Author Topic: Electronics industry in the west (the lack of it)...(re-posted without naming)  (Read 1659 times)

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Online treez

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Hi,
I do most profusely apologise to the forum for making mention of a certain global company by name in my previous post, I should have not done that. Please may I  now re-post the below, my having now deleted that name, and all reference to it?

Does anybody now think its time for the West  (and others)  to start becoming self dependent as regards to engineering equipment, especially electronics equipment? Eg power supplies and other electronics...
China, by sheer honest  hard slogging work, has now deservedly become the world’s  new super power. Nobody would disagree with that.

The Chinese  will very soon realise that they are  now the wealthiest nation in the world, and will cease offering the west electronics equipment at a fantastically low price….and the West will have to start making its own electronics again….this will be an enormous shock to the west…so the west should start becoming self dependent right now……otherwise doom.

To those who still think that China is a poor country, in need of the West to buy its  products…..just look on the web. Also, China will soon be the owner of the entire South China Sea, and all of the vast minerals/Natural Gas and vast oil wealth that it contains. The Philipines, who have  seen China build a militarised island in its own territorial coastal waters, in response, have quite happily asked if China would  make the Philipines a province of China (look on the www what President Duterte said).

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In particular, the Power Supply Design & Manufacture industry should be brought back to the west right now.

This is because Power Supply is a “key sector” of electronics. If a country disposes of its own Power Supply industry, then it looses out massively in all other sectors of electronics.

This is  because “Power Supply” is the only sector of electronics where any electronics student could be almost guaranteed of being able to develop  the skills necessary to become a Power Supply designer at some level. (as long as they put in some decent work) This is because Power supply design, at its base level, is easier than all other sectors of electronics. In all other sectors of electronics,  only a small percentage of  students  could guarantee being able to develop design capability, because these other sectors are  technically harder than Power supply engineering. (at its base level)

As such, if a country disposes of its Power Supply sector, then there will be no jobs for the majority of graduating electronics students…since they mostly won’t manage to make the grade in these other harder sectors of electronics…and  consequently  numbers enrolling for electronics courses will dwindle away…as they have done in the west. And when you have only a small number of students enrolling for electronics courses, this then hits all sectors of electronics…..resulting in engineer shortages in all sectors of electronics.

Power Supply is also a “key sector”, because virtually every single electrical/electronics product needs a power supply of some description. (apart from simple heaters and toasters etc)

Another reason why any student could realistically expect to be able to develop Power Supply engineering design skills, is that in the Power Supply sector , the Simulators are free of charge, (LTspice) and the test equipment and components are cheap and affordable such that someone could actually design and build a power supply on their kitchen table. –And its essential to actually get real hardware experience in order to become an electronics hardware designer….In other sectors of electronics…the simulators and test equipment and components are far too expensive (eg RF & microwave)  for students to be able to afford….so few will be able to get into it....most just won't be able to get that essential hands-on hardware design experience in these other sectors.
 
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Offline tom66

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Another treez gem.

The majority of power supplies are low cost AC-to-DC switch mode units. In these applications cost is the primary driver, so they are made where labour is cheap.  There are a number of UK manufacturers that make speciality power supplies for aerospace, medical, or test equipment (for instance TTi still make most or all of their kit in the UK.)  And there are power modules that are made in the West - for instance TI, at least until recently, was making some of their iModule DC-DC converters in the USA, and Murata manufacture(d) these in Japan and Europe.

Your assertion that power supply design is something for just undergraduates is just wrong.  Designing a flyback converter that can be low cost, reliable, efficient and meet EMC requirements is a complex job.  When I worked at Echostar we had one guy who was entirely involved in testing the Chinese power supplies for our STBs, to see if they were any good.  A great deal of them failed the aggressive tests we set out (despite being consumer electronics devices), but our purchasing power allowed us to get manufacturers to make the necessary changes.  Most of these passed EMC (usually only by a few dB, but they passed), but failed under conditions like excessive load and case temperature.  There is a requirement in the EU/EN standards regarding the maximum temperature that the case of a consumer electronics product can reach, excluding cooking/thermal appliances.
« Last Edit: April 13, 2020, 02:03:19 pm by tom66 »
 
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Online treez

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Quote
Your assertion that power supply design is something for just undergraduates is just wrong.
Thanks, but that wasnt my assertion. I freely confess that  at its highest level, power supply engineering is just as hard as any other form.

Do you mean TT electronics?
TT  electronics owns Stadium group, which owns stontronics...Stontronics is a massive importer of Far Eastern power supplies into UK and elsewhere.
https://stontronics.com/stadium-group-integrates-power-business/

Should power supplies like this found in Australia  be designed and manufactured in the Far East?
https://www.eevblog.com/forum/chat/dodgy-solar-inverter-catches-fire-this-morning/

To get enough specialist power supply designers in any country...one needs a "breeding ground" of power supply engineers working on the lower  end stuff.
« Last Edit: April 13, 2020, 05:59:34 pm by treez »
 

Offline dmills

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A small generic power supply is a COMPONENT, and should be treated that way, I don't build that any more then I build my own transistors, mosfets or processors.

Jelly bean power supplies are boring, and add nearly no value to a product.

I would need a LOT of convincing before I was willing to bother designing my own jellybean mains flyback on a board I was doing, I mean it is not hard to datasheet 'engineer' something using the chips and magnetic components from one of the usual suspects, but then I have to convince the NRTLs and people like PSE for the Japanese market that my thing is acceptable.

If I was doing real consumer stuff at real volume then maybe, but that lives in a target BOM place that I have no clue how to meet.
The value add is in the systems engineering to solve an actual customer problem, not in making mundane things that you can buy for a few pounds each.   

An IRM-30 costs me £7 in reasonable volumes, and I have thousands in the field, they almost never fail (I think I have had two fail on early life soak, nothing else), I probably could not meet that COG doing it myself, let alone the NRE cost of certifying it with basically everyone.

Last thing we need is loads of expensive engineering time going on designing the stuff that is not profitable except at mad scale, far better to spend that time on stuff that makes a difference to the customer.

Regards, Dan.
 
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Offline tggzzz

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Treez, regrettably I conclude that you will never be successful. Sorry.

To borrow concepts from Dragon's Den, "you are uninvestible; I couldn't invest in you". Why? Because I invest in individuals that are adaptable to changing marketplaces/understanding/situations. Marketplaces, understanding and situations will always be evolving, and companies and people must change with them.

You repeatedly demonstrate that you cannot recognise changes in the marketplace, and repeatedly demonstrate that you cannot adapt to the changes.

"So, I'm out".

But there might be hope: if you manage to learn to pivot, then you might become successful. If not, then it is a slow decline for you.
« Last Edit: April 14, 2020, 10:23:02 am by tggzzz »
There are lies, damned lies, statistics - and ADC/DAC specs.
Glider pilot's aphorism: "there is no substitute for span". Retort: "There is a substitute: skill+imagination. But you can buy span".
Having fun doing more, with less
 
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Online bd139

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Kill me. With fire.
 
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Offline tggzzz

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Kill me. With fire.

Wrong target, wrong method :)
There are lies, damned lies, statistics - and ADC/DAC specs.
Glider pilot's aphorism: "there is no substitute for span". Retort: "There is a substitute: skill+imagination. But you can buy span".
Having fun doing more, with less
 
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Offline beanflying

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Coffee, Food, R/C and electronics nerd in no particular order. Also CNC wannabe, 3D printer and Laser Cutter Junkie and just don't mention my TEA addiction....
 
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Online blueskull

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The Chinese  will very soon realise that they are  now the wealthiest nation in the world, and will cease offering the west electronics equipment at a fantastically low price….and the West will have to start making its own electronics again….

And who is going to amortize the cost for China's R&D expenditure?

Another reason why any student could realistically expect to be able to develop Power Supply engineering design skills, is that in the Power Supply sector , the Simulators are free of charge, (LTspice) and the test equipment and components are cheap and affordable such that someone could actually design and build a power supply on their kitchen table.

We (as a whole company) just got 3 billion Yuan of budget from the government for doing power electronics & opto-electronics research. We built a SiC fab, joint ventured a GaN fab and acquired a GaN LED fab, plus we set up a full PE lab and a packaging lab. Think twice before thinking PE is cheap. I have $100k MSRP of gears on my bench right now.
 
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Offline dmills

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Sounds about right, NOTHING at scale has low one time costs, and the only way to make money on that stuff is to do it at scale. Figuring out how to do the new and shiny at scale also has massive costs.

Blueskull does at least seem to be doing interesting power stuff that pushes the limits, sort of stuff that I MIGHT consider in house if I really needed to (But would more likely contract a specialist to handle for me), but the jellybean stuff? Fuck that it is a component.   

Regards, Dan.
 
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Online coppice

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It amuses me when I have been involved in a less advanced design, and people say "oh, this work must be so easy for you". Design for volume is never easy, and never a good task for the inexperienced, however simple the product. There is always a competitor, applying deep experience, who might be driving a little more out of their costs, and making a better margin.
 
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Offline SiliconWizard

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Does anybody now think its time for the West  (and others)  to start becoming self dependent as regards to engineering equipment, especially electronics equipment?

I don't disagree. Ironically enough, some countries (among which China itself) have gone a long way to become themselves self-dependent, while providing the whole word with stuff.

Key point IMO is that such approach, before this whole fucking virus crisis, was actually fought by the predominant approach, which was the exact opposite. Ultra globalization was seen as the ultimate virtue, a world where progressively every activity should apparently be optimized on a global level, with each country kind of specialized in its own range of activities. Doing anything to be self-dependent was almost considered more or less as some form of fascism.

Whether this trend is going to change, I have no clue about, but I seriously doubt it. Looks like we are currently doing anything we can to get things back to where they were before, quite possibly eroding invididual freedom in a lasting way to achieve this, instead of trying to change our approaches and get more "local".

As to the power supply field, if I understand you correctly, you seem to be saying that it's relatively simple and easily accessible. I don't quite agree with this. Designing efficient and ROBUST power supplies is hard and requires a lot of care and experience IMO.
 
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Online SilverSolder

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[...] because  “Power Supply” is the only sector of electronics where any electronics student could be almost guaranteed of being able to develop  the skills necessary to become a Power Supply designer at some level.
[...]


The underlying problem with this thought is that in economics, it is seldom worth doing "the easy stuff" because it is so easy for competitors (countries, companies, people) to step in and create a race to the bottom - commoditizing the item and pushing the price way down.  In that space, whoever can make it the cheapest wins.  Like agriculture... without subsidies, a lot of farming in the West would be uneconomical.

The real money is in making products that others can't easily make,  and make them well, and sell them at a price people are willing to pay.  (Apple, Microsoft, Google, etc. etc. just to pick some companies from the tech sector)
 
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Offline Red Squirrel

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Honestly it would be nice to see a better business mentality where more than just money matters, and see more local manufacturing.  It does not always have to be about money.  There was a time where things were "proudly made in Canada" or USA etc.  It's not just about the lowest bidder but about wanting to stay as local as possible and being patriotic.  These days, we lost that.    Hopefully if there is one thing we can learn from covid-19 is that important supplies like PPE need to actually be made more locally.  USA should have plants, Canada should have plants, etc...  It's not just about being patriotic but also about being more practical and also caring about the environment. Instead of mining stuff in one country, sending it in another for processing, then sending those raw materials to yet another, more stuff could be kept local.

Me personally if I get electronic projects made for selling I will want to manufacture as much of it as I can in Canada or at least try to source parts from here where I can.  Unfortunately it won't be that easy especially jelly bean parts as all those are made in China, but perhaps the PCBs can be made here, and the cases can be made here, at the very least.   If I actually had the project come to a point where it's making me money then I would work on the rest. 

In a situation like right now with covid-19 the more local my supply chain is, the better it is for business continuity as well.
 
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Online bd139

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Your point falls apart when a big chunk of the raw materials comes from China which is a sovereign nation. You buy their products to get their resources.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lists_of_countries_by_mineral_production

Really it's a race to the bottom and this whole petty natioanalism and pointless borders that drives all this shit is tiresome. We're all stuck on the same fucking rock with limited resources so it's better to start getting along with everyone else rather than blasting our own toes off.
 
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Online coppice

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Your point falls apart when a big chunk of the raw materials comes from China which is a sovereign nation. You buy their products to get their resources.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lists_of_countries_by_mineral_production

Really it's a race to the bottom and this whole petty natioanalism and pointless borders that drives all this shit is tiresome. We're all stuck on the same fucking rock with limited resources so it's better to start getting along with everyone else rather than blasting our own toes off.
Remember that wikipedia page lists mineral production, not availability. Some minerals are truly only available from a few places. Most minerals that we only obtain from a few places are that way by choice. Change prices, pollution regulations, or other relevant factors and magically new sources open up.
 
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Online bd139

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Yes aware of that. I dabble in futures (Edit: mostly unsuccessfully  :-DD)
 
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Offline sam[PS]

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Interesting debate indeed.
I'll pass on the statement about power supply as i don't think that's really a good exemple.
But let's take simple microcontroler board as probably a better exemple. When i studied electronics at university, we where learning two things 1. basic theory so that we have the tools to understand what's going on 2. hands on starting from scratch using component's datasheet as textbook a breadboards a roles of wire. I'm now teaching at a university where we are asked to not do most of 1 because "it has to be more practical oriented" and for the 2 most colleagues use china maid arduino board with fully assembled china maid "shields" for all the more specific parts, and even the programming just consist on using a pre-made library from internet. I try to argue with them that if some student become competent EE that will be despite this education, not thanks to it. But i'm a minority voice. And here is how that rejoin our debate. The arguments of the other professor are exactly those i see used in some post here :
-That's cheaper this way
-Anyway nowdays that's how it works
-What's important is the system level (although we don't have any class about system engineering in our program   :wtf: )

But you know what's fun ? I also start teaching for a chinese university. And there do you know what they ask me to do there ? 1 basic theory and 2 hands on from scratch.

I do believe that anyone claiming to be electronic engineer should be able to design and build a basic microcontroler board with few basic sensor and LF analog frontend. But that's not how EE student are trained in most western university nowdays, that's how they are trained in asia.

So although psu may not be the right exemple i do think some profitable business can still be done in west in terms of hardware. I'm thinking about small volume niche application, tones of small simple product can be developed just around a small µC and few opamps/basic components. If you think more specific and less mass market then the business opportunities are there. And i know few company around me in Europe that do pretty well with this kind of model. The problem is financing such business model as investor only want mass market target, while this kind of company can be profitable enough to feed their men and invest enough to stay afloat for lifelong, these are not the companies that will produce any billionaire, so in the curent investment way of thinking these company are not interesting. And the second problem is do we really have the competent engineers for it ? The answer is probably no.
But for both this issue it can be solved with political decisions. So i think this question is totally relevant.

Just my 2cts...

 
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Online coppice

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I also start teaching for a chinese university. And there do you know what they ask me to do there ? 1 basic theory and 2 hands on from scratch.
A degree course should prepare someone for a career, with top-ups for new technologies keeping the student relevant over the years. Basic theory is strategic knowledge that lasts. If you learned about analogue filters in the 60s, adapting to digital filters in the 80s only required a top up of your knowledge, as you already knew the basics. Hands on knowledge (or focussing on the latest trend for software people) is tactical knowledge, and what it teaches you will be obsolete in a few years. If your college course had too much of this, you will be left with little of value from your years at college. Even on the day you leave college its preparing you more for a technician job, than the sort of job traditionally associated with a graduate.

China graduates something like 400k people a year who have been through a course where they learned to do some basic things with a microcontroller. Its a small, very hands on, module within one of a number of much larger courses that focus on basics.
 
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Online blueskull

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I also start teaching for a chinese university. And there do you know what they ask me to do there ? 1 basic theory and 2 hands on from scratch.

When I did my BSEE degree, I did more math or math-intensive courses than pure EE courses.

I did calculus 1, calculus 2, linear algebra, probability theory, physics 1, physics 2, math & physics methods (complex analysis), electromagnetism & field theory, signal and systems, control theory, microwave theory and image processing theory (2D expansion of signal and systems).

OTOH, I only did less courses in pure EE, including circuit analysis, analog circuits, digital circuits, communication engineering, programmable logic, microcontroller, microwave engineering, DSP, digital control and that's it.

I didn't choose this because I love math. In fact, I hate math and I got bad grading on those courses. Those are (were? They changed my major from a science degree to an engineering degree later) just mandatory at my school.
 
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Offline OwO

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Only up to calculus 2 really? That's high school level shit where I'm from (and that is not China). That means you can't appreciate Maxwell's equations (since you don't know what the divergence and curl operators do), understand wave behavior (also relates to time vs space derivatives), or visualize heat transfer/fluid motion (requires a mental model of sinks/sources which relate to the laplacian). Or are the calculus levels named differently in China?
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Online blueskull

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Only up to calculus 2 really?

Calculus 1 covers advanced integration (derivation and simple integration are covered at high school).
Calculus 2 here has 2D/3D covered, cylindrical and spherical coordinates covered, and gradient and curl also covered.
Anyway there is complex analysis before electromagnetism.
 
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Offline tggzzz

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I also start teaching for a chinese university. And there do you know what they ask me to do there ? 1 basic theory and 2 hands on from scratch.
A degree course should prepare someone for a career, with top-ups for new technologies keeping the student relevant over the years. Basic theory is strategic knowledge that lasts. If you learned about analogue filters in the 60s, adapting to digital filters in the 80s only required a top up of your knowledge, as you already knew the basics. Hands on knowledge (or focussing on the latest trend for software people) is tactical knowledge, and what it teaches you will be obsolete in a few years. If your college course had too much of this, you will be left with little of value from your years at college. Even on the day you leave college its preparing you more for a technician job, than the sort of job traditionally associated with a graduate.

Very true. It baffles me why people don't understand that.
There are lies, damned lies, statistics - and ADC/DAC specs.
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Offline OwO

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Calculus 1 covers advanced integration (derivation and simple integration are covered at high school).
Calculus 2 here has 2D/3D covered, cylindrical and spherical coordinates covered, and gradient and curl also covered.
Anyway there is complex analysis before electromagnetism.
Okay, that means you compress two classes into one, since your calculus 1 corresponds to calculus 1 & 2 in "the west", and your calculus 2 is calculus 3 & 4. Are each of your calculus classes only one semester long (4 months)?
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Online blueskull

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Okay, that means you compress two classes into one, since your calculus 1 corresponds to calculus 1 & 2 in "the west", and your calculus 2 is calculus 3 & 4. Are each of your calculus classes only one semester long (4 months)?

Unfortunately, yes. So it's pretty intense.
Particularly my school has a tradition of focusing on fundamental education. Most schools teach type III calculus for economy students, type II for engineering students and type I for science students.
We teach type II for economy, type I for engineering and our internal textbook that's also used by the math major, for science students.
 
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