Weltrend Semiconductor: A Quintessential Leader in the Semiconductor Market

Sam Lin, Founder, Chairman & CEO, Weltrend SemiconductorSam Lin, Founder, Chairman & CEO
2019 is an important milestone for Weltrend Semiconductor as it marks the 30th year since the founding of the company in 1989. As one of the earliest fabless semiconductor companies in Taiwan, Weltrend has witnessed drastic changes—in terms of consumer preferences and technology adoption— during its growth. From feature-size reductions in ICs, the introduction of new materials and transistor structures, to the rise of factory automation and holistic system-driven design approaches, the modern-day electronics market has seen it all. Throughout the ups-and-downs of the industry cycles, what stayed intact—as the central pillar of Weltrend's success—is their focus on better performance and functionality of ICs, underpinned by the principles of quality and cost-effectiveness. With solid customer partnerships, stable financial structure, and innovative products, Weltrend continues to lead the market for planning, designing, testing, application development, and distribution of IC products.

Besides being a leading company in analog & mixed-signal/digital IC design in Taiwan, Weltrend, today, has a wholly-owned subsidiary that offers value-added electronic component distribution services for various internationally recognized brands.

Leading from the Front

Weltrend's expertise in mixed-signal technology—with both microcontroller (MCU) and power domain knowledge— is a combination that is rare in the industry. "MCU companies don't have the domain knowledge in power systems for integrating MCU with power components. On the other hand, power IC companies don’t have the resources or the domain knowledge on protocol and firmware like MCU company. We are different because of our unique expertise in mixed-signal technology,” asserts Sam Lin, the Founder, Chairman, and CEO of Weltrend Semiconductor.

"We are different because our expertise is mixed-signal technology in both MCU and power system domain knowledge"

Being the driving force of the company, Lin leverages his 40 years of business expertise in the semiconductor industry of Taiwan to lead Weltrend in the right direction. By addressing the various challenges raised by obsolete technologies, costs, and shifting consumer preferences, Weltrend—under Lin’s leadership—has delivered robust products that captured number-one market share in certain application markets. Whether it’s the IC’s for CRT monitor in the 90s and LCD TV in the 2000s, switching power supply for PC/game console/server in mid-2000s, or the USB Type-C with Power Delivery (USB PD) adapters started in 2015— Weltrend’s products have always been a trendsetter.

So what keeps Weltrend ahead in a highly competitive market where frequent price-reduction of chips has become normality? Many chip vendors—especially the companies from China—are also providing customers with somewhat fair-quality ICs at very competitive prices. “We work closely with foundries like Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) and Taiwan-based OSAT partners for cutting down the costs and keeping quality top-notch,” says Lin.
Powering the Needs of Today and Tomorrow

This allows Weltrend to roll out cost-effective products with emphasis on quality, supporting, and services (e.g. development tools, firmware customization, assistant in production setup at customers’ production-sites), while maintaining the competitiveness and ASP with higher level of integration in chip designs.

With a broad digital/ analog IP portfolio, Weltrend has accumulated enormous technical expertise and has expanded its product line to advanced applications spanning across advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS), data security, vital sign detection, digital power, and wireless charging.
  • We stood still throughout the ups-and- downs of the industry cycles in the past 30 years with solid customer partnership, stable financial structure, a management team with high integrity, and innovative products

Weltrend’s broad product portfolio encompasses power management and analog ICs, display ICs, consumer ICs, and general-purpose ICs.

• Power Management and Analog ICs

Weltrend has a series of USB power and charging port controllers that support multiple fast charge protocols in the market. They target power supplies such as car chargers, power banks, adapters, and dongles. The company has been a market leader in supervisor ICs for Switching Power Supplies (SPS) for desktop PCs/game consoles/servers since the mid-2000s. In 2015, Weltrend entered the fast-growing USB Type-C market with USB PD controller on the power source side for fast charging tablet/smartphone power adapters. The controllers are widely adopted by global OEMs and currently captures no. 1 market share. As USB PD requires both domain knowledge in power and MCU (protocol firmware)— two areas of expertise that Weltrend has—the company is able to provide the most competitive products with a high level of integration and firmware support. Often, Weltrend’s FAEs help customers to interface with the device makers directly for debugging on compliance and interoperability.

• Display ICs

Weltrends’ state of the art display ICs find its application across LCD TVs, projectors as well as various A/V products. One great example of this is their power-saving MCU for Samsung TVs. The story goes back to 2006 when Samsung wanted to cut the TV standby power under 0.1W to emphasize its green-energy concept. Their existing TV SoC consumed too much power in the standby mode, making the requirement a highly impossible task. Weltrend cooperated with Samsung to develop a companion chip which could not only meet the standby power consumption criteria but also support rich TV-related functions such as DVI/HDMI detection and CEC. The chip enabled the so-called one-touch function, where users could turn on the TV, DVD player, and set-top-box simultaneously by just touching one button. Lin asserts that these series of chips were undoubtedly a very successful product line of Weltrend and contributed to Samsung becoming the worldwide No.1 LCD TV maker.

Weltrend has accumulatively shipped over 200M pieces of these chips to Samsung and is still adopted in Samsung’s high-end TV products.

In the automotive electronics industry, Weltrend’s compact and cost-effective Around View Monitoring (AVM) processors are widely adopted by tier 1 car OEMs. In the automotive SoC for AVM application, Weltrend’s chip stitches the four images that come from the rear-view, front-view, and side-view (two) cameras into a complete image. This helps the driver to check the proximity of objects around the car while in low speed or parking situations. Last year, the company launched one of the world’s first automotive smart camera SoCs for Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) application. In this application, the chip can perform functions such as Lane Departure Warning (LDW), Blind- Spot Detection (BSD), and Moving Objection Detection (MOD), which are very helpful to a driver’s safety.

• Consumer ICs

Various consumer electronics companies use Weltrend’s consumer MCU series. These ICs have a wide variety of applications including gamepads, heart-rate monitoring for wristband/ smartwatch/earbuds, home appliances, toys, glucose meter, and blood pressure meter. Not only these, they even find uses across payment-related products such as Magnetic Stripe Reader (MSR) decoder, Smart Card Interface IC, and QR/Bar Code Reader IC for Point-of-Sale (POS) machines and terminals.

Delivering the Experience

Weltrend’s products have gained broad acceptance from customers globally due to their quality, team expertise, and top-notch development and testing infrastructures. One such success story is of an automotive tier-1 customer whose end-customer was a Japanese carmaker. Equipping vehicles with powerful electronic devices, especially smart cameras that perform ADAS functions to assist drivers is a big trend in the automotive industry today. But, traditionally, automotive tier-1s lack the expertise on the electronic side, especially dealing with the smart camera system, where they not only need to perform the installation and calibration but also do it efficiently and smoothly in the mass production stage. “When we developed the Around View Monitors (AVM)/ADAS chips, we had already foreseen these issues. We established an environment including a demo car in the company itself, where we perform the camera installation/calibration, on-road ADAS algorithm test, and mass production tooling setup and calibration,” explains Lin. With this, Weltrend assisted the automotive tier-1 client in finishing their project and rolling out new products efficiently, on time.

Success stories like these are powered by Weltrend’s commitment to invest heavily in research and development, and their partnerships. The company aims to continue on the path and maintain its leadership in both power and non-power segments. “We are expanding our fast charge product offerings from wired to wireless by partnering with Qualcomm on Quick ChargeTM for wireless power,” says Lin. On the non-power side, Weltrend plans to explore in AI SoC. The focus will be on edge inference, emphasized on high efficiency and low power consumer ICs for applications including the smart camera, automotive ADAS up to Level2+, surveillance, consumer, IoT, and intelligent robots.

These efforts will further solidify Weltrend’s position as a leader in the market. The results are already visible. Weltrend has seen three years of consecutive growth since 2016, with 2018’s revenues (~US$85m) and shipments (>194m pieces) reaching the company’s historical high. These figures are also powering Lin’s vision for Weltrend: “To build a great company which is profitable, world-class in certain semiconductor markets, caring about people and environment, and fun to work at.”
- Kenneth Thomas
    January 16, 2020