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Feb 29th, 2012
The overall shipments of inverters should reach almost 28 million units, announces Yole Développement
Inverter Technology Trends & Market Expectations, a report from Yole Développement.
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Yole Développement announces its report “Inverter Technology Trends & Market Expectations”. Power electronics for electricity conversion is experiencing important growth. Semiconductor and power packaging developments, supply chain evolutions together with market forecasts are analyzed by Yole Développement in this report.

A $44 billion inverter market in 2011 for dynamic applications in motion & conversion
Because of continued strong interest in green energy, power electronics for electricity conversion is experiencing important growth. Starting with a total inverter market size of almost $44 billion in 2012, Yole Développement estimates that it should reach more than $55 billion, with a high CAGR for applications such as EV/HEVs and renewable energies. The overall shipments of inverters for every power range should reach almost 28 million units. As a consequence, semiconductor power modules market – mostly driven by IGBT modules – will also reach important values: $1.64 billion in 2012 thanks to EV/HEV applications having a 29% CAGR from 2011 to 2016. Power modules will also be the place for the introduction of wide band gap semiconductor materials. Indeed, drivers such as form factor reduction, efficiency, reliability and weight will push compound semiconductors into the power modules, with a forecasted market size of $150 million by 2016 with a fast ramp up adoption from 2014.

Last but not least, passive components and connectivity solutions such as power connectors and busbars will also represent a huge market.
In this report, we highlight the adoption of new passive components like super capacitors, developments around connectors as well as power signal and communication features,” explains Brice Le Gouic, Activity Leader, Power Electronics, Yole Développement. The general growth trend of power electronics will also drive more standard components such as resistors and in total Yole Développement estimates that the passive and connectivity components market should reach $2.7 Billion.

Semiconductor technological developments to enhance inverter performance
The heart of developments clearly comes from the evolution of semiconductor devices! These developments, mostly oriented by device performance also have an impact on other parts of modules and inverters: power packaging, system size reduction, performance, passive and connectivity solutions,” says Alexandre Avron, Technology & Market Analyst, Power Electronics, Yole Développement.

However, according to Yole Développement team, SiC and GaN-based switches are not ready yet to penetrate the market in high volume: indeed, technology still needs improvements and cost reduction. Yole Développement believes that mass adoption will not come before 2015. In addition,compound semiconductors will still compete with silicon based technologies such as (fast) IGBTs and Super Junction MOSFETs, specially driven by new inverter architectures like NPC at the power modules level.

Power packaging: important developments from application & material standpoints
In order to illustrate advantages of new semiconductor devices, Yole Développement’s report will provide a clear understanding of power module packaging evolution. Today, semiconductor manufacturers, power module makers and system integrators are looking for: more reliable interconnections, materials which withstand higher working temperature, and ways to remove or reduce cooling system size. Indeed, due to the higher switching frequencies and heat coming from external sources (external motors, high ambient temperature) semiconductor dies are getting closer to the heat dissipation system. This also means die attach materials are being investigated in order to maintain strong connection between the DBC and the semiconductor device. Copper wire bonds or Aluminum ribbon bonds are preferred to standard Aluminum technologies (which still represent 90% of the market), since they also support harsh working conditions.

Another track for interconnection is foil-based solutions, which enable power module volume reduction, higher reliability to vibrations, connection of SMDs or other devices on top of the module and adoption of double sided cooling systems.
Of course, all these efforts are done because of entry of new semiconductor materials, but they are also done to fit with application requirements. In this market and technology report, Yole Développement highlights the drivers’ priority by application: today, some cost driven applications such as motor drives or UPS are not ready to implement those new types of modules because added cost of it is too important for the overall system. In parallel, PV inverters, trains or electric and hybrid vehicles are the key drivers for power packaging research.

Out of the standard material suppliers for the electronics industry, three types of power electronics companies are likely to work on R&D for power packaging:
- Semiconductor device and module makers, such as Infineon, Toshiba or Mitsubishi
- Power module makers like Semikron, GE Global Research or Starpower
- Inverter manufacturers like DENSO, Yaskawa, Alstom or BYD.

Supply chain evolution: vertical integration in Asia; R&D services and diversification in Europe & North America
Power electronics now implies working with a broad spectrum of knowledge and know-how: mechanical, electrical, semiconductor, fluidics, hydraulics, connectors… Therefore, developments can be complicated and final products can be expensive.

As a consequence, Yole Développement’s team has observed and analyzed in this report the two main trends coming from the power electronics industry, which actually depends on the players locations:
• Japanese and Chinese players, especially from system makers tend to go downstream and master the manufacturing processes of each sub-system and component. In the case of Japanese companies, this tendency is mostly driven by cost reduction and absorption of intermediary margins, whereas Chinese companies want to access the technology and show some proof of quality
• On the other hand, EU and US players are more diversified, and acquisition of new competencies (such as Mersen, Rogers or Power Integration) or high-end R&D and prototyping services (APEI, Primes, IMEC, GE Global Research) is getting more common.

Alexandre Avron and Brice Le Gouic, Yole Développement



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