Electronics

Microchip Expands Detroit Automotive Technology Center


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The automobile industry is experiencing a substantial shift, characterized by the widespread adoption of electric mobility (e-mobility) and advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS), which are fueling the need for state-of-the-art electronic solutions. In response to the need for innovation and assistance in the ever-changing environment, Microchip Technology is expanding its Detroit Automotive Technology Center. This 24,000-square-foot facility in Novi, Michigan, serves as a hub for automotive clients, offering resources and technical expertise to assist in the development and optimization of designs.

In an interview with EE Times, Matthias Kaestner, corporate VP of Microchip’s automotive business, emphasized the significance of the center, noting that its location near major U.S. automakers facilitates Microchip’s demonstration of expertise in products that can shape the future of ADAS platforms.

Microchip Technology’s Matthias Kaestner.Microchip Technology’s Matthias Kaestner.
Microchip Technology’s Matthias Kaestner (Source: Microchip Technology)

“Microchip is a trusted supplier to the automotive industry—for the communication infrastructures within a vehicle that are critical for various subsystems to coordinate the operation of the vehicle,” he said. “ADAS requires processing power and associated bandwidths that can only be provided through the latest generations of PCIe and automotive Ethernet technology. The hardware—e.g., PCIe switches and Ethernet switches that Microchip offers—provides a standards-based approach to moving information around the vehicle so each subsystem can provide information faster and then react to the commands from the computing platforms more quickly.”

Microchip has adapted to the ever-evolving automotive industry. The company’s key shift has been moving from simply offering semiconductor products to providing comprehensive solutions. Microchip said this shift aligns well with the increasing complexity of automotive systems, particularly as software plays a pivotal role in modern vehicle architectures.

“Microchip’s commitment to delivering holistic solutions positions it as a valuable partner for automotive OEMs and Tier 1 suppliers, supporting the industry’s transition toward electrification and advanced driver-assistance technologies,” Kaestner said.

Microchip offers a wide range of AEC-Q100–qualified automotive products. The company’s portfolio of automotive-qualified products includes microcontrollers, digital signal controllers (DSCs), USB and networking solutions, analog and interface products, SiC MOSFETs and serial E2PROMs. Microchip also offers a comprehensive portfolio of ISO 26262 functional-safety–ready and functional-safety–compliant devices with advanced hardware safety features and a comprehensive safety ecosystem to simplify the design and certification of safety-critical automotive applications.

Detroit benefits

Microchip has had a significant presence in the Detroit area since it opened in 1999, primarily functioning as an application and sales office. The company has evolved over the years, positioning itself as a prominent participant in the automotive sector. Most recently, it significantly increased its lab space, specifically dedicated to high-voltage and e-mobility applications.

The Detroit Automotive Technology Center is equipped with many advanced capabilities. The facility is characterized by many key elements:

  • The High-Voltage lab demonstrates reference designs that showcase Microchip’s silicon carbide mSiC solutions, dsPIC DSCs and a diverse array of analog and mixed-signal solutions. The lab seeks to facilitate the development of power solutions essential to the process of electrifying cars.
  • ADAS support focuses on providing assistance to central computing and zonal networks in ADAS systems. Microchip’s PCIe Gen 4 and Gen 5 switching hardware, single-pair Ethernet devices and development tools come into play—in the name of developing cars and trucks that are safer and more intelligent than they are today.
  • The Human Machine Interface (HMI) lab supports the advancement of cockpit displays, touchscreens, knob-on-display solutions and control interfaces aimed at fostering innovation. The lab also supports electromagnetic-compatibility testing.

With a focus on advanced USB Type-C 3.2 protocol applications, this resource helps with the pre-certification of multimedia entertainment systems and media hubs. This technology improves the level of communication and entertainment capabilities available in cars and trucks.

The focus of research done in the center’s labs is the characterization of automotive MEMS resonators and oscillators at both the die and product levels. This research aims to provide a comprehensive understanding of the performance and behavior of these components in automotive applications. The dependability of vehicle electronics is ensured by a testing process that includes long-term aging, frequency stability, phase noise and jitter assessments.

The facility facilitates the construction of secure components for many applications, including secure boot, message authentication and hardware authentication, by using Microchip’s CryptoAutomotive TrustAnchor ICs. Microchip, of course, focuses as well on cybersecurity.

“The fast-changing e-mobility landscape is driving our clients to innovate high-voltage power solutions in a shorter development window than ever before,” Kaestner said. “Our solutions accelerate time to market by offering a product portfolio of high-performance mSiC technology, real-time control with dsPIC digital signal controllers and a wide range of analog, mixed-signal, connectivity and security devices, as well as simulation tools and reference designs that give clients the ability to evaluate power topologies before developing their own prototypes.

“Considering practical aspects of production design and development, for example, our 11-kW totem-pole power-factor–correction [PFC] development platform supports both high- and low-voltage operation, allowing a power electronics engineer to operate the converter in real-world high-voltage conditions while also allowing a digital control or software engineer to operate the converter safely on a bench with low voltage to develop software or tune the control loop,” he added. “Experts are on-site at DATC to work with local clients in the development and optimization of their e-mobility designs.”

Microchip’s team in one of the labs at the Detroit Automotive Technology Center.Microchip’s team in one of the labs at the Detroit Automotive Technology Center.
Microchip’s team in one of the labs at the Detroit Automotive Technology Center (Source: Microchip Technology)

In the EV world, using Microchip’s silicon carbide products is also helping to make them more efficient. These items facilitate the integration of high-voltage power electronics, including DC/DC converters, on-board chargers, drivetrain inverters and electronic fuses.

“The e-mobility and ADAS megatrends are driving many new technological developments that are particularly exciting for us,” Kaestner said. “Examples can be found in autonomous vehicles, where large amounts of data are transferred and processed within the software-defined vehicle. Within centralized processing units, our automotive-qualified PCIe switches, for example, are used to interconnect several SoCs, to connect them to high-speed shared memory, as well as to an Ethernet switch. Likewise, in electric vehicles, our silicon carbide products enable efficient implementation of high-voltage power electronics, such as DC/DC converters, on-board chargers, drivetrain inverters and electronic fuses.”

In addition to its commitment to technical innovation, Kaestner said Microchip is working hard to ensure supply security. Thus, the company is expanding its capabilities pertaining to dual and multi-sourcing, augmenting geographical diversity and bolstering in-house production.