Globalwafers, the world’s third-biggest maker of silicon wafers, plans to start mass producing an advanced type of chip substrate by 2025 to address the auto industry’s surging demand for power semiconductors.
Globalwafers Chair and CEO Doris Hsu said her company will start qualification and test production of 8-inch silicon carbide (SiC) wafers next year, with mass production to begin the following year.
Silicon carbide chips are vital for power supplies and high-power chargers for electric vehicles (EVs), as well as energy infrastructure. SiC chips are also crucial for defense and telecom equipment. They offer higher thermal conductivity and lower power loss compared with chips built on more conventional silicon wafers.
“We really see many automotive-related chipmakers are pushing for more demand for silicon carbide wafers, and they are pushing our speed,” Hsu told reporters. “From 2025 through 2026, we will see a very speedy production ramp-up for 8-inch SiC wafers. That industry transformation from traditional 6-inch to advanced 8-inch wafers for SiC chips was unimaginable two years ago.”
Currently, mainstream silicon carbide chips are all built on 6-inch SiC wafers, but most SiC chipmakers and wafer makers are pushing to switch to 8-inch substrates in order to increase output per wafer. Building 8-inch SiC wafers is challenging because the material is brittle and the equipment needed to build at that size is not yet mature.
Globalwafers’ push into SiC wafers comes amid a slowdown in demand for silicon wafers that began last year due to macroeconomic conditions. Like Shin-Etsu Chemical and Sumco of Japan, Globalwafers has long been a supplier of silicon wafers to major logic and memory chipmakers, including Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing, Samsung and Intel. For SiC chip wafers, Globalwafers is a relative newcomer.
“We are starting to see some good signs from chipmakers that orders are gradually coming back,” Hsu said. “But in terms of the silicon wafer side, it will still take time for demand to pick up as most of our chip customers still have their inventories to digest.”
The global race for SiC chips, on the other hand, has heated up as the increasing adoption of EVs and green energy drive demand for this type of power semiconductor.
OnSemi recently announced that it has expanded a SiC chip facility in South Korea, while Infineon is building its biggest SiC chip plant in Malaysia. STMicroelectronics and Wolfspeed are both expanding massively on SiC substrate and chip manufacturing in Italy and Germany, respectively.
Players in the SiC chip space include Wolfspeed, Coherent (previously II-VI), OnSemi, Rohm, Renesas, Bosch, STMicroelectronics, Infineon and Mitsubishi Electric. Chinese players are investing in SiC chips and their supply chain, with notable players including TankeBlue, SICC and Sanan Optoelectronics. Infineon has partnered with China’s TankeBlue and SICC for some SiC wafer supplies, while STMicroelectronics formed a joint venture this year with Sanan to manufacture SiC chips to address the growing market.
Some chipmakers in this segment also have internal SiC wafer capacity, such as Wolfspeed, Coherent, On Semi and STMicroelectronics, but still require external supplies given the demand increase. Infineon, Bosch, and Mitsubishi mainly source wafers from external partners.