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Topic: Robustness and long term reliability of Arduino boards and AVR chips (Read 6173 times) previous topic - next topic

subway

It can be calculated from the report below how much money Atmel got from 8 bit microcontrollers (likely 8051+AVR8+others), this year and in 2011. I made the calculation and it appears that they earn two - three times more money from 8 bit families than from 32.

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"Moving to a discussion of our business segments. For our Microcontroller business unit, Microcontroller revenue of $226 million increased 3% sequentially and was down 25% as compared to the third quarter of 2011.

For the second quarter in a row, both our core microcontroller revenue and maXTouch revenue grew sequentially.

By product family, during the second quarter, our 8-bit micros were down 7% sequentially, and were down 35% year-over-year. While 32-bit microcontrollers increased 33% sequentially and increased 11% year-over-year."

Source: http://seekingalpha.com/article/971731-atmel-management-discusses-q3-2012-results-earnings-call-transcript?page=3

fungus


If you created some application with the arduino boards or using AVR or PIC chips, how good is their long term reliability and robustness?


Excellent.


For example, PLCs are engineered specially to take a beating, long continuous cycle times, electrical circuit protection, and good mechanical protection against shock etc. So ultimately PLCs tend to be workhorses and great for automation applications because they are reliable for long term continuous use and are very robust.


Read these forums for a while. Arduinos take an awful lot of abuse. Remember: the connectors on the Arduino board go directly to the chip, there's no protection circuitry.


Are arduino boards and AVR chips as good in terms of long term continuous operation? How reliable are they?


AVR chips are designed for industrial operation. They have built-in watchdogs, brown-out detection, everything you need.

The Arduino boards could be improved, but not terrible. They're designed for hobbyist price levels. There's more robust versions out there if you look.

The Arduino IDE/software doesn't enable stuff like brownout detection, watchdog. You can do it but not many people will. In spite of that the programs seem to run for months/years without problems so long as the power supply is good.



Honestly, the 8 bit AVR controllers seem to be used mainly by hobbyists. I have looked for a list of professional devices that use AVRs but I found no convincing evidence they have serious applications in practice.


That's complete rubbish. There's no way Atmel would survive if that was true.

They also wouldn't be making all those six-pin, surface mount variations of the AVR chips, etc. Do "hobbyists" use those?

No, I don't answer questions sent in private messages (but I do accept thank-you notes...)

twice


That's complete rubbish. There's no way Atmel would survive if that was true.

Are you clawson, the main moderator from avrfreaks?

fungus


Arduinos are "prototyping platforms" (first sentence on the home page) so right there that tells us they are not necessarily meant for deployment in industrial or even commercial applications. That said, they do the job of prototyping platform very well. Even so, I would still expect them to be very robust in reasonable environments.


The main problem is the awful connectors on the board. Wires poked into pin headers are brilliant for prototyping but awful for producing reliable installations.

If you take those connectors off and connect directly to the board you'll have something pretty damn robust IMHO. If you want to build you own you could start with something like this http://evilmadscience.com/productsmenu/tinykitlist/180 . It allows you to choose your own power components, capacitors, etc.

With a decent power supply the difference between a slightly uprated Arduino and 'industrial' would mostly be down to the software.
No, I don't answer questions sent in private messages (but I do accept thank-you notes...)

fungus



That's complete rubbish. There's no way Atmel would survive if that was true.

Are you clawson, the main moderator from avrfreaks?


No...

No, I don't answer questions sent in private messages (but I do accept thank-you notes...)


arcanum


Honestly, the 8 bit AVR controllers seem to be used mainly by hobbyists. I have looked for a list of professional devices that use AVRs but I found no convincing evidence they have serious applications in practice.


That's utterly ridiculous.

Other posters have pointed out that a semiconductor company does not build a successful business model based on selling to hobbyists.

Yes, the Atmel AVR processor is used in all different kinds of applications, commercial and industrial. I'm not at liberty to discuss specific customers, or numbers, but they are definitely used by professional embedded systems.

Remember that the Arduino boards and software are targeted mainly to non-engineers. That's a good thing, as it introduces embedded technology to large groups of people that don't normally have direct access to it. But if you need to put together a robust system, with the ability to write software for such a system, it is very much being done with other tools out there.
Eric Weddington
Marketing Manager
Open Source & Community
Atmel

subway


Other posters have pointed out that a semiconductor company does not build a successful business model based on selling to hobbyists.

Possible, but just claiming that without bringing evidence does not weight too much.

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Yes, the Atmel AVR processor is used in all different kinds of applications, commercial and industrial. I'm not at liberty to discuss specific customers, or numbers, but they are definitely used by professional embedded systems.

A similar topic, opened last year, ran for a few dozens posts without demonstrating that 8 bit AVRs have indeed industrial applications.
see: http://www.avrfreaks.net/index.php?name=PNphpBB2&file=viewtopic&t=114016&postdays=0&postorder=asc

Nick Gammon

In any real-world application, the processor chip is likely to be more reliable than the peripherals, eg. batteries, LCD screens, sensors, switches, cables, connectors and so on. The reason I say that is it doesn't have any moving parts. Or chemical reactions (like batteries).

I would be surprised if Atmel survives by selling to hobbyists alone. It's a pretty tiny market. How many friends do you know that play with microprocessors?

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Possible, but just claiming that without bringing evidence does not weight too much.


How much evidence do you want? Do you think Apple survives by selling its products to developers alone? Or Microsoft?
Please post technical questions on the forum, not by personal message. Thanks!

More info:
http://www.gammon.com.au/electronics

fungus



Other posters have pointed out that a semiconductor company does not build a successful business model based on selling to hobbyists.

Possible, but just claiming that without bringing evidence does not weight too much.


That goes both ways. Where's your evidence that they do...?

Besides, it's obvious from their product list. Go and look at the huge list of variants/packages for AVR chips (Start here: http://www.atmel.com/products/microcontrollers/avr/default.aspx )

Count them all...all the Megas, all the Tinys, the "automotive" rated chips. I'll laugh out loud if you tell me that's aimed at hobbyists. Hobbyists would be fine with about four chip variants and DIP packaging.
No, I don't answer questions sent in private messages (but I do accept thank-you notes...)

dhenry

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8 bit AVRs have indeed industrial applications.


Most of 8bit chips (avr or otherwise) are indeed for industrial (=consumer goods, controls, automotive, etc.) applications. Think about your washer/dryer, some of your blenders or toasters, cell phones, cars, big machinery, etc.

Atmel is just a tiny player in the overall mcu market - Renesas and Freescale dominate there

arcanum



Other posters have pointed out that a semiconductor company does not build a successful business model based on selling to hobbyists.

Possible, but just claiming that without bringing evidence does not weight too much.

Quote
Yes, the Atmel AVR processor is used in all different kinds of applications, commercial and industrial. I'm not at liberty to discuss specific customers, or numbers, but they are definitely used by professional embedded systems.

A similar topic, opened last year, ran for a few dozens posts without demonstrating that 8 bit AVRs have indeed industrial applications.
see: http://www.avrfreaks.net/index.php?name=PNphpBB2&file=viewtopic&t=114016&postdays=0&postorder=asc


Look, I work for Atmel. I know what kinds of applications they are in, what kinds of customers. Also, anyone who works in the industry knows that there is not a semiconductor company in existence, past or present, that *only* sells to hobbyists. To argue otherwise, and insist on proof, shows a profound ignorance of the industry and economics. I don't need to prove anything. Available data can be found on the internet.

Because I work for Atmel, as I said, I'm not a liberty to discuss specific customers, or financial numbers. But I can tell you that I've been a software engineer for 21 years, and worked in embedded systems for the last 18 years. At a previous employer, we used the AVR (ATmega128) to design an industrial RFID reader for the pharmaceutical laboratory industry. We also used it internally to do IC (integrated circuit) testing in a wafer test probe for the custom IC that we designed.

If anyone desires further anecdotal evidence, then please feel free to post the question on AVR Freaks, and let the many embedded systems engineers tell you how they have used the AVR in real products that get sold.

I'm glad you find working with the Arduino exciting and fun. If you want to build a robust system, it definitely can be done as there are many people who are doing it.
Eric Weddington
Marketing Manager
Open Source & Community
Atmel

dhenry

Quote
Panasonic Toughbook's battery pack. On the board is a ATMega163L,


That's actually an interesting application for a mcu. If the toughbook were mass-produced, Panasonic would have gotten a asic or epoxy-packged ic there for that application - the small production scale for the toughbook doesn't allow that.

The mcu is used there for its flexibility and such a high cost solution (vs. asic etc.) becomes a (relatively) low cost solution for this particular application.

SirNickity

I've seen Atmel chips in commercial devices before.  Off the cuff, I don't remember what, it was a while ago and I don't go ripping apart functioning appliances to see what ICs they use very often.  So take that for what you will.

Reliability of any MCU itself will be dwarfed by the system in which it's in.  It's just not the part most likely to fail.  The I/O pins aren't meant to interface with the outside world, so you need to make sure there are hardened interfaces wherever you expose connectivity.  (MAX232 for serial, for instance ..)  And the PSU of course is a big deal.  With good filtering, sensible protection circuitry, and proper software design, I'm sure an AVR will run for as long as your product has any useful purpose.

vincenzo2

#29
Jul 04, 2013, 10:06 am Last Edit: Jul 04, 2013, 10:10 am by vincenzo2 Reason: 1
HI,
I am an embedded system designer, mainly use Microchip PICs and ATMEL AVR's to build industrial control systems on a daily basis.

BTW, Microchip tried to buy ATMEL not long ago (it didn't work) and it's a bigger company with more support and production. Older companies (Texas Instruments, Motorola, INTEL, ...etc) were more famous when microcontrollers started in the 1980's and 1990's.

All microprocessor/microcontroller chips are made with a couple of technologies in one of a few architectures (no company wants to re-invent the wheel) and those things don't affect anything about the final product (they are simply names and it'd all about what the designer is used to and they all have different packages and capabilities and high-level compilers).

Recently, I started designing PCB's that have an arduino-like header in the center to hold an arduino nano or some similar clone board that get's inserted just like a DIL IC in an IC base, much more reliable longer pin contact though. The boards may contain other IC's or discrete components, relays, ...etc, but most MC IO pins connect to outside professional MOLEX type click/fasten connectors () through opto-couplers.

Small arduino boards, for me, are just another microcontroller chip (that come with pre-installed bootloader and a free, simple development environment) that help me avoid SMD work and that come with nice libraries in their development environment for any "slow" man-machine interface application that are (if the whole system is designed right HW/SW) supposed to last forever.

BTW, I buy my little arduino clones from Chinese manufacturers and they are top-notch PCBs. I have used them, with good packaging) in industrial environments and made complicated C code for PID control and sometimes modified the assembly code to mess with timers and interrupts. I would love to hear other users get the most out of these "products" like I did and not to focus on making "cool" gadgets because there is so much more potential.

That sounds very close to using a PLC and some ladder logic like Allen-Bradly's RSlogix but that is much smaller and cheaper.

I remember when car manufacturers (especially Chrysler) started including a car computer or ECM module in their cars to control emission and injection and stuff like that, that they used to cover the computer PCB with a very thick layer of a very hard funny material that you don't even get to see the components and it was almost impossible to diagnose faults on a component level. Modern PLC PCB's are not much better than arduino PCB's (they are only, probably, covered with an additional transparent layer of insulation that is hard to see). It's like the industry standards now that PCB's for production are very reliable, especially if they are put in reliable cases and electrical and mechanical isolation. I would love to see comments about my experience.

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