Ever smaller, safer and more powerful

Electronic components – Indispensable in today’s world, tested and certified by IECQ

By Claire Marchand

With the digitization of societies, electronics has become ubiquitous in modern life. Smart devices and appliances, industrial automation and robotics, autonomous vehicles, the internet of things (IoT) and everything, aerospace and defense equipment medical equipment are only some of the fields where electronic equipment are increasingly becoming indispensable, leading to considerable market growth.

barometric MEMS pressure sensors Barometric MEMS pressure sensor for bio and medical technology – Edge length 1 mm (Photo: CiS Forschungsinstitut für Mikrosensorik GmbH)

Huge market

According to Global Industry Analysts Inc., the global market for electronic components is projected to reach USD 191,8 billion by 2022. Asia-Pacific – China, South Korea, Singapore and Taiwan in particular – represents the largest as well as the fastest growing market with a projected compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 4,8% over the period 2015-2022. 

Types of electronic components and their function

There are several types of electronic components, often classified into three main categories:  active, passive and electromechanical. 

Active components rely on a source of energy (DC) and inject power into a circuit. In recent years, technological advances have greatly enhanced their use in an ever growing number of applications. They include, among others, semiconductor and display devices. Semiconductors comprise diodes, transistors, integrated circuits and optoelectronic components. 

Passive components are electrical components that do not generate power, but instead dissipate, store, and/or release it. Among them are capacitors, resistor and inductors. In most circuits, they are connected to active elements, typically semiconductor devices. 

Electromechanical components, such as connectors, relays, fuses, switches, microphones, or wires and cables, use an electrical current to create a magnetic field which causes a physical movement. 

Active and passive sensors

One type of electronic components in particular plays a major role today: sensors. They can be active or passive. Active sensors require an external source of power to operate while passive sensors simply detect and respond to some type of input from the physical environment. 

They come in many shapes and forms: vision, flow, fibre optic, gas, motion, image, colour, light, pressure, infrared, photoelectric and so on. 

Sensors and sensor systems are a key underpinning technology for a wide range of applications. They can be used to improve quality control and productivity in manufacturing processes by monitoring variables such as temperature, pressure, flow and composition. They help ensure the environment is clean and healthy by monitoring the levels of toxic chemicals and gases emitted in the air, both locally and – via satellites – globally. They monitor area and regional compliance with environmental standards. They enhance health, safety and security in the home and workplace through their use in air-conditioning systems, fire and smoke detection and surveillance equipment. They play a major role in medical devices, transportation, entertainment equipment and everyday consumer products. 

Miniaturization

Technological innovations have brought a new generation of tiny sensors, such as microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) and nanoelectromechanical systems (NEMS). These are smaller, smarter and can be integrated into fixed and portable devices. 

MEMS are micrometer-scale devices that integrate electrical and mechanical elements. They have been used in diverse applications, from display technologies to sensor systems to optical networks. MEMS are attractive for many applications because of their small size and weight, which allow systems to be miniaturized. 

NEMS integrate electrical and mechanical functionality on the nanoscale. They are the logical miniaturization of MEMS. 

These miniature components allow mobile technologies, cameras and video equipment as well as electronic clocks to be ever smaller. They are manufactured in the same way as semiconductors, which make them more exact in their design and they work better using less power. This fabrication process has led to thinner television displays, smaller and lower-cost computers as well as cars with lighter weight and better fuel efficiency. 

Safety, reliability and cost-effectiveness

Electronic component manufacturers and suppliers all over the world have a powerful tool at their disposal, enabling their products to meet the strictest requirements: IECQ testing and certification. IECQ  is the IEC Quality Assessment System for Electronic Components. Established in the early 1970s, the System grew with, and adapted to the technological developments in the electronics industry. 

IECQ Schemes

As the worldwide approval and certification system covering the supply of electronic components, assemblies and associated materials and processes, IECQ tests and certifies components using quality assessment specifications including IEC International Standards. 

In addition, there is a multitude of related materials and processes that are covered by the IECQ Schemes. IECQ certificates are used worldwide as a tool to monitor and control the manufacturing supply chain, thus helping to reduce costs and time to market, and eliminating the need for multiple re-assessments of suppliers. 

IECQ operates industry specific Certification Schemes: 

For more information on IECQ: www.iecq.org

Gallery
Rockwell inductive proximity sensor used in industrial automation Types of sensors used by the automotive sector (Infographics: Car from Japan)
automotive sensors Inductive proximity sensor used in industrial automation (Photo: Rockwell Automation)
barometric MEMS pressure sensors Barometric MEMS pressure sensor for bio and medical technology – Edge length 1 mm (Photo: CiS Forschungsinstitut für Mikrosensorik GmbH)