Power SiC ecosystem is reshaped by vertical integration

Infineon Technologies, onsemi, ROHM, STMicroelectronics, Wolfspeed… The clash of the Titans.The market research and strategy consulting company Yole Développement (Yole) and the reverse engineering & costing company System Plus Consulting have analyzed the compound semiconductor industry in-depth for some years now. Based on a dedicated methodology and high-added value expertise, both partners deliver their vision through a wide collection of products, including technology & market reports, reverse engineering & costing analyses, and a dedicated Compound Semiconductor Quarterly Market Monitor.
In this dynamic context, Yole and System Plus Consulting offer today a special focus on SiC for power electronics applications with their annual report, Power SiC 2022, and a SiC Transistor Comparison 2021.
The SiC device market will reach US$6.3 billion in 2027, announces Yole’s Compound Semiconductor team. With the trend towards EVs in the past years, a longer range is one of the main demands of customers. However, this, in turn, creates a need for fast DC charging to decrease the waiting time at charging stations. The 800V EV is the solution to meet the demand, and it started to penetrate the market in 2021.

Poshun Chiu, Technology & Market Analyst, Compound Semiconductors & Emerging Materials at Yole, comments: “SiC is considered the enabler to provide good efficiency, and a supply of 1200V devices is feasible. With more 800V EVs coming, SiC is expected to grow quickly. Meanwhile, charging infrastructure and photovoltaics are two markets supporting the EV trend. More chargers are needed to support the increasing volume of EVs, and renewable energy shares the same objective of zero CO2 emission with EVs. These are the markets for SiC to gain more momentum.”

SiC market players are working hard to generate more revenue in this multi-billion-dollar business

Companies including STMicroelectronics, Wolfspeed, onsemi, and Infineon Technologies, for example, announced their “billion-dollar revenue” objectives. Despite the different paths chosen by each player, the similarity of business model among them can be clearly identified.
The IDM – integrated device manufacturer – business model is the one chosen by leading players to supply devices, especially power modules. This business model represents a higher dollar value to grow the revenue.
STMicroelectronics is the leading SiC company, as their modules have been used in the Tesla Model 3 for some years. Their activities are not only at the device level; and indeed, STMicroelectronics demonstrated their in-house 8” SiC wafer in 2021.
Another leading SiC company, onsemi, took a significant step in 2021 by acquiring GT Advanced Technologies, a SiC boule supplier. Today, onsemi is working on the expansion of its SiC wafer capacity. Its goal is to support its rapidly growing SiC business.
Speaking of the leading company in global power electronics, Infineon Technologies delivered an impressive 126% growth of their SiC device business in 2021, outperforming the 57% average growth rate. The design-win of the 800V Hyundai Ioniq5 developed by Infineon Technologies pushed them into the fast lane with their solid base of industrial applications.

Wolfspeed also showed its determination to focus its activities on the SiC business. The company decided on a significant re-organization a few years ago by selling its LED business and expanding its power device business. With its SiC wafer leadership, Wolfspeed has now qualified its 8” fab. The company is moving forward and has raised its growth.
Meanwhile, ROHM is expanding capacity in both devices and wafers following its acquisition of SiCrystal a decade ago to integrate vertically. And II-VI shared their long-term view by demonstrating an automotive-qualified 1200V device and an extended partnership with General Electric.

The SiC ecosystem has been reshaped by these major players in the past years.  According to Yole, two main trends impact its supply chain: vertical integration of wafer manufacturing and module packaging to gain more revenues in the coming years. In this context, end-system companies, for example, automotive OEMs, are adopting SiC quicker and more flexibly to manage the supply with multiple wafer suppliers in the market…

A SiC world pushed by innovations

From the technology development perspective, innovative approaches to SiC wafer are proposed. As of 2022, SiC wafer still accounts for a major part of the cost of a SiC device.

According to Amine Allouche, Technology & Cost Analyst at System Plus Consulting, in the SiC Transistor Comparison 2021 report: “SiC raw wafer cost represents more than 60% of the epi-wafer cost for 1200V SiC MOSFETs. Even though SiC wafer capacity has been expanding, there is still a strong motivation for innovation in quality, throughput, and cost”.

8” SiC wafers are considered as the critical step to scaling up production. The objective is clearly to increase yield and gain advantages in the next round of competition. Major IDMs are developing their own manufacturing capability of 8” SiC wafers; already, some wafer suppliers are shipping samples as of 2022.  In Yole’s power SiC forecast, 6” will still be the leading platform in the coming five years. However, initial volumes of 8” are starting in 2022, and it will be taken as a strategic resource by market players.

To optimize the wafering process and thus produce more wafers from one single SiC boule is another approach. Solution suppliers, such as DISCO, have developed the laser cutting system to increase the throughput. And Infineon Technologies is qualifying their Cold Split technology. Thinking ‘out of the box’, a few companies have proposed very different ways of manufacturing SiC wafers. Soitec applied their SmartCut™ technology to produce SiC wafer with a thin layer with a lower defect rate and a handle wafer with lower resistivity. A Japanese company, Sumitomo Metal Mining, planned to ramp up its engineered SiC wafer in the coming years. And KISAB, a Swedish start-up, provides wafer-based approaches to offer high-quality SiC wafers. These innovations might accelerate the global development of SiC in the years to come.

What’s happened in China?

When the discussion spotlight is on EVs, investment, and growing markets, it is relevant to look at the Chinese ecosystem. Massive SiC investment in China is based on three primary motivations: the national policies, the strong market demand, and the need for domestic supply.
More than 50 Chinese companies announced entering the SiC business at different levels and with different strategies. Some wafer suppliers are adding a significant number of furnaces, while some players enter from other backgrounds.
Wafer suppliers, such as TankeBlue and SICC, are expanding capacity based on their established business. In parallel, Sanan IC completed its phase-1 construction of a vertically integrated facility in 2021. And BYD has a subsidiary working on semiconductor and SiC modules.
It is still the case that the Chinese market needs devices from major SiC companies based in Europe, North America, and Japan. With the strong demand for EVs, in addition to the development of renewable energy and industrial applications, Chinese companies see opportunities from a long-term perspective and adapt their strategy accordingly.

With a multi-billion-dollar prospect in the coming five years in a strong market mainly pulled by EV applications, SiC is expected to enter more and more applications. To make it happen, ecosystem evolution and innovations are the most critical factors to watch. IDM is the main business model in SiC. In addition, major SiC players are moving all along the supply chain toward the module level. The strategy is to create value.
In parallel, innovation never stops. Therefore, new entrants are bringing new approaches to improve scaling, throughput, quality, or cost.
Yole’s analysts are convinced, SiC is a rapidly growing market.

About the authors

Poshun Chiu is a Technology & Market Analyst specializing in Compound Semiconductor and Emerging Substrates at Yole Développement (Yole). As a member of the Power Electronics & Wireless division at Yole, Poshun focuses on power, RF, and opto-electronics. He is engaged in the development of technology and market reports.
Before joining Yole, Poshun had 9 years’ experience in R&D and product management at Epistar (TW & CHN).
Poshun received an MSc degree in Microelectronics from National Cheng Kung University (TW) and an MBA from IESEG School of Business(FR).

Amine Allouche serves as a Technology & Cost Analyst, Power Electronics, at System Plus Consulting, part of Yole Développement.
With strong expertise in the field of power electronics, Amine produces reverse engineering & costing analyses while also working on custom projects. He collaborates closely with the laboratory team, defining objectives of the analyses and determine the methodologies necessary to reveal the structure of a device.
Amine holds a master’s degree in Micro & Nanotechnologies with a focus on integrated systems from Grenoble’s Polytechnic Institute (France). He also graduated from the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) (Lausanne, Switzerland) and the Politecnico di Torino (Italy).

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