MCU (Microcontroller Unit) is a familiar microcontroller, a single-chip microcomputer that can perform a small amount of simple data operations, consisting of a central processing unit (CPU), flash memory, input/output (I/O), timer/calculator, digital/analog peripherals, and communication interface. 4-bit, 8-bit, 16-bit and 32-bit. As electronic products become intelligent, the high-end demand for automotive, network, industrial control, etc. has led to the mainstream of high-end 32-bit MCU chips.
8-bit and 32-bit MCUs are in competition with each other
From the development trend, the use cases of 4-bit and 16-bit MCU chips are becoming less and less, and 8-bit and 32-bit MCU chips are more active in the market now. In the past, when mechanical control and simple command control were the mainstream, 8-bit MCU single chip had a glorious time and was often used in remote control, power switch, monitor and keyboard, mouse control and other executive work, products such as motor, tool machine, beauty device, etc. With the booming development of the Internet of Things, high-end demand has driven new devices to the 32-bit MUC single chip, such as card readers, sensors, electronic locks, Bluetooth, air-tap machines and other product applications.
When choosing an MCU single-chip, users generally take into account system size, product size, cost, accessibility, latency, RAM efficiency, control and processing power. 8-bit MCU single-chip can perform simple logic operations, such as addition, subtraction, multiplication and division, compared to 32-bit MCU single-chip, 8-bit storage space is smaller and computational power is weaker, which is mostly used in simple and small systems. Compared to 32-bit MCU single-chip, 8-bit has less storage space and weaker computing power, and is mostly used in simple and small systems. 32-bit single-chip has the advantage of supporting old programming languages; 32-bit single-chip has accessibility and can be used in complex systems with better control and processing power, and can control more modules and devices. In terms of efficiency, the 8-bit MCU single chip is more efficient when dealing with simple computing tasks, while the 32-bit MCU single chip is more efficient when dealing with highly complex computing tasks.
In recent years, washing machines, dishwashers, stoves, refrigerators, air conditioners, microwave ovens and other white goods are gradually approaching the Internet of Things, intelligent demand has led to a number of products to upgrade the internal chip, such as the conversion of button-type operation knob to built-in touch screen operation mode, such upgrade demand coupled with automotive, network and industrial control needs, pushing up the demand for 32-bit MCU single chip, the mainstream position is invincible.
Edge computing accelerates the development of high-end MCU technology
With the rapid development of edge computing technology, people expect MCUs to have faster processing speed, more memory and security features, and better connectivity. On the other hand, Industry 4.0 and IIoT have enabled more sensors, instruments or devices to be interconnected to collect and analyze data for better productivity and efficiency. Therefore, seamless interconnection of all devices, avoiding communication delays, and high network security have become increasingly important, and these requirements have led to a higher demand for embedded memory and SRAM.
The low latency, low power consumption, high memory, high accuracy, data protection, and communication transmission capabilities of MCUs can help edge computing related applications such as AIoT and IIoT to achieve instant performance, with low power consumption, communication transmission, and data protection features being particularly important.
Ateli's Director of Product and Marketing, Li-Bo Du, pointed out that edge devices mostly perform data collection and communication transmission quickly within a short period of time, requiring low-power MCUs, while serial IoT systems rely on MCUs to provide stable communication transmission capabilities, and sensitive data generated during the connection process needs to be strictly protected. Therefore, in the process of data storage, protection, programming and operation, the application and management of MCU access rights become very important.
In the fields of Embedded ML and Tiny ML, the advantages of MCU such as low power consumption, fast development speed, and low cost are helpful for AI computing and digital signal processor (DSP) applications, and can also be applied to embedded machine learning such as detection, classification, recognition, prediction, and inference judgment of sensing and speech, and high-end MCU even has the ability to Perform computer vision and imaging applications.
Consumer electronics headwinds look to high-end MCUs
As the epidemic cools down in 2022, inflation and interest rate haze will follow, including smart phones, PCs, notebooks, home appliances and other products, demand has significantly cooled.
According to IC Insights, automotive and industrial control import 32-bit MCU demand is strong, the annual MCU output value in 2022 is about $21.5 billion, with an annual growth rate of 10%, and the average MCU unit price compound annual growth rate (CAGR) in 2021-2026 is 3.5%, of which the automotive MCU market growth momentum is higher than other applications.
Automotive MCU sales will jump 23% to $7.6 billion in 2021, grow 14% in 2022, and 16% in 2023, with more than 75% of automotive MCU sales coming from 32-bit, or $5.8 billion. As for 16-bit and 8-bit MCU performance is slightly inferior, 16-bit MCU compound growth rate of 2021-2026 is about 1.6%, 8-bit and 4-bit MCU output value is flat.
Research agency TrendForce pointed out that along with the complexity of automotive functions, driving the 32-bit MCU chip in the car computer ECU (Electronic Control Unit) jumped to the mainstream of the market specifications, the estimated penetration rate of more than 60% in 2023, the output value of $ 7.4 billion, and will develop towards the 28nm (and below) process. MCU chips are responsible for data processing and computing in traditional automotive control systems, and the current average usage of MCU in a single vehicle is 50.
Overall, although the consumer inventory continues to be regulated in the fourth quarter of 2022, and the supply chain companies that ship mainly consumer MCUs are not only experiencing a slowdown in shipment momentum, but also the pressure of MCU product price reductions, making their operations highly testing, the market demand for 32-bit MCU chips continues to be robust, especially the long-term trend of automotive demand remains unchanged. Looking ahead to 2023, the inventory correction may continue until the first half of 2023, and after the negative factors such as inventory de-inventory blunting, MCU demand is still promising.