrial applications usually require components with -55 to +150, or even +175 operation temperatures, which is the same as automotive components.

Like automotive applications, industrial applications value quality, which means reliability and longevity. Interestingly enough, the market driver for these attributes is the automotive marketplace, and this marketplace certainly does have the volumes to make a difference. So, look for suppliers who are laser focused on the automotive and industrial markets. And the really smart thing to do is to find an automotive part that works for your industrial application, and then find an identical part but without the “automotive-grade” label. In other words, find components backed by AEC-Q qualifications and reliability reports, MTBF-FIT data, certifications and compliance data, PCN-ECN processes, 10-year longevity, tin whisker data, etc., and then use the same parts, but without the paperwork.

This approach to component selection will give you the same high reliability, logevity and quality you need for your industrial applications – while saving you time and money in the long run.