STMicroelectronics hosted its 4th edition Industrial Summit, under the theme of “Powering Your Sustainable Innovation. The annual Industrial Summit included full range of leading-edge demonstrations together with insightful technical sessions presented by ST and its technical partners, sharing the complete ecosystem to power attendees’ next designs and innovations.
In a media briefing Francesco MUGGERI, VP of Marketing & Applications, Power Discrete and Analog, APeC/China along with Allan LAGASCA, Head of Automation Competence Center, Marketing Director for Industrial Products, Power Discrete and Analog, APeC/China, Seven ZENG, Application Engineer, Motor Control Competence Center, Power Discrete and Analog, APeC/China, Alex LI, Application Manager, Power & Energy Competence Center, Power Discrete and Analog, APeC/China, Mike CHEN, Application Development Manager, Power & Energy Competence Center, Power Discrete and Analog, APeC/China and Michael KUANG, Commercial Marketing Director, Power Discrete and Analog, APeC/China shared his insights on ST market focus, trends in sustainability and market growth. The 3 main focus are: The first one is helping to generate clean energy. The second one is helping to create efficiency on the solution and energy transmission. And another one is helping with intelligence by introducing automation, therefore reducing energy.
Infrastructure is the next challenge we will have to face. Following the technology of electronic vehicles, charging station technology must advance further and more quickly. What are your innovations, developments and go to market strategy for the battery storage and management segment?
Francesco: We cannot drive a car if we do not charge it. So infrastructure needs to be developed before the electric vehicles run on the road. This is for sure the concern we have. On this, we somehow know that the infrastructure for electric vehicles is not moving as fast as the development of electric vehicles by themselves. So this is for sure something under our consideration.
ST has a very wide portfolio to support this application. We know this market has several levels of requirements. We have requirements for charging auto when you have limited power. And you have typical (requirement) below 3 kW, and we have others around 6 kW. They are always charged AC, generally in public places or built on purpose in garage. The other are the public ones in DC/DC. The DC/DC allows you to charge very fast and is typically above 150 kW. and you can charge within about forty minutes, but the target is to reach a charge of below fifteen minutes.
The customers’ requirements are IGBT products for switch, SiC products and high voltage MOSFET mostly. But also you need the intelligent and digital design, and this requires MCU. The MCU is available at ST. We have been talking about STM32G4. And we also have more advanced MCU when other functions are required at the same time. And we also have the gate drivers to drive those products. Plus we have other analogs, general purpose analog, current sensing and so on. We have all the products. We can cover 95% of the BOM of those applications.
From the application point of view, in the Competence Center, we are also targeting to develop solutions with the DC/DC 30kW. And we are planning for a 60kW. Now you need to know those boards I am mentioning are used in the modular way. This implies that you need to put in parallel many boards to reach 250 kW. So perhaps, let’s make an example. If you want to use 30 kW board and you want to reach 250 kW, you need to use something like 15 boards. The contents of semiconductor for a charging station like this, it goes above 2,000 US dollars. So for us, it is extremely attractive. Now, I think I have described how we can support this from an application point of view.
From a product point of view, SiC products will be the main driver. In addition, we need to have the modules because when you go above 30kW solution, you require modules and preferably, SiC modules. So we are equipped, we are looking at this, and it is also one of the key focuses in the our Power and Energy Competence Center.
How is ST enabling the many different verticals it covers ensure efficient operations and overall power savings?
Francesco: There is the need on one side to reduce the dependence from fossil energies. We want to reduce this because of the pollution, and because of the CO2 emission. This is one direction. And when we think how to reduce this, we think how to replace the current energy production from coal, oil or whatever with the solar or wind farms, and this is what you see. But in reality, when you talk about solar energy, you talk about 2 classes. One is the centralized energy production and you talk about production above 400 kW. And another one is the distributed one. And when you talk about the distributed one, you talk about the solar panels you put at your home, the solar panels you put in your buildings, and the solar panels you put in your battery. For example, for the distributed concept, you can have your factory totally independent on any grid. On the other side, centralized production is for the grid. So if you combine these two, you start to see that there are several approaches to the problem.
Another sign of energy independence comes from our country concept. That is one country doesn’t want to be dependent, so it does not want to buy energy from another country. In that case, you have to consider that even if you change, you do not use oil, but you go and buy solar panels, so you become dependent on the country that is producing solar panels. So in that sense, independence is not my target to answer. To give you a clear answer, I see something which is not just these renewable energies. There are studies we are working for what we call Tokamak. It is a kind of fusion energy, so the fusion of atoms to create energy. And we are working on prototypes in many countries.
What are the current trends in motor control and what is ST’s current position in the motor control industry?
Seven Zeng: The most important trend must be enhancing energy efficiency and constant energy efficiency improvement. As mentioned in the speech this morning, 50% of the world’s energy is consumed by motors. So there is great potential for energy-efficiency improvement and CO2 emission reduction by improving the energy efficiency of motors and their drivers.
How to achieve energy efficiency and emission reduction? I think it can be done in two dimensions. On the one hand, the application of new materials, from silicon-based materials to SiC, and then to GaN, will surely improve energy efficiency step by step. On the other hand, from the software technology perspective, we can develop more advanced algorithms to achieve energy efficiency. The methods mentioned above are all at the device level. I think there is another dimension as Francesco mentioned, which is to save energy and reduce emission from a broader perspective, for instance, adjust the use of energy according to different working conditions.
I think the second major trend is the intelligent motor control. This “Intelligent Trend” can also be discussed in two dimensions. Firstly, we hopethe perception range of motors can be expanded. For instance, by using various sensors including MEMS, motors can make many decisions proactively and become more intelligent. Secondly, through constant iteration and improvement of MCU computing power, motors can identify environment intelligently. For instance, through the typical inertia identification in the servo driver, or the online identification of certain parameters of the motor itself, motors can optimize its performance. I believe these are the two major development trends for motor control. As for ST’s position within the industry, I think no matter what our current position is, we will surely do our best.
In terms of challenges, there are many (goals) we aim to achieve, such as (meeting) the sensor and algorithm requirements mentioned just now. Everyone is still expecting things like these, or they are independent for these things. But for many algorithms, such as the predictive control which involves the use of sensors to conducton-site sampling, we just put forward the concept, which may be realized, or have some small-scale applications and on-site applications. But for many similar concepts, it may take a certain amount of time for them to get promoted, accepted and then realized. In addition, many more technologies may still remain at the laboratory. It is a long process and requires the integration of theoretical study and industrial production for many technologies to get researched, promoted and industrialized. Of course, ST, including its Motor Control Department, is doing a lot of such things, such as building joint laboratories or cooperating with universities and other companies. We have been working on this for long.
Can you introduce ST’s current industrial solutions for medical applications?
Allan LAGASCA: We have the ultrasound, and we are basically working with customers, especially in China to this market. But as you know, medical also has a lot of different equipments. You’ve also seen we have some STSPIn32G4 for a respiratory and this requires motor control. And for sure, we also need to be able to understand how is the acceptance of this kind of products and solutions in China market, and also understand the regulations in China market with respect to products and solutions to meet (the requirements of) Food and Drug Administration of China. So each country has different types of regulations. We not only have to have a solution, but also we need to have a medical grade product to fit this kind of application. These are the things that we’re looking at in order to address medical and healthcare.
On digitalization of this market, there’s a lot of data that needs to be understood, and medical information also needs to be secured. A lot of safety and security is required when gathering data. It’s not only that we use it for the solutions in product, but also we need to understand whether customers and patients allow us to use this data. So all these things need to be understood, and this needs to be realized as well country by country, understanding the regulations of each country when providing solutions.
Francesco: First of all, it is extremely important to understand that once we talk about medical segment, the customers, for the majority of the time, need to pay for the insurance and the equipment, and it involves or the government healthcare systems. So if we are not offering our customers products suitable and compliant with regulations, it is difficult to get adopted. For example, just to list some of the applications we are working on, we are working with one of leaders of the market for sleeping apnea. And we are also working for a PCR solution. We have a PCR solution in ST both with the cartridge to the test and the machine to perform the test. And you know how these kinds of solutions are very actual nowadays. So this gives you a complete understanding. Additionally, we also have some products close to medical, all the products for vital signaling. So all the products are capable to pick up vital signals from our bodies, and with this we are working with personal electronics segment as well because those are mostly sports equipment products. But the line between sports product and medical product is very tiny., for example, the watch that is very popular.
What are the main applications of ST’s WBG technology in the industrial market? Please share the strength of ST’s WBG technology in the industrial field.
Mike CHEN: The materials of WBG semiconductors mentioned today fall within two categories, one is SiC and the other is GaN. As for the market size of SiC and ST’s position in the SiC market, we have just shared some information about it. Today, I will mainly talk about ST’s GaN products. ST can provide a rich variety of GaN products, including 650VGaN power transistors, and G-FET, G-HEMT, G-driver series. Meanwhile, we have the MasterGaN series, which is the first GaN solution that integrates two GaN power transistors, drivers and logic control units within the industry. Moreover, we have the VIPerGaN series, which integrates a QR flyback converter and a 650V GaN power transistor. Furthermore, we have G driver series, which can provide driver circuits for IGBT, SiC MOSFET and GaN. Therefore, we have a wide variety of GaN products.
Secondly, from the solution perspective, we provide customers with not only products, but alsovery complete GaN solutions. For example, we have the 45WVIPerGaN-based USB PD adapter, the 65W ST-One and MasterGaN-based USB PD adapter, and the 200W AC/DC adapter which I introduced this morning. These GaN solutions can provide reference designs to our customers and speed up their R&D process. These GaN products can be used in different industrial and power supply fields. For example, while used in AC/DC adapters, GaN products can reduce their sizes and improve their efficiency. While used in fields like server power supplies and communication power supplies, GaN products can improve efficiency, and help customers better meet the efficiency requirements for 80+ Platinum and Titanium certification.
For solar inverters, our GaN products can help reduce their sizes and weight. Therefore, ST’s GaN products are rich in variety and can be used in a wide range of fields. Here is a chart which shows the size of the GaN market. This is the data by a semiconductor research institute. In 2021, the GaN market was US$126 million, and it is predicted that this market will increase to US$2.1 billion in 2027, with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 59%. So, the GaN market is very large. We believe that in the next few years it will develop very fast. ST is also continuously investing in GaN to strengthen our leadership in the market. We believe that we will achieve better development.
Francesco: Just one point, it is 2.1 billion US dollars. Here you can see on my screen the power supply, UPS, industrial motor, EV charger as mentioned before, just to mention some of the applications for SiC.
Energy storage is getting more and more attention from countries all over the world. What is the new layout of ST in terms of products and strategies? How do you see the future development of energy storage market?
Francesco: What I see today is that energy storage is extremely important. Thinking about what I said before, we need to change the way we perceive the energy production, so not just centralized but also distributed. I want to give you one example. If today you want to build a new stadium for football, for example, and you know the need for a football event is perhaps three to four hours lighting once per week, or perhaps once each two weeks, but let’s assume once a week. Do you need the energy coming from the grid? Perhaps yes, perhaps not. But you have a huge surface on the roof of the stadium. And this space can be used to collect energy all the week along. And after one day per week, one night, you need to use those (energy). And this energy will be available just if you store it.
You need to be aware that the solar inverters are generally also classified in motor or hybrid. When we say hybrid, we mean that they can convert the DC voltage to AC and transfer the energy to net and the grid, or can do a DC/DC, from a DC coming from the solar panel to a DC that goes to the storage. So this conversion is done within the inverter with the dedicated topology. And we are equipped to support it. The products are always the same, IGBTs, SiC, GaN perhaps in the future and the analog ICs and we have all the elements to support it. Another element that is important here is also to have the battery management ICs. Here we also have the products. Those are coming from our experience for the battery management for automotive. So we’re taking the battery management ICs from automotive and we apply to the industrial segment as well. Of course, the products will not be exactly the same, but we are able to do this. So we have a wide range of products to support it.
Michael KUANG: We have exhibited a large number of energy storage products. Those products are powered by ST and have been produced on a large scale by ST’s customers. Moreover, today our two customers also delivered speeches around photovoltaics and energy storage. So ST attaches great importance to the energy storage market. For energy storage, ST not only has a complete product line, but alsohas helped customers improve efficiency greatly. In particular, the SiC products can not only help customers improve efficiency, but also enable them to develop some low-noise and fan-free solutions. Our STM32H7 MCU is a rare Arm-based solution that can provide core algorithm control function. So ST not only provides a complete solution, but also helps our customers improve their efficiency.
Alex LI: . First of all, we all agree that energy storage is a very important development direction now. Photovoltaic (solar energy) is a very good green energy, but generally it is unstable. During the daytime, a lot of electricity may be generated through the photovoltaic (solar energy), but electricity may not be available when it is needed at night. Therefore, we need to store this energy either in grid or store locally. If it is stored in the grid, it has very high requirements for the dynamic response of the grid. As Francesco said, we can store electricity generated by photovoltaic solar energy every week and use it up during the football game on weekends. Energy storage is a very important direction and a very important “system”. Furthermore, the energy storage system will play a very important role in our future dynamic grid. It is not an independent system for energy storage, but a system that works together with the photovoltaic system and even the entire power supply network.
The electric vehicles and charging piles that we often see are our very important development direction, and they are also the direction in which ST will provide very advanced products and solutions. Suppose that everyone within a community needs to charge their electric cars, how high the power density will be?
At present, it is impossible for the grid to provide so much power instantly. How can we address it? Energy storage is a great way to solve the problem. But how to provide the power? Whose battery should provide the power and how much power should they provide? This is an issue of dynamic balance. It is actually an extension of the smart grid––the extension of the smart grid consisting of a new energy network and a new energy storage network under the new circumstance. This involves our new products, our new solutions, and our intelligent communication equipment. On the one hand, there are high-performance and high-efficiency power supply products and energy storage products which use ST’s products including SiC and GaN. On the other hand, there are photovoltaic systems including the centralized and distributed ones, which ensure high efficiency in power generation. Further, there are also our dynamic metering products for electric energy, our smart meters, the information management network that connects them, wired and wireless communication systems, and ST’s industry-leading power line carrier （PLC）communication system. These are our solutions which are being promoted, designed or deployed. Therefore, we have the solutions and know-how for the new dynamic smart grid in which we seek for rapid development in energy storage and produce energy through photovoltaic systems and new energy sources.
The last point I want to mention is that we not only provide products, but also provide technical services. For instance, in the Power & Energy Competence Center where Mike and I work, we have a team dedicated to developing reference solutions on smart photovoltaic systems, smart energy storage and smart grid, aiming to provide better support for our industry and customers.