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Microcontroller Market Ramps Up Despite Prices Ramping Down

The microcontroller market is growing as the number of applications that need them expands, IC Insights reports. Shipments of these devices, which enable everything from a car’s windshield wipers to a factory’s industrial control devices, will grow an estimated 18 percent to 30.6 billion amid strong demand in the industrial, automotive and Internet of Things sectors, according to IC Insights.

Sales are projected to increase 11 percent to $18.6 billion this year, jumping to around $20.4 billion the following year and $23.9 billion in 2022. Shipments are projected to ramp up around 11 percent every year over the same period, reaching roughly 43.8 billion units. Currently, microcontrollers used in embedded and Internet of Things applications account for about 88 percent of the total market, according to IC Insights.

NXP Semiconductors, Microchip Technology, Infineon and other major suppliers of microcontrollers are the biggest winners. As more cars are equipped with automated driving systems and electric batteries that need to be carefully managed, the use of microcontrollers is expanding. The chips, which cost as little as a couple of cents, are also increasingly needed in wearables, household appliances, factory equipment and infrastructure.

These applications have pushed 32-bit microcontroller shipments through the roof over the last year. The market segment is forecast to grow about 15 percent this year after increasing 20 percent in 2017, IC Insights said. These products are used when more processing performance is needed to connect to the internet, control electrical motors, display data on a touchscreen or enable encryption on top of running an application.

They are generally more expensive than 8-bit and 16-bit microcontrollers, which are widely used in higher volume, lower cost applications. But prices have come down over the last decade. IC Insights pointed out that some manufacturers are actually selling them for less than 8-bit microcontrollers. The broad range of available 32-bit cores, including high-efficiency Cortex-M to high-performance Cortex-A product lines, have also helped boost sales.

These devices accounted for 40 percent of microcontroller shipments and 59 percent of the product category’s sales last year, according to Semico Research. Around 26 percent of shipments were 16-bit products with 24 percent market share. Almost one-third of shipments were 8-bit microcontrollers, which represent 17 percent of the total market. IC Insights reported that the markets for 8-bit and 16-bit microcontrollers would grow at single-digit percentages this year.

Average microcontroller prices have never been lower, according to IC Insights. But the annual rate of price erosion is expected to ease over the next half decade. Prices declined from around $0.71 to $0.65 last year. They are projected to drop another $0.10 over the next five years. This year, 32-bit microcontroller prices are expected to be within $0.09 of the product category’s average. IC Insights predicts that this separation will narrow to $0.05 by 2022.

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