Power SiC: after 17 years of commercialization, growth has just begun…

2001 is the year the first SiC Shottky diode was commercialized. Much has changed since then, especially in the power electronics industry! SiC diodes and transistors have gradually convinced the market that they can replace silicon-based devices, even if they are more expensive and even if their integration means design changes.
Today, SiC MOSFETs have been commercially available for several years and are widely used in multiple applications. Yole Développement (Yole) expects a 29% CAGR over the next five years – in other words, a market that will quadruple in growth! This new report from Yole, Power SiC 2018: Materials, Devices and Applications, details what to expect in the next five years, and why such enormous growth is happening now.
In 2018, the question is not “Will the market increase?” but, “How big will the market be in five years?” Based on our investigation and analysis, we expect the total SiC device market to grow steadily, from $302M in 2017 to almost $1.4B in 2023, at a CAGR of 29%. The PV industry remains a major growth facilitator, along with car electrification thanks to significant adoption of SiC devices for key components like on-board charger, main inverter, and related charging infrastructure.
2018 SiC wafer market competitive landscape

From a technical point of view, SiC makes sense for the automotive market and all other markets too. SiC’s added value is well understood by device/system makers, who no longer require convincing. The learning curve is now easy to follow for how to use SiC devices, integrate them, and optimize a system with SiC devices in order to access higher specifications compared to silicon-based models, while lowering system costs whenever possible.
The most important growth is in car electrification. In fact, there is a clear difference regarding today’s automotive market size and that of 2023: growing from a few million US dollars to hundred million. But why? We are convinced that SiC will be widely adopted for onboard charger applications during our forecast period. Lending credence to this belief is the fact that BYD, Nissan-Renault, and multiple other car makers have already made this choice.
Regarding main inverters, we maintain our position of an increasing but limited SiC penetration from 2018 – 2023 due to the long qualification time in the automotive industry, and the cost aspects. The news of Tesla using STMicroelectronics’ SiC MOSFETs created a lot of noise and excitement in the power SiC industry – but in our analysis, this is not an example which can be generalized just yet. It will happen, step by step, over the next 10 years.

For the PV market, we’ve lowered our expectations due to new Chinese regulations which could significantly impact the overall market. However, PV is still a strong driver for SiC. Meanwhile, on the materials side, SiC wafer has been in short supply since late 2016. We interpret this situation as follows: first, the transition from 4” to 6” is happening much faster than expected; and second, wafer demand increase is also faster than expected. Plus, it takes time and money to expand capacity. The long-term wafer supply agreement between Cree and Infineon is seen by YOLE as a move by Infineon to secure its wafer supply. We expect the situation to last for at least another 12 – 18 months, and this report provides a detailed analysis of the SiC wafer situation, which companies are investing, and what we can expect in the next three years.

On the manufacturing side, the SiC market’s growth brings numerous opportunities for equipment makers due to the specific requirements related to process and wafering. Crystal growth, wafering, wafer polishing, epi layer manufacturing, specific process steps…here also a dedicated part of our report outlines the major market opportunities for SiC wafer and device equipment manufacturing.

Concerning the supply chain, the foundry model continues to develop, with X-fab, Episil, and Clas-SiC wafer fabs all proposing SiC device foundry services. This also brings more opportunities for epi players as the technology matures. In the same way, the ramping-up of established Si power leaders (Infineon, On Semiconductor, STMicroelectronics, etc.) will bring strong competition to the market. In our opinion, market consolidation is inevitable. Additionally, market growth and new developments are of course affecting the patent landscape, and we see the deposition of patents for SiC diode, MOSFET, and substrates increasing annually.

2018 is the SiC industry’s turning point, a key step in its transformation from niche market to mainstream power electronics industry. By 2023, SiC transistors will represent almost 10% of the IGBT market – this is huge! All of the details you need regarding SiC’s present and future are furnished in Yole’s new SiC Power Devices report.