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ROHM Recognized The Importance Of “Functional Safety” Early On

Satish R M
Satish R.M, Automotive Product Strategy Group, ROHM Semiconductor India

Starting 2019 and the epiphany of ideas on EV and foreword of xEV will certainly create a new field-day for semiconductor players. When said, the precursors of modernizing power devices used today and tomorrow notes a name like ROHM. From safety, ADAS or the next-gen vehicles getting electrified, Satish R.M, Automotive Product Strategy Group, ROHM Semiconductor India explains Niloy Banerjee, Consultant Editor, BISinfotech on how the Japanese semiconductor company is blazing a trail on next-gen automotive designs adhering to the current market scenario. Edited Nub.  

  1. What key technologies will rev-up the EV market in 2019 and what key advancements you foresee in the automotive semiconductor market alongside?

With the shift to xEV due to global environmental regulations, it is expected that automotive electronics are required to be of further higher efficiency and smaller size. In this situation, ROHM focuses on especially “Main Inverters”, ”DC/DC Converters”, ”On-board Chargers” and “Electric Compressors” in the EV dedicated units. We will contribute to improve the unit performance by proposing the solution, combining power devices such as SiC, IGBT and SJ-MOSFET, driver ICs and power management ICs to control them and general-purpose products such as power diode and shunt resistor.

2. Many semiconductor companies are finding a leading-edge in an automotive audio& video system and ADAS and some advantage in the processor market. Will these be the tip for 2019 or any more advantageous segments are expected to park?

Technology development in the automobile industry has been in response to increasing requirements for safety, comfort and environmental performance. Although the automotive industry in recent years has been undergoing rapid advancement, technological innovation in 2019 will continue to advance based on these concepts.

For example, electronics is playing an increasing role in the transition from gasoline-powered to hybrid- and electric-powered vehicles, in order to improve environmental performance. In a broader sense, the evolution of semiconductor components will become essential to reducing energy expenditure and waste.

Automotive safety is another equally important aspect. Recently, ADAS is attracting greater attention in the automotive market. Although there are still a number of challenges that must be overcome, the day when automated driving, as seen in science fiction, becomes reality, is not far.

We believe that our technological innovations contribute to improve safety, comfort and environmental performance of cars.

3. Winning a share in the automotive application is challenging, given carmakers rigorous qualification process and strong risk aversion (for quality reasons), as well as the industry’s need for long-term supply agreements and lengthy product cycles. How does your company look into these snags?

ROHM has the advantage for important factors, such as quality, reliability and long-term, stable supply, for the automotive market.

ROHM has adopted a vertically-integrated production system, from development to manufacturing, within the Group based on a corporate mission of ‘Quality First’ established since the company was founded, making it possible to incorporate a high level of quality into each process while achieving accurate traceability and an optimized supply chain. In addition, we have also established dedicated production lines for automotive products and implemented product development that conforms to standards related to quality management systems (IATF 16949) and electronic component reliability (AEC-Q100/101). Moreover, in recent years, technical innovation represented by ADAS has accelerated, and to ensure the highest level of safety in vehicles it is necessary to achieve safety targets at the semiconductor level that make up automotive components. So, we received certification for its development process under the ISO 26262 functional safety standard for automotive products by third-party certification authority TÜV Rheinland in Germany, ahead of its competitors.

With these strengths, ROHM is steadily growing the sales in the automotive sector. As of March 31st, 2018, the automotive sector accounted for 32% of ROHM’s net sales and is expected to grow up to 34% during this financial year ending March, 2019. We also target to achieve 50% in both the automotive and industrial sectors by the financial year of 2020.

4. Future of automotive semiconductor market, and your company’s excellence to be a juggernaut in the coming years?

ROHM has responded to customer satisfaction for many years by providing discrete products and analog power products such as power management IC and motor control IC. The comprehensive solution proposal, combining ICs, discrete and module, is also one of our strengths.

In the automotive market, accelerated technology development for EV and ADAS (Advanced Driver Assistance Systems) has resulted in increased number of orders and new demand for electronics.

In this situation, ROHM will expand its market share by advancing technological innovation and increasing production capacity for the small signal discrete (transistors and diodes).

5. Cars with active safety features simply need new equipment that does not broadly exist in today’s vehicles, such as cameras, radar, lidar and sensor fusions. How prominent is your focus into these technologies alongside the EV proliferation?

ROHM recognized the importance of “functional safety” early on. For example, ROHM provides chipsets designed to drive and control automotive LCDs, including larger high-resolution monitors used for navigation and instrument clusters. Each IC is designed to share information as needed, achieving automotive-grade reliability and for the first time, supporting functional safety in display devices. This chipset ensures high reliability for LCD monitors used for side mirrors and speedometers.

In addition, as we mentioned above, ROHM received certification for its development process under the ISO 26262 functional safety standard for automotive products by TÜV Rheinland. As the role of electronic parts in vehicles continues to increase, ROHM is committed to manufacturing products that will contribute to safer, more environment-friendly vehicles in the future.

  1. High-quality standards, eminently, offer significant performance improvements over current offerings while understanding vehicle usage or specific systems-usage patterns very well are key, experts mention developing a less expensive alternatives to IGBT would be the way. Your comments to it.

Cost comparison of devices alone is not always the best choice.

For example, if the inverter of electric vehicle utilizes SiC power devices, they enable to make the battery size smaller while maintaining the same mileages. By reducing the battery capacity, it can lead to an economic benefit if the overall power train system is considered.

If SiC power devices are further adopted in the near future and markets expand as a result, the economic difference for Si IGBT will be small, and their advantage may be further increased accordingly.

  1. Power electronics for 48V mild hybrid and beyond, carefully explaining the rapidly increasing complexity of power circuits and peripherals for these and successor powertrains. Your focus into it?

ROHM has also focused on 48V mild hybrid vehicles and proceeded to product development.

For example, ROHM provides a DC/DC converter with built-in MOSFET that achieves the highest step-down ratio in the industry (at 2MHz) required for these applications. The BD9V100MUF-C integrates ultra-high-speed pulse control technology (Nano Pulse Control) created by combining proprietary circuit design and layout with original processes, enabling low voltage 2.5V output from 60V (max.) input at 2MHz (resulting in the industry’s highest step-down ratio: 24:1). This makes it possible to miniaturize peripheral components while configuring voltage conversion from high to low voltages using a single IC whereas 2 or more ICs are required in conventional systems, contributing to greater miniaturization and simpler system design.

  1. Lastly, witnessing the current Indian scenario, how you think EV will come up un the Indian market and challenges and scopes it keeps for semiconductor players, deriving, high-efficiency, reliability keeping the cost card on deck?

ROHM is closely tracking the Evolution of Policy framework in India ever since 2017, when NITI Aayog kickstarted its initiatives and dialogue with Key Industry stakeholders, to collectively define a roadmap towards sustainable mobility for the entire nation. Though we see the overall direction and efforts that include key policy decisions and attempts in providing incentives to accelerate the shift to a transformative mobility scenario by 2030, challenges still remain in transitioning to a future driven only by Electric Mobility.

Mass, space and energy efficiency being the main focus for transformative mobility, will require enabling several options and alternatives for an effective multi-modal transport system, necessitating long-term clarity with regards to the policy framework and structure of incentives both on the Demand-side and Supply-side. In addition, developments in the EV Supply Chain and Charging Infrastructure are critical success factors impacting adoption of EV Mobility across Vehicle Segments. Moreover, the impending BS-VI compliance by 2020 and the resulting investments and commitment by OEMs in the current value chain will only hinder simultaneous investments and further delay in addressing the needs of the EV ecosystem.

However new entrants continuously threaten to disrupt the existing automotive value chain and provide renewed impetus in building the EV ecosystem. Alongside, the innovations in alternate energy storage mechanisms and varying business models challenge the mobility landscape domination only by EVs. Hence it is prudent to expect the co-existence of Hybrids and Technology Improvements that can Improve Fuel Economy and Reduce Emissions at the same time, in the immediate to near future.

Nevertheless, Urban areas will see an uptake in EV adoption due to Policy Intervention in Public Transport and Government Fleet operations. Introduction of Charging Stations by Private Parties with Laws allowing for resale of Energy from the Electric Grid and emergence of Battery swapping for Public transport and e3Ws (rickshaws and autos) will only accelerate this adoption. Furthermore, commercial usage of 2Ws that may include Rentals, Delivery and Courier services will most likely create an upswing in adoption of 2W EVs due to lower TCO (Total Cost of Ownership). Ride Sharing will contribute to a similar adoption trend in 4W Passenger Vehicle segment mainly dominated by the Cab Aggregators, Car Rentals and Corporate Cabs.

ROHM is carefully monitoring these upcoming trends in EV adoption and gearing itself to address them sufficiently with an effective Go-To-Market Strategy. ROHM is also aligning with Partners across the Value Chain in further enabling greater traction with its customer base, to adequately overcome the challenges in transitioning to an Electric Mobility future in the long term.

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Niloy Banerjee

A generic movie-buff, passionate and professional with print journalism, serving editorial verticals on Technical and B2B segments, crude rover and writer on business happenings, spare time playing physical and digital forms of games; a love with philosophy is perennial as trying to archive pebbles from the ocean of literature. Lastly, a connoisseur in making and eating palatable cuisines.

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