Infineon Technologies AG recently delivered its one hundred millionth TriCore-microcontroller, ranking these microcontrollers among the most successful in automotive electronics, according to the company. The TriCore-based microcontrollers from Infineon are assembled in more than fifty automotive brands.
The TriCore-based microcontroller are used in the central control units for combustion engines and gearboxes to control the injection, ignition or exhaust gas recirculation: Increasingly, they are also being used in hybrid and electric vehicle drives.
Other areas of application include electric steering, braking and chassis control as well as body control. TriCore is also used in other areas not related to the automotive sector, for example in system controls, solar inverters and for steering electric motors.
TriCore was developed by Infineon and is the Central Processing Unit (CPU) of Infineon’s 32-bit microcontrollers, corresponding to the CPU of a computer. A microcontroller, however, is also comparable with the complete computer because a single semiconductor contains program and working memory, interfaces and hard disks. Unlike computers, though, microcontrollers have to provide reliable service for more than 10 years despite having to withstand environmental conditions varying between -40°C and 170°C (details provided in an itemized temperature profile) as well as strong vibrations and accelerations.
TriCore is a 32-bit microcontroller architecture optimized for embedded real-time systems. It unifies real-time capabilities, signal-processing functions and highly efficient application-specific interface functions. The core has a super-scalar processor and is thus able to carry out a number of different commands simultaneously.
The command set includes special mathematical functions for the efficient calculation of complex algorithms. TriCore microcontrollers are suited for automotive applications by virtue of their high data rate and real-time capability, namely in the temperature range from -40 °C up to 170 °C.
Besides the management and transmission control systems, Infineon chips are used in airbags, driver assistance systems, in electronic steering support, in ABS, Electronic Stability Programs (ESP), pedestrian protection and in tire pressure control, in electric power windows, lighting control, in heating, ventilating and air-conditioning systems, in seat adjustment and keyless door opening.
In 2011, around 75 million vehicles were manufactured, of which 20 million were produced in Europe alone. On average, each vehicle contains chips worth about US$300. Infineon has a 10% share of this market, it says, and is thus one of the world’s largest chip manufacturers for automotive electronics. In 2011, the total value of the market for automotive chips amounted to approximately US$23 billion (source: Strategy Analytics, April 2011). For its microcontrollers in engine management and transmission control units, Infineon holds a global market share of more than 30%.