Global support for automotive manufacturers

4th June 2015
Phil Ling

With its newly founded Automotive Business Unit, the distributor Rutronik promises to provide focused support to manufacturers and suppliers on a global level, as Uwe Rahn, Senior Manager and head of the Automotive Business Unit, explains.

Current trends such as: e-mobility, car-to-car communication and networking within the vehicle, are presenting greater challenges for manufacturers. These include infotainment, advanced driver assistance systems, so-called ADAS, and even autonomous driving in its various stages of development from driver-only to assisted, partially assisted and highly to fully automatic. Moreover, with the constantly increasing safety requirements as per ISO 26262, which cover on-board applications in various voltage ranges from 12, 24, 48 and up to 450 volts for hybrid systems, there is a huge range of topics that require in-depth consultation. 

LED lighting is now also a huge topic; today's state-of-the-art applications for LED daytime driving lights can increase visibility to other road users, but have a power consumption of only about 15W. This equates to savings of around 0.2 litres of fuel per 100 kilometres, or 4 grams fewer CO2 emissions per driven kilometre. The next phase of development in this field of application will be realised with OLEDs as of 2017. Where in the past the use of OLED technology was limited to high-resolution displays, for example, in the future they will also be used in automotive vehicles as a tail light or a turn signal. The main reason for their use in the future is that they require very little space and can also be designed as convex or concave light sources. However, OLEDs will also be a modernising feature for the interior. Currently, they are being developed as ambient solutions in areas such as the footwell, the ceiling panel, the dashboard and door lighting in various design options.
The entire vehicle design concept is undergoing a level of change that has hardly be seen in any other industry; the developmental shift from mechanical to electronic innovations. It is why there is so much uncertainty and increased need for consulting right now. At the same time, European suppliers are under increased competitive pressure from new suppliers, especially from BRIC countries such as Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. Rutronik feels it is well positioned to offer customers the support they need.

Focus on innovation
The continued and increased integration of electronics into automobiles on a mass scale is leading to increased networking, focusing a greater amount of attention on comfort, infotainment and assistance systems, not to mention e-mobility technology. This has created a need for components which may not have been originally developed for automotive use. Any developer of new vehicles now faces huge challenges as a result of offering Internet connectivity in a vehicle and the more-or-less indirect communication with safety relevant systems, among other things.
Increasingly, new semiconductors in the microcontroller and MOSFET fields are being developed specifically for automotive applications, as an example AVX has developed its own Automotive Plus series, which complies with the AEC-Q200 standard. These MLCCs (ceramic multifaceted capacitors used in safety relevant applications) are extremely reliable and resilient against mechanical and thermal influences. Some products can even be used at temperatures up to 250°C. The new capacitors feature an extremely high current carrying capacity and high insulation resistance coupled with low ESR/ESL. They were developed for highly sophisticated applications, such as high pulse current switchings, aviation and aerospace technology as well as for use in hybrid automobiles.
Another example from the electromechanical range of products are the new crimp contacts from JAE. They make it possible to connect any kind of wire to a circuit board quickly, easily and cost-effectively, yet while creating a connection that cannot be easily detached, featuring a high degree of electrical and mechanical reliability. In automotive applications, the connection is approved first. Not until then is the housing developed. Omitting this housing makes it possible to save costs considerably as well as a great amount of space.

Of key importance in any global business is the central information technologies that are available around the world. One important component here is an ability to centrally handle all PCNs and EOL messages in one database, which then makes them available worldwide to every customer and manufacturing service provider in the accustomed data quality. These IT systems are now being expanded step-by-step, by adding such information as standards and certifications, including AECQ-100 or 200, PPAP and APQP (Advance Product Quality Planning), Failure Mode and Effects Analysis (FMEA) documents, and even VDA compliant process descriptions.
Process support is yet another important aspect. Many Tier 2 suppliers now have an even more stringent requirements profile. The third large factor here is an ability to support international customers in the North American and Asian markets. To do so, the focus of the business unit must be global, by working hand-in-hand with regional branches and manufacturers locally.
While gradually expanding this current network over the next few years, the focus will always be on quality, not quantity. All selected partners will have to meet a range of criteria, considered to be absolutely necessary for customers, primarily an innovative portfolio of automotive products and a global presence.
By ensuring team members receive special training on working with the derivatives at a very early stage, while providing manufacturers with information on the most current challenges that customers face, a distributor can become the ‘pulse of the market’. For several years now, Rutronik has been offering the Tech Days event, where a selected group of customers and special manufacturers come together for a concentrated exchange of ideas. Typically, this is followed up by a customer-specific Expert Design Workshop with one manufacturer in particular. Here, a specific customer application and its system architecture are discussed.
The automotive segment represents more than 45 percent of business at Rutronik and has thus always been one of the most important business segments. The aim now is to bundle the specific support, expertise and synergies that the various manufacturers and their products can offer and make them available to customers on a global level.
With a team of experienced automotive specialists operating in a dedicated business unit, the intention is to provide customers with technical and commercial support at eye level, from a team of experts with many years of experience in the automotive industry. Working in close cooperation and coordination with specially selected manufacturers will also enable Rutronik to provide support to European customers in their efforts to gain access to the American and Asian markets.

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