Out of the ordinary

Seasonal patterns usually dictate a slump at the start of a new year, but 2010 is shaping up to be a bit different with semiconductor sales on the up. We bring you some of the latest releases to stand out from the crowd European semiconductor sales were actually up 7.1 per cent in March, according to the World Semiconductor Trade Statistics (WSTS). Sales in Europe grew faster than the worldwide market in March, on a three month rolling average basis, with this market surge making the first quarter of 2010 in Europe stronger than the last quarter of the previous year.
Bear in mind that this very positive development diverges from seasonal patterns, as usually the first quarter of the year is weaker than the previous quarter. Also unusually, the semiconductor market in China declined in the first quarter of 2010 compared to the last quarter of 2009.
Strong growth rates were observed for the main product categories, with flash memories and microprocessors in particular driving market growth in March.

Feeling powerful
Power products are also of interest, with growing focus on energy efficiency and a number of new controller devices hitting the market.
One such device is On Semiconductor’s new synchronous pulse width modulation (PWM) controller for consumer and industrial applications. There are three models in the range, all designed to provide maximum flexibility and a choice of functionality to simplify implementation. A wide input voltage range, from 4.7 to 28V, ensures the controllers can be used with a variety of input sources in consumer electronic equipment such as set-top-boxes and LCD televisions, as well as industrial and computing applications including printers, scanners and telecom systems.
On Semiconductor director for power switching products, John Blake, said: On Semiconductors expanding portfolio of synchronous PWM controllers and mosfets provide a full system solution to meet power management challenges. The new family of wide input voltage range controllers extends our high efficiency solutions to more applications and products while the enhanced features and performance will make it easier to design advanced power supplies.
PWM controller devices in the line-up provide a 1A integrated gate drive and are capable of producing output voltages as low as 0.6V. All three of the new synchronous PWM controllers feature an externally compensated transconductance error amplifier capable of being used with all ceramic output capacitors or electrolytic capacitors. Also included are an integrated boost diode that helps to reduce overall system size and cost and an integrated boost drive clamp to regulate the driver supply voltage to 7.6V to allow the use of lower voltage/higher efficiency mosfets.
Protection features include lossless current limit, short circuit protection, output overvoltage protection, output undervoltage protection and input undervoltage lockout.
Another controller to come to light is Linear’s Virtual Remote Sense controller, designed to eliminate the remote sense wires required to compensate for voltage drops in cables, wires and circuit board trace runs.
Voltage drops in wiring and cables cause load regulation errors and are usually corrected by an additional set of sensing wires. By continuously interrogating the line impedance and correcting the regulators output voltage, Linear’s new device maintains a corrected regulated voltage at the load regardless of current or line impedance. The three to 50V input voltage range addresses a variety of applications, including remote instrumentation, battery charging, wall adaptors, notebook power, surveillance equipment and halogen lighting.
According to vice president of engineering and CTO for Linear Technology, Robert Dobkin: The controller provides new functionality for power supply designs. Regulation is obtained without sense wires, eliminating the need for point-of-load regulators. Difficult regulation problems such as long wire runs or system retrofits can be accommodated. With halogen lights, the light output drops more quickly than power, so keeping the correct voltage more than compensates for any additional cost of the power supply.

Specialist solutions
Growth is evidently picking up in the consumer and industrial sectors, but what about the specialist markets, such as defence and aerospace. Here too there is an air of positivity, as specialist semiconductor business, E2V, illustrates.
E2Vs specialist semiconductor business marketing manager, Eric Marcelot, commented: We work at the high-reliability end of the semiconductor market, which is less sensitive to the global ebb and flow of demand against availability compared to the high volume mass market arena. That means that we take standard product from, for example, Freescale Semiconductor and repackage and retest to specific exacting requirements for aerospace and defence markets.
Looking forward to the rest of this year, we work closely with Freescale and other suppliers to project our requirements and we dont see any reasons to be concerned about the supply of the relatively low volumes of semiconductor components we source to produce specialist variants.

Looking up
Overall then, it seems the European semiconductor market is recovering, with some feature-packed technology advances along
the way to drive demand and boost sales.
World Semiconductor Trade Statistics (WSTS) reveal that European semiconductor sales in March 2010 amounted to US$ 3.084 billion. This corresponds to an increase of 42.0 per cent compared to the same month last year. On a year-to-date (YTD) basis, semiconductor sales increased by a similarly remarkable 42.0 per cent in 2010 versus the same period in the year 2009.
Note also that the exchange rate imbalance of the Euro compared to the US dollar has reduced its impact on the European sales picture in the last month. Measured in Euro, semiconductor sales were 2.232 billion Euros in March 2010, up 10.1 per cent on the previous month and up 34.1 per cent versus the same month a year ago. On a YTD basis, semiconductor sales increased by 34.1 per cent in 2010 versus the same period in the year 2009.
And the trend is not just evident in Europe. On a worldwide basis, semiconductor sales in March 2010 were US$ 23.060 billion, up 4.6 per cent versus the previous month. This results in an increase of 58.3 per cent versus the same month in 2009 and on a YTD basis it results in an increase of 58.3 per cent. As the figures themselves demonstrate things are looking up.