SiC wafers are the key to SiC power market – YOLE’S INSIGHTS

An article written by Hong Lin, PhD. Senior Technology & Market Analyst at Yole Développement (Yole) – Following the acquisition of Siltectra by Infineon Technologies in November 2018, STMicroelectronics has made two news-worthy announcements: in January 2019, a long term wafer and epiwafer supply agreement with Cree valued at US$250 million. In February 2019, the acquisition of Norstel, a manufacturer of conductive and semi-insulating SiC wafers and SiC single-crystal 4H epitaxial layers.

Our interpretation of a series of such news is that, although much more challenging to manufacture than Si wafers, SiC wafers are undoubtedly the key to the SiC power market!

Three long term SiC wafer and epiwafer supply agreements have been announced by Cree in the past 12 months, with a total value of more than US$400 million. This is wonderful news for Cree. These agreements make it much easier for Cree to invest in capacity expansion without accepting too much additional risk. Already the leading SiC supplier on the market, the company could further increase the gap with other suppliers. We are eagerly awaiting the reactions of other key suppliers.

Some words about Norstel
While less famous than its competitor, Cree (Wolfspeed), the company has a long history with SiC. They have unique HTCVD growth and also PVT growth. In January 2017, it was announced that Chinese investment fund An Xin Capital acquired Norstel. A factory was then built in Fujian, China, focusing on conductive SiC wafers for power devices.

In today’s SiC wafer market, there are very few targets for acquisition. As we said before, companies need to move fast.

Back to STMicroelectronics, the Norstel affair and the SiC power device market
As the first company to deliver SiC MOSFET for EV main inverters, ST manifests clearly its ambition to maintain their leading position in the automotive market. The company is targeting more than US$3 billion revenue in 2025. But the key question for OEM and Tiers 1 now, is whether SiC wafer supply is secure. With these two recent actions, ST is re-assuring their automotive clients of their capacity to ramp up.

Infineon Technologies has made two moves as well: a long-term agreement and the acquisition of Siltectra – a wafering company with innovative methods for simplification. We know that the automotive market will be the key driver for power devices in the next decade and we clearly see intensified competition. Leading power device manufacturers would not like to be left out.

As for the wafer market, we are wondering what the reactions of other leading power device manufacturers are (On, Mitsubishi, Fuji…)?

Notes: SiC : Silicon carbide – HTCVD : Hight Temperature Chemical Vapor Deposition – PVT : Physical Vapor Transport

Image: Source: Power SiC: Materials, Devices and Applications report, Yole Développement, 2018

About the author: 

Hong Lin, PhD works at Yole Développement (Yole), as a Senior Technology and Market Analyst, Compound Semiconductors within the Power & Wireless division since 2013. She is specialized in compound semiconductors and provides technical and economic analysis.

Before joining Yole Développement, she worked as R&D engineer at Newstep Technologies. She was in charge of the development of cold cathodes by PECVD for visible and UV lamp applications based on nanotechnologies.

She holds a Ph.D in Physics and Chemistry of materials.