Recently, 17 departments including the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, the Ministry of Education, and the Ministry of Public Security jointly issued the “Robot﹢” Application Action Implementation Plan, proposing the development goals of manufacturing robots in 2025 and ten application scenarios for robots. The industry believes that the release of this policy means the arrival of the “robot﹢” era, robots will be applied in a wider range, and manufacturing robots will usher in huge development opportunities.
With the development of robot technology, the application fields of robots are becoming wider and wider, and the market has also begun to develop accordingly. The Chinese Institute of Electronics predicts that the global robot market will reach US$51.3 billion in 2022, with an average annual growth rate of 14% from 2017 to 2022. According to a research report by Boston Consulting Group, the global robotics market is expected to grow nearly 10 times in the next 10 years, and by 2030, the global robotics market will reach 160 billion to 260 billion US dollars.
The Robotics Market Takes Off
The “Robot﹢” Application Action Implementation Plan includes ten key areas of application, namely manufacturing, agriculture, construction, energy, trade and logistics in the field of economic development, and medical health, elderly care services, education, and business community services in the fields of social and people’s livelihood. , safety emergency and extreme environment applications.
In the field of industrial machinery, the robot industry market is growing strongly. Manufacturing is the first robot application field mentioned in the plan released this time. With shrinking multi-national workforces and aging populations creating labor supply shortages and rising costs, improving process efficiency and automation is more urgent than ever. As a result, the use of multi-axis robots capable of performing a variety of manipulation and transportation tasks is rapidly expanding in manufacturing and other workplaces. By promoting the construction of intelligent manufacturing demonstration factories and developing intelligent manufacturing systems based on industrial robots, the digital transformation and intelligent transformation of the manufacturing industry will be accelerated.
In addition to industrial robots, the three-year epidemic has also allowed the service robot market to take shape. Anti-epidemic series robots have become a new force in epidemic prevention and control, and “contactless” unmanned delivery has become a new focus. It is estimated that the global service robot market will reach USD 21.7 billion in 2022. In 2024, the global service robot market is expected to grow to 29 billion US dollars.
Regardless of industrial robots or service robots, these robots are combining information technology to improve perception, computing, and execution capabilities. While the level of robot intelligence is improving, the demand for chips is also increasing. So which chip products are expected to benefit?
Which chips does the robot fly?
When applied in the field of robotics, FPGA chips have the advantages of high speed, parallelism, extremely rich computing and pin resources, flexible functions, direct implementation of algorithms by hardware, simple and efficient operand access mechanism, and direct detection of the underlying hardware by means of development and debugging. It is a common practice in the industry to apply FPGA in servo drives. FPGA is stronger than CPU in executing image processing algorithms, and is the optimal solution; when executing artificial intelligence algorithms, FPGA is the mainstream solution alongside GPU, and in terms of power consumption Has a very big advantage. In addition to shortening development and verification cycles compared to ASIC development, using FPGAs means that logic can be changed quickly if problems arise, or functional requirements can be modified or enhanced if necessary.
The characteristics of the FPGA chip can improve servo control performance and reduce power consumption; in addition, the FPGA chip can provide a variety of hardware IPs including PCI Express, thereby promoting the integration of peripheral logic while ensuring the reliability of the bus connection. Miniaturize and reduce power consumption. Reduced power consumption means fanless enclosures can be used, eliminating the need for wear-prone mechanical parts and avoiding dust inhalation.
Due to the long supply times of robots, especially in the industrial sector, maintenance considerations require extended equipment supply periods, as industrial equipment typically has a lifespan of 10 years or more. The extended product lifecycle of FPGAs meets the needs of customers in the industrial sector.
MCU is the most widely used choice in the robot execution layer. As the core control device of industrial robots, MCU will also benefit from the rapid growth of the robot market. In a single robot arm of an industrial robot, about 80% of the built-in controllers are MCU chips on average.
For the MCU in the application direction of the robot, in addition to providing an easy-to-develop embedded platform and design tools, it is also very important to establish a complete communication environment around the MCU to handle various industrial communication protocols such as USB and SPI. Compared with traditional industrial robots, humanoid robots have more complex motion patterns, which require high-precision control of the motor’s position, direction, speed and torque. The MCU can perform complex, high-speed calculations required for motor control. Current robot solutions include single-motor platforms (one MCU controls one motor) and dual-motor platforms (one MCU controls two motors). The sum of the two motor powers of the dual-motor platform is less than the maximum power of a single motor.
In the future, MCUs designed with more advanced technology will use higher-performance cores, and their performance will be greatly improved, and the market demand will increase rapidly. Under the background of the global MCU market cake growing year by year and the replacement of domestic MCUs, domestic MCU manufacturers are expected to break through foreign monopoly.
DSP (Digital Signal Processing) is digital signal processing technology, and DSP chip refers to a chip that can realize digital signal processing technology. The interior of the DSP chip adopts the Harvard structure that separates the program and data, has a special hardware multiplier, widely uses pipeline operations, and provides special DSP instructions, which can be used to quickly implement various digital signal processing algorithms.
DSP chip has been developed rapidly since its birth, benefiting from the development of integrated circuits on the one hand, and benefiting from the huge market on the other hand. In just a few decades, DSP chips have been widely used in many fields such as communications, radar, imaging, military, instruments, automation, and signal processing.
DSP chips are used in the field of industrial robots, which is equivalent to playing the role of joints. With the control of DSP, the robot responds more quickly and moves more precisely. Industrial robots need to process a large amount of data in their work. As the application of industrial robots becomes more and more extensive and popular, DSP chips are used more and more in this area, and their importance, economy and practicality will be reflected.
The traditional industrial control and power supply industry is the cornerstone supporting the steady development of the IGBT market. Industrial control is the largest application field of IGBT, and the demand is growing steadily. With the deepening of industrial automation, widely deployed industrial robots and intelligent machine tools rely on powerful and flexible AC motors, servo motors, and energy-saving frequency converters and power supply units.
IGBT power semiconductor devices are core devices in the field of power electronics applications. Taking electrical energy as the processing object, the electrical energy is rectified, stabilized, switched, and frequency-converted through power electronics technology to achieve high-efficiency and high-quality conversion. Power semiconductor devices are the core devices that constitute power electronic conversion devices, especially in high-power, high-current, high-frequency, high-speed, low-noise and other application fields that play an irreplaceable key role, and are widely used in the field of industrial control.
In recent years, my country’s inverter and welding machine markets have grown steadily, and the industrial robot market has accelerated development, and the corresponding industrial control IGBT market will also grow steadily. According to TrendForce, the global industrial control IGBT market size will be about 14 billion yuan in 2020, of which my country’s industrial control IGBT market size will be about 5.3 billion yuan. It is estimated that the global industrial control IGBT market size will reach 17 billion yuan by 2025.
The field of robot chips is still the home field of foreign companies
From 2020 to 2021, the global FPGA market will grow at a rate of 16%, and it is expected to continue to maintain a good growth momentum in the next five years (a compound annual growth rate of about 12% to 15%). Major FPGA suppliers include Intel and Xilinx. Intel provides solutions for a variety of application scenarios by providing processors plus FPGA, equipped with OpenVINO tool suite and oneAPI; Xilinx also has a mature platform for robots, and the two are relatively leading in the field of robots.
Traditional MCU manufacturers also have deep accumulation in the field of robotics. TI provides a complete set of robotic solutions, and Renesas, NXP, Microchip, STMicroelectronics, Infineon, etc. also provide a variety of options. These companies can provide robotics Enterprises provide more components, not limited to the main control chip.
Major global DSP manufacturers Texas Instruments, ADI, NXP, Agere Systems, etc., among which Texas Instruments has the highest proportion. Domestically, the products of European and American manufacturers still occupy the main market. Domestic companies with DSP products include CLP 38, Hunan Jinxin, Jiangsu Hongyun Technology, Shenzhen Chuangcheng Microelectronics, and Beijing Zhongke Haoxin Technology.
In addition, the CPU is also the main chip in the field of industrial control. With the development of robots, it is necessary to realize control, grasping point analysis, visual target recognition, etc. in more and more environments, and these all require computing power, and only one FPGA is not enough. In the field of CPU products, Intel has accumulated a lot of experience. In recent years, some domestic and other brands have entered the field. The embedded CPU products of National Chip Technology can be widely used in the field of industrial control.
With the increasing application of 5G, AI and other technologies in the robotics field, more and more chip players will be ushered in in the robotics field. Qualcomm, which has been making steady progress in the main AI chip market, also released the RB6 robot platform, demonstrating the powerful strength of robots under the blessing of 5G and AI.
In December 2022, 40,000 sets of industrial robots will be produced by industrial enterprises above designated size across the country. From January to December 2022, the cumulative output of industrial robots of industrial enterprises above designated size across the country will be 443,000 sets. In December 2022, the output of service robots in industrial enterprises above designated size across the country will be 491,000 sets. From January to December 2022, the cumulative output of service robots in industrial enterprises above designated size across the country will be 6.458 million sets.
The robotics industry has no chance of overtaking in curves. To achieve high-quality development of the hard technology industry, only down-to-earth research and development and persistent investment can win the battle for key core technologies. From this point of view, the robotics industry is similar to the semiconductor industry, and both need to calm down and stabilize their spirits.
As the robot+ era is coming, we sincerely hope that more domestic chip manufacturers can grasp the general trend and stand at the forefront.