RTC October Industry Insider

The World PLC Market Faced Another Decline for 2013

After a downturn in 2012, the global PLC market declined again in 2013, with revenue falling by 2.1 percent annually. As the most mature market, Europe had the largest base for PLC sales in terms of revenue. However, it is very slowly dragging itself out of recession. With tight fiscal policies, tight credit conditions in several countries, excess industrial capacity and still relatively weak export demand, there are few signs of a strong upturn in the near future. In light of the lack of strong domestic market demand, the PLC market had encountered a small decline as a whole.

The U.S. market for PLCs is positive; the housing market continues to recover, consumer spending is rising, export markets are improving and the pace of capital spending is increasing. Because of that, the overall market for PLCs in the United States is growing strongly. Looking at end-user sectors, the fastest growing segments are the oil and gas and food and beverage industries.

Asia Pacific, which has been one of the fastest growing regions in the past few years, had faced a much slower growth rate than before. China’s market is the most likely reason for that. China’s leadership has singled out financial stability as its most important objective, with only moderate stimulus applied. Because of that, many investments have been delayed. Besides, China—as an export-focused market—had faced weakening demand from its leading trading partners, such as Europe. The PLC market had faced two-sided pressure from both domestic and foreign markets.

The Japanese market, however, had a good year. The Japanese government had pushed forward strong economic incentive plans since 2012 by applying fiscal stimulus, engaging in monetary easing and implementing structural reforms. But when turning into the U.S. dollar, the market showed a decline in growth because the currency had depreciated by more than 10 percent in terms of exchange from the Yen to the U.S. dollar.

Researchers Pioneer Spray-On Solar Cells; Propose Diverting Lead Waste for Low-Cost Photovoltaics

In a discovery that could help cut the cost of solar electricity, a team of scientists at the University of Sheffield has fabricated perovskite solar cells using a spray-painting process. The researchers had used the spray-painting method previously to produce solar cells using organic semiconductors—but using perovskite is a major step forward, they asserted.

Efficient organometal halide perovskite-based photovoltaics were first demonstrated in 2012 and are now a promising new material for solar cells as they combine high efficiency with low materials costs. This class of material offers the potential to combine the high performance of mature solar cell technologies with the low embedded energy costs of production of organic photovoltaics, the researchers explained.

In a complementary development, a system proposed by MIT researchers recycles materials from discarded car batteries, which are a potential source of lead pollution, into new, long-lasting solar panels that provide emissions-free power by using lead to produce perovskite—specifically, organolead halide perovskite—a technology that has rapidly progressed from initial experiments to a point where its efficiency is nearly competitive with that of other types of solar cells.

Initial descriptions of the perovskite technology identified its use of lead, whose production from raw ores can produce toxic residues, as a drawback. But by using recycled lead from old car batteries, the manufacturing process can instead be used to divert toxic material from landfills and reuse it in photovoltaic panels that could go on producing power for decades. And because the perovskite photovoltaic material takes the form of a thin film just half a micrometer thick, the MIT teams’ analysis showed that the lead from a single car battery could produce enough solar panels to provide power for 30 households.

The best certified efficiencies from organic solar cells are around 10%, where perovskite cells now have efficiencies of up to 19%, which is not so far behind that of silicon at 25%—the material that currently dominates the worldwide solar market.

Global Market for Smart Machines to Reach $15.2 Billion by 2019

A smart machine is a machine that can accomplish its designated task in the presence of uncertainty and variability in its environment. However, not all smart machines are physical devices such as industrial machines and autonomous vehicles. Indeed, the market also comprises intelligent agents, virtual reality assistants, expert systems and embedded software that make traditional devices “smart” in a very specialized way. Increasing R&D spending, technological advances and consumer demand will drive tremendous growth in this market for the foreseeable future, according to a report from BCC Research. Smart Machines: Technologies and Global Markets provides an in-depth analysis of the global market for smart machines. According to the report, this market was valued at $5.3 billion in 2013 and is expected to reach $6.2 billion by 2014. BCC Research projects the market to grow to $15.2 billion by 2019, and register a five-year compound annual growth rate of 19.7% from 2014 to 2019.

Diablo Technologies and Supermicro Team to Develop Next-Generation MCS Enabled Systems

Diablo Technologies has announced a strategic partnership with Supermicro to bring the industry’s lowest latency, non-volatile memory solution to server systems. As part of the initiative, Supermicro customers will have access to the latest X9-series platforms optimized for Memory Channel Storage (MCS), through the SanDisk ULLtraDIMM SSD. Supermicro’s extensive Green Computing portfolio (including Twin architecture, GPU compute, SuperStorage and Hyper-Speed hardware accelerated platforms) now features a broad selection of MCS-enabled solutions. In addition, Diablo and Supermicro will collaborate on next-generation server and storage architectures, targeting a wide range of mission-critical, enterprise workloads.

Supermicro’s SuperServer and SuperStorage architectures deliver significantly advanced levels of integration between system memory and NAND flash. The company’s Green Computing solutions provide flexibility to scale out MCS-based devices to customized levels of capacity, performance and acceleration. Applications such as virtualization, big data analytics, database and low-latency trading can now seamlessly benefit from the disruptive performance advantages provided by the MCS architecture. As part of the integration, MCS-enabled systems will be available to Supermicro customers worldwide with support for major operating systems, including Linux, Windows and VMware ESXi 5.1 and 5.5.

Himax Technologies and Lumus Collaborate to Develop Next-Gen Smart Glasses

Himax Technologies and Lumus have announced a joint initiative to continue developing the next-generation of smart glasses that will set new technological standards in image quality and performance.

According to Zvi Lapidot, chief executive officer of Lumus, “Himax’s superior LCOS technology, its availability for high volume production, and the company’s forward looking technological applications, were critical in our selection of Himax as a strategic partner. Their microdisplay, specifically designed for smart glasses, combines smoothly with Lumus’ transparent display, creating the ideal solution for true augmented reality and hands-free wearable computing.”

Mr. Lapidot added, “While our ultra-thin, see-through optics enable natural looking wearable displays, Himax’s unique LCOS technology provides the high level of brightness necessary for see-through augmented reality. Ultimately, our cooperation enables us to bring widely appealing solutions to help seamlessly and intuitively blend wearable technology into our daily lives.”

Himax and Lumus have been successfully collaborating for several years in the field of combat aviation, producing market-leading helmet mounted displays. Leveraging their combat-proven solutions and manufacturing capabilities, the two companies are now collaborating to make wearable display mainstream consumer products.

Cmosis Acquires AWAIBA, Maker of Industrial and Medical Image Sensors

Cmosis has acquired all outstanding shares of the Swiss AWAIBA Group. AWAIBA develops and markets innovative line-scan CMOS imagers for industrial web inspection, sub-mm CMOS camera modules for endoscopy, and onboard automotive cameras.

“The acquisition of AWAIBA is a natural fit for Cmosis. It strengthens our presence in existing markets and expands our activities in adjacent segments with complementary image sensor products. It also strengthens our relationship with our existing customer base,” stated Luc De Mey, Cmosis Chairman and CEO.

“The acquisition became possible after TA Associates stepped in as a strong financial partner of Cmosis earlier this year. This enabled horizontal expansion and growth acceleration,” Mr. De Mey continued. “AWAIBA is a profitable and well-established brand with an attractive and strongly growing client base. We are very excited to welcome their experienced team, having an impressive track record of innovation and deep understanding of customer needs. This permits us to even better serve our customers as an independent and pure-play supplier of CMOS image sensors.”

A report published by IC Insights in July of this year predicts image sensor markets exceeding $13.2 billion by 2017. Cmosis and AWAIBA are focusing on the high-growth segments such as machine vision, production cameras, traffic enforcement, medical devices and prosumer products. According to IC Insights, these segments will account for about $3.3 billion in 2017. CMOS technology continues to gain market share over charge-coupled device (CCD) technology.