On November 12th, Infineon announced that it will acquire Siltectra. Infineon is the one of the top semiconductor players and the current leading power electronic device company. But some of you may ask, who is Siltectra? We at Yole Développement (Yole) can tell you – and explain this acquisition.
Siltectra is a German start-up founded in 2010 that specializes in a wafering technology called “Cold Split”, which can be used to separate different types of crystals to produce wafers suitable for semiconductor manufacturing. Infineon’s press release highlights Silicon Carbide (SiC). Wafering SiC traditionally uses diamond saws, which lead to substantial material loss in the form of kerf cutting waste. Siltectra’s technology is kerf-free, and the company claims that it allows users “to increase SiC wafer production immediately by 90%, without a need to increase crystal growth capacities… In total, the same SiC-Boule would give enough material for three times more final devices…final SiC-device costs can be reduced by 20-30% with the better utilization of the required SiC material(1).”
(Source: Power SiC 2018: Materials, Devices and Applications, Yole Développement, July 2018)
This Cold Split technology value proposition is what Infineon is looking for, as it indicates in its press release: “Thanks to the Cold Split technology, the higher number of SiC wafers will make the ramp-up of our SiC products much easier, especially regarding further expansion of renewable energies and the increasing adaptation of SiC for use in the drive train of electrical vehicles.”
Yole Développement has followed the SiC power industry since its emergence in 2000, but we have seen a radical change in 2017-2018. We are optimistic about the SiC power device market, expecting the total SiC device market to be worth more than $1.5B in 2023, equating to a 31% Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) for 2017-2023, as mentionned in the report from Yole, Power SiC 2018: Materials, Devices and Applications.
Among different applications, electric and hybrid electric vehicles (EV/HEV) are no doubt the main driving force. In 2017, people bought 1.2 million battery electric vehicles (BEV) and plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHEV), a 52% increase compared to 2016. Yole analysts expect the EV/HEV power electronics segment to grow with an impressive 20.7% CAGR2017-2023, as described in the Power Electronics for EV/HEV 2018 report from Yole. In terms of technological choices Tesla’s adoption of SiC MOSFETs in its Model 3 main inverter earlier than generally expected shocked the SiC power and electric vehicle industries. As a consequence, many questions have been raised at carmaker OEMs and tier one part makers about when to transition from incumbent silicon-based technology to SiC. SiC power device supply security and cost issues are the core of the concerns.
Facing increasing demand at the clients’ side and a short supply situation on the wafer side, device manufacturers are hunting for solutions. After the abortive acquisition of Cree and its SiC wafer business at the beginning of this year, Infineon has announced a long-term wafer supply agreement with Cree. Maybe this agreement, even though it is valued at over $100M, is still not sufficient. At the end of the year, Infineon is now addressing both supply and cost issues by acquiring Siltectra. This appears to be the proverbial ‘killing two birds with one stone’!
What are the other potential solutions? Disco offers its KABRA ingot slicing process. Sicoxs has a SiC substrate that it produces using bonding technology. There are also other engineered substrate solutions, like Soitec’s Smart Cut™. The semiconductor industry has plenty of innovative ideas, but players need to be fast. Sumitomo Metal Mining Co., Ltd. gained a controlling stake of Sicoxs in October 2017(2). A second long term supply agreement was announced with an unnamed ‘leading global semiconductor company’ by Cree(3). And there is certainly more to come in this very dynamic SiC power industry, as it actively prepares to ramp up to serve the automotive industry.
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.
Automotive is putting SiC on the road. Is the supply chain ready? – Get more here
Who will benefit from the EV/HEV market’s explosive growth? – Get more here