Infineon, through relentless innovations, has made the barely visible electronic components an indispensable part of our daily lives. They help to feed regenerative energy into power grids with almost zero losses, tame power-hungry computers, safeguard the data flying through cyberspace and make cars more energy-efficient. Vivek Mahajan, Division Head, Industrial power control for Asia Pacific, Infineon Technologies, in conversation with ELE Times discusses the power semiconductor and the market. Excerpts from the interview.
ELE Times: What are the current global trends in the Power Semiconductor market and how do you foresee the market to grow in the next couple of years?
Vivek Mahajan: We expect that the growth in the Industrial, Consumer, Automotive and Chip Card ICs segments of the semiconductor industry will outpace the total semiconductor market in the next 4 years. Infineon, with its technology and products in the four divisions Industrial Power Control, Power Management and Multimarket, Automotive and Chip Card and Security is well positioned to profit from the developments we foresee. And our market assessment is supported by IHS and a report they issued in September last year. The industrial segment covers a wide spectrum of applications along the entire power value chain, starting with power generation including renewable energy conversion, to transmission and a broad range of consumption. The consumption area includes various applications ranging from traction, CAV, general purpose drives, conveyors, home appliances and robotics, to data servers, power tools, lighting, consumer gadgets in the low power arena.
The major trends in the industrial segment are industrial automation due to higher labour cost, and rapid urbanization demanding mass transport systems not only within cities but also for commuters. After we have seen the success of the Paris negotiations on climate fostered by the UN, the legislative push for higher mix of renewable energy sources will have to be intensified. In general we feel very comfortable that semiconductor technology that enables higher power density and with that, higher energy efficiency, will profit from these trends.
Even though the semiconductor itself is not noticed at all by the consumer, up to 90 percent of innovations in vehicles, for example, are implemented today by means of electronics. Progress in electronics in turn is based nearly entirely on the pace of innovation in semiconductors. In automotive, power and sensors are among the fastest growing product categories with Y-Y growth of 11 percent. (Source: Strategic Analytics, Apr 2015). The global trends in the automotive segment, for example ADAS, xEV, connectivity, and advanced security – are significantly increasing the semi content per vehicle. Legislations in favour of CO2 reduction will push for improvements in internal combustion engine and adoption of EV and HEV. Semiconductors and innovative manufacturing technologies are also helping to reduce system cost to enable wider adoption of advanced safety and comfort features.
ELE Times: How is technology changing with this growth?
Vivek Mahajan: The semiconductor industry is particularly exciting because of its rapid and significant changes. About every three to five years, a new technology generation emerges. Even the automotive industry that is characterized by longer development cycles recently had to experience how quickly new suppliers can move the market. It was as recent as in 2008 when Tesla entered serial production with the Roadster. Since that time, the company also sells electric components to established car manufacturers or home energy storage systems known as powerwall to end customers.
In a rapidly changing market, it is necessary to consider whether a recipe for success might lead to a dead end over the longer term. This is especially true when you focus on technology, a key element in semiconductors. Here, it is warranted to find a compromise between continuity and change. Technology must serve a purpose which is of major relevance for our society, and move people and markets. We make life easier, safer and greener – with technology that achieves more, consumes less and is accessible to everyone. Microelectronics from Infineon is the key to a better future. We primarily set ourselves apart through innovation and find substantially more room for developing our strengths in growing markets.
ELE Times: Which are the key sectors where you are investing for solving current challenges?
Vivek Mahajan: On a more general level, we see three major challenges modern societies are facing today: energy efficiency, mobility and security. Why? Electricity will remain our main source of power in thefuture. But we must use it more efficiently. Our semiconductor technologies are building more efficiency into the entire energy value chain – from generation through transmission to consumption. Everyone wants to be mobile. But the increasing urbanization and the pressing need to protect our climate call for new forms of mobility. Besides more energy-efficient cars, we also need sustainable and affordable concepts for localand long-distance travel. Our daily lives are shaped by digital services. And all modern communication media – from the Internet to electronic passports – must be safeguarded against misuse to protect personal data. These are three sectors in which we build up system understanding so that we can now provide solutions to our customers which set them apart from their competition.
To give you an inside to our approach let’s take the example of the major home appliance (MHA) market: In 2011, out of the estimated 420m units of electric motor based home appliances, only about 20 percent are based on Variable Speed Drive (VSD) technology. Growing demand for MHA will put a strain on energy supplies. The need for energy efficiency will continue to drive VSD penetration rate in MHA segment.
It is in this regards that we took shares in LS Power Semitech Co., Ltd., a company established in 2009 as a joint-venture of Infineon and LS Industrial Systems in Korea. The strategic acquisition increased our global footprint in the growing market segment of Intelligent Power Modules (IPM) which enable higher energy efficiency in consumer appliances such as refrigerators, freezers, washing machines, dryers, and air conditioners. In May 2015 we announced the acquisition of the outstanding shares. The acquisition of International Rectifier can also be seen in this light. They have perfectly matched with our portfolio to address the growing demand for energy efficiency in MHA. Thanks to these acquisitions Infineon in 2014 was ranked among the top-5 players in the market for IPMs for the first time. In this year,the market for IPMs amounted to 1.26 billion US-Dollars in total.