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Jul 26th, 2012
Power electronics will remain one of the most attractive branches of the semiconductor industry for the next decade
Status of the Power Electronics Industry, a report from Yole Développement
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Power electronics: a $20 billion devices market and 4 main semiconductor technologies
In 2012, the market for semiconductor devices (discrete, modules and ICs) dedicated to the power electronics industry will reach $20 billion,” says Brice Le Gouic, Activity Leader, Power Electronics at Yole Développement. With applications as diversified as hybrid cars, PV inverters, lighting, energy, and voltage ranging from a few volts to a few thousands volts, power electronics is and will remain one of the most attractive branches of the semiconductor industry over the next decade.

In this report, Yole Développement provides a complete breakdown of 1) market forecasts and player shares depending on the application, 2) the voltage range and the geography for power discrete and modules, and 3) wafers used for power semiconductor device manufacturing.

Already well-established in the market, IGBTs account for $1.6 billion in the medium to high voltage sector. In this report, we describe a trend towards decreasing voltage range in order to target consumer applications such as TVs, computer adapters and cameras, in order to access more segments. At the same time, SJ MOSFETs present in these applications offer faster switching frequencies and competitive cost. We estimate the SJ MOSFET market will reach $567 million by the end of the year.

GaN and SiC also have a chance to outdo silicon performance and enhance inverter capabilities. However, materials are still expensive and the technology is not yet ready. On the other hand, both of these materials can benefit from their developed status in the LED industry, and we have seen plenty of LED players paying attention to the opportunity that power electronics represent.

Each technology faces strong developments…
In this report, Yole Développement clearly identifies the uses for these four main technologies. Nevertheless, all of them still struggle to bring ideal solutions for every application at every power/voltage range. There are two consequences:
- GaN and SiC are not mature yet for the power electronics market: the first one requires technological enhancement of the manufacturing process, especially for epitaxy thickness, and the second one is an expensive material that does not allow implementation within consumer-like businesses.
- Segmentation between technology and the power/voltage range will take place, and some segments will only accept one « best » technology.

…And each technology has a particular industry structure
While SJ MOSFETs welcome new players and foundry service suppliers, the IGBT dies’ industry is becoming consolidated thanks to the presence of large players involved in many applications, such as Infineon, Mitsubishi Electric and Fuji. However, the IGBT (and SJ MOSFET) modules business is increasing, and we see new players entering to provide solutions for cooling, interconnections, substrates, packaging, and gel.

On another note, the SiC industry, which has been led by CREE, is now an interesting playground for new players. With access to lower-cost material, the SiC industry now has the chance to ramp up and get organized. However, apart from the PFC business, technological capabilities of SiC show that it will surely be dedicated to high power/voltage applications. Also, SiC companies have appeared in China, which will definitely provide competition and tougher access to local markets.

At this point in time, the GaN industry is mostly a US business. International Rectifier, EPC, Transphorm, Microsemi and GaN Systems now propose fully off-the-shelf or customized products. However, some pioneers like MicroGaN, NEC and Powdec are showing there is a trend to globalize the GaN manufacturing industry. At the same time, the market is still soft and LED players are considering using their technological platform to enter the power electronics field, which will be very much low power/voltage-oriented.

In this report, Yole Développement describes how each industry is doing, how they interact between each other, and how they will evolve in the future/what type of market we will see. In addition, questions regarding supply chain and how business will be segmented are answered. The power electronics industry has great growth potential, mostly driven by energy (production, distribution, consumption) which is open and accessible, even for small players.

Technological & cost requirements imposed on power semiconductors are driven by the inverter industry
Because power semiconductors are “just a piece” of the power electronics industry, the power semiconductor industry has to answer requirements from a bigger system: the inverter. For example, some expensive solutions are still not implemented, even if device and module performance are much higher than current output.

Yole Développement provides an analysis of the inverter market and players, as well as the industry evolution, in order to illustrate the role of power semiconductors and analyze which drivers will be key for which applications.

In addition, this report underlines the expected technical developments of an inverter – depending on the applications – and how power semiconductors will contribute to these improvements. Indeed, power devices ameliorations will be useful only if they fit with passive and connective devices, defined by inverter needs.

Geographical positioning is also critical in the power electronics area, especially with the boom in China and other emerging countries, but also because several applications (PV, wind, electric vehicles) are supported by local governments.
Yole Développement provides a geographical and supply chain analysis for the power electronics industry, from semiconductors and passive devices to inverter levels.

More information on the report here.



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