Positive Indicators In The German Electronics Market

Electronic Design Europe’s German correspondent Wolfgang Patelay reports on how a strong recovery in the German electronics industry now looks a reality.

It seems the recession is over. The quarterly reports of semiconductor companies indicate a steady growth and, not surprisingly, Germany, as probably the biggest semiconductor market in Europe, has a good growth too.

The monthly market research of ZVEI Fachverband Bauelemente (Zentralverband Elektrotechnik- und Elektronikindustrie e.V.) shows up to April 2004 an increased business since the beginning of the year. The book-to-bill-ratio since December 2003 is over 1.00 (December 2003 1,12; January 2004 1,16; February 2004 1,15; March 2004 1,08 and April 2004 1,12) and, more importantly, in April this year the total semiconductor business in Germany jumped to over Euro 1 billion. In the first four months of 2004m, the German semiconductor market increased by 8% compared to the same period last year. The ZVEI believes a two-digit growth percentage is possible this year.

Another indicator is the market for PCBs in Germany which is growing again. The VdL (Verband der Leiterplattenindustrie) and the ZVEI reported a Book-to-Bill-ratio of 1,03 for March 2004. Whereas this seems only average, the monthly revenues were the best in the last 17 months and the bills were in the same range 36 months ago. There are also more jobs available now in the German PCB industry.

Last but not, least there are some changes in the ZVEI itself. To fit better into the international nature of the electronics market, the ZVEI Fachverband Bauelemente has changed its name to ZVEI Electronic Components and Systems. One reason is the international nature of the business and another is the trend toward complete systems in the electronic industry.

One big market for the German electronic industry is the automotive market. To cover the special demands of this market ZVEI Electronic Components and Systems has founded an application group called Automotive. This group will work on customised hardware und software solutions for the automotive market where long-term availability, high quality and reliability are critical factors.

Technology centre
Good news from Rohde &Schwarz. Despite the fact that some electronic companies are taking their headquarters out of Germany, Rohde & Schwarz recently had a cornerstone celebration for a new technology centre in Munich. The company plans a major investment of Euro 35 million in this centre (16,000 square metres) which should be finished by the end of 2005. Vorsitzender der Geschäftsführung Friedrich Schwarz explained his decision: 'Germany is a very good place for engineering and research. The engineers are well educated, internationally well positioned and have a good price/performance ratio. An important factor was that our headquarter is in Munich and we can continue to expand here. We made this investment because we believe in the recovery.'

A good market opportunity for his new CPCI-Board is expected by Josef Kreidl, founder of Inova Computers. Based on the Pentium M and Pentium 4 3U CompactPCI CPU family, the company is introducing an aggressively priced and compatible version of the ICP-CM, which hosts the Intel Celeron M processor. At just 4HP, the 3U CompactPCI board, with a CompactFlash socket for operating system installation (i.e. Windows XP Embedded), is a complete compact solution with an advanced feature set. Able to resist the highest shock and vibration levels, it is also specified to operate at extended temperature ranges (- 40 to + 85 °C). In addition to the Windows and Linux suite of operating systems, board support packages are also available for the major RTOSs such as VxWorks, QNX and Windows CE. Using flash disks or micro-drives onboard often saves on the additional costs associated with external mass storage units, and when combined with the I/O interfaces (2x Fast Ethernet, 3x USB 2.0, 2x ATA 133), ruggedised, high-performance embedded solutions are easily engineered.

The CPU platform is available as a 1.3GHz or low-power 600MHz version consuming 9W, and with 256MByte or 1GByte soldered DDR RAM. Standard I/O functions break out of the front-panel or are routed by an auto-identification system through J2 of the CompactPCI backplane. A passive-cooling concept permits stable operation even at extremes of temperature (+ 85 °C). A mass-storage carrier board enhances the I/O functionality further.

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