July 09, 2012

Teardown of a phone? Or better, a washing machine!

Illustrating the trend toward increased electronics content in consumer electronics appliances, the IHS iSuppli Teardown Analysis of a General Electric washing machine has revealed a relatively high degree of semiconductor usage that allows it to reduce energy consumption.

The GE GFWN1100LWW washing machine carries a bill of materials (BOM) of $36.13 for its electronics, according to a physical dissection conducted by IHS. Out of this total, $13.84—or 38 percent—was accounted for by semiconductors, higher than the global average.

A significant component of the higher cost was the usage of a 16-bit microcontroller (MCU) from Renesas Electronics Corp., an additional component that is used to implement intelligent motor control for power savings.

“The GFWN1100LWW washing machine employs intelligent motor control to help reduce power consumption and achieve the coveted Energy Star designation,” noted Kevin Keller, senior principal analyst, teardown analysis, for IHS. “While the use of the Renesas MCU drives up the electronics cost of the GE washing machine, it will more than pay for itself through power savings during the life of the product. Intelligent motor control through the use of MCUs is finding increased acceptance in appliances like washing machines, even in midrange models like the GFWN1100LWW. This use of chips to achieve better energy efficiency represents a growing trend in appliances that we will continue to monitor as IHS conducts more consumer appliance teardowns.”

Big energy savings from a microcontroller

The semiconductor content of the GFWN1100LWW is more than twice the $5.52 average expected for all washing machines shipping in 2012, according to IHS data. The lower cost is driven by the large quantities of low-end washing machines shipped to developing regions, such as Brazil, Russia, India and China.

The Renesas MCU represents a portion of this additional cost, at $2.89, or about 8 percent of the total electronics BOM. However, the intelligent motor control implemented through the MCU could save as much as 60 percent of the energy consumption in an appliance like the GE washing machine.

BOM breakdown

The most expensive single electronic component is the hybrid IC module containing an array of insulated gate bipolar transistor (IGBT) devices, which are power semiconductor devices used as switching for the washing machine’s motor. Supplied by International Rectifier, the IGBT driver module carries a cost of $5.25, representing about 15 percent of the BOM.

Other major components contributing to the GFWN1100LWW’s BOM include:
  • The printed circuit board (PCB), from Century Printed Circuits, costing $2.98
  • A relay, from TE Connectivity, at $2.82
  • An electrolytic capacitor from Chemi-Con, at $2.12
  • A digital signal controller from Freescale Semiconductor, at $1.53

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More can be found at IHS iSuppli.
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