In the latest SiC power report by Yole Développement (Yole), Power SiC 2019: Materials, Devices, and Applications, analysts see a prospering SiC power device market. They expect the market value of SiC power semiconductors to approach US$2 billion by 2024, with a 29% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) between 2018 and 2024.
ON Semiconductor is one of the market leaders in the development of power electronics devices. The company is progressing very quickly up in the ranking of SiC power device companies.
i-Micronews invites you to discover ON Semiconductor’s perspective in this interview of Bret Zahn, Senior Director and General Manager. In this discussion, Yole’s analysts would like to share with you ON Semiconductor’s activities in, and vision for, the SiC power market.
This interview has been conducted by Hong Lin, PhD., Principal Analyst at Yole.
Hong Lin (HL): Please introduce yourself to our readers. What are your responsibilities at On Semiconductor?
Bret Zahn (BZ): My name is Bret Zahn and I’m the Sr. Director and General Manager of three business units within ON Semiconductor (ON). These business units encompass Low Voltage MOSFETs (≤40V), Battery Protection MOSFETs, and Wide Band Gap inclusive of SiC and GaN.
HL: Could you please briefly introduce ON’s activities, especially within the SiC industry? What’s your history of SiC?
BZ: ON’s goal is to be a top tier SiC supplier with complete vertical integration from boule growth to finished goods inclusive of die only, discrete devices, and modules for both the industrial and automotive markets.
ON has both organic and inorganic activities in progress in order to achieve this goal in the shortest possible time.
HL: Today, what are the SiC products developed by ON and available in the market?
BZ: We have maintained a released portfolio of 650V and 1200V diodes since 2016, with the first release of our 1700V diode portfolio occurring in July 2019.
With respect to MOSFETs, we released our initial 1200V products in December 2018 with more releases occurring in the second half of 2019 in parallel with new 900V MOSFET releases.
ON has been selling industrial hybrid modules into the market since early 2018 and will begin sales of full SiC industrial modules in Q4 2019.
We will be releasing a comprehensive portfolio of full SiC automotive modules into the market throughout 2020.
HL: What specific difficulties or challenges did you encounter during the development of such products?
BZ: Introducing new technologies into mass production always creates a wide range of challenges, from the actual R&D activities to the quality and reliability data needed to drive customer confidence and market adoption. SiC has created a paradigm shift in the power electronics market.
For the first time in decades, the industry is adopting, and processing technology based on non-Si materials. In developing SiC-based technologies, everything in the development chain has to be re-evaluated from manufacturing to applications testing.
For instance, developing a large die SiC MOSFET proved to be an enormous challenge that only one company other than ON has managed to resolve. Beside the complexity of yield due to inherent defects present in the SiC wafers, one also faces the challenge of new mechanical stress properties of SiC die in traditional packages such as the TO-247. Another challenge is developing oxides that are not only statically rugged but can also sustain the unpreceded high dv/dt values enabled by this new technology.
After a tremendous amount of work in a short period of time, ON has managed to navigate through these many developmental challenges delivering highly robust diode and MOSFET device portfolios to the market.
HL: What are the market segments addressed by ON today with its SiC solutions?
BZ: ON is currently a broad-based power management components supplier for Si products and plans to continue this approach with our SiC products.
Today we provide SiC devices that address the multiple application needs of both the industrial and automotive market segments. Through our cooperative relationships with many market moving customers we will continue to update and expand our product portfolios as required to support all the key SiC segments.
HL: Yole believes that full SiC module is the direction and will represent a very big portion of the SiC device market in the future. What do you think about it? How do you see the developmental status of a full SiC module today?
BZ: The movement toward full SiC modules is accelerating and taking interesting paths depending on the market segment.
As an example, the PV inverter market has been utilizing hybrid SiC modules for at least 2-years, with movement to full SiC modules already occurring in 2019.
The automotive market seems to be on a direct path toward the incorporation of full SiC modules, thereby skipping the hybrid to full module evolution.
Given the PV market’s current adoption of full SiC modules and expectations around electric vehicle growth, I would agree that the size of the full SiC module market will be much greater than what we are experiencing today.
HL: According to you, what will be the next steps?
BZ: I believe the key next step for the SiC market is to achieve IGBT cost parity. A key accelerator toward cost parity (and beyond) is complete vertical integration, thus ON’s goal to have such capability as quickly as possible.
HL: As one of the leading power semiconductor companies, how does ON evaluate the competition between SiC MOSFET and IGBT? In particular, for the automotive market?
BZ: There is already a tremendous amount of interest in SiC solutions for the automotive electric vehicle market. The size, weight, and efficiency gains that can be achieved in traction applications is well documented, which is why there is rapid movement toward full SiC module solutions, bypassing the need (or desire) for hybrid module solutions.
SiC already provides “system level” cost benefits for many automotive applications. However, once SiC can achieve cost parity with IGBTs at the device level, the greater efficiencies and lower pricing provides a winning combination that is hard to refuse.
HL: Do you see any particularity in the SiC ecosystem, with respect to that of the Si world?
BZ: Developing an ecosystem around SiC requires a series of changes when compared to Si. Starting with the simple fact that SiC active devices, such as MOSFETs, require a new driver.
The method of re-branding or re-using traditional IGBT drivers, or even making it a selling point that you can do so, is misguided marketing. SiC MOSFETs have much different input impedances, gate charges, and dynamic speed ranges (ON and OFF dv/dt and di/dt). Commercial IGBT or SuperJunction MOSFET drivers do not provide the necessary capabilities to drive SiC MOSFETs at peak performance. In addition, the short circuit capabilities and often-required negative drive of SiC MOSFETs demand drivers that are more capable.
However, gate drivers are not the only chain in the ecosystem that requires true re-design. A SiC-based ecosystem must also contain modules. Modules will be a key driver in market applications requiring ≥20kW of power. When considering modules, one cannot introduce products without re-thinking the inductance requirements and thermal advantages afforded by SiC. Although Si module casings and form factors can be reused, a significant re-design of the inner module workings is required to support SiC.
Another part of a complete ecosystem that can truly empower customers is advanced SPICE models. Classical curve tracer-based SPICE models do not offer the same depth of realism and accuracy to satisfy the needs of modern power stage simulations and do not capture the peculiarities of SiC devices. Designers require models that are robust, simulate fast, and provide realistic data which reflects the switching and thermal parameters exhibited by SiC.
Bret Zahn is Senior Director and General Manager of Low Voltage MOSFETs, Battery Protection MOSFETs, and the Wide Band Gap businesses inclusive of both SiC and GaN at ON Semiconductor. Bret has 30-years of technology industry experience managing global business units, operations teams, and R&D organizations.
Bret Zahn holds a bachelor’s degree in Aeronautical Engineering, a master’s degree in Microelectronics Engineering, and an MBA, all from Arizona State University.
Hong Lin, PhD, is a Principal Analyst, Compound Semiconductors at Yole Développement (Yole). Since 2013, Hong has been involved in analyzing the compound semiconductor market with dedicated technical, strategic, market and financial analyses.
Hong interacts on a daily basis with leading SiC companies, from wafer suppliers to device manufacturers, as well as equipment suppliers and end users, to understand the added value of this technology, its ability to penetrate the markets and its adoption by the end-users.
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