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SiC Patent Analysis single crystal, wafer and epiwafer manufacturing
Jul.2012

sic crystal wafer and epiwafer patents distribution by technology
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Description

 
Yole SiCPatent 20121772 patent families to support a $80M business in 2012…

1772 PATENT FAMILIES TO SUPPORT A $80M BUSINESS IN 2012…


Despite a cumulative raw wafers + epi wafers market that won’t exceed $80M in 2012, the corpus of related patents comprises over 1772 patent families and more than 350 companies since 1928. 83% of patents represent a method while 17% of them claim an apparatus. Since 1978 the main technique to grow bulk single-crystals of silicon carbide is PVT: Physical Vapor Transport (seeded sublimation method) which represents 36% of published patents. This PVT technique mostly deals with the hexagonal polytype nH-SiC (n=2,4,6). Liquid Phase Epitaxy (LPE) is an alternative route to grow SiC (early efforts date back to 1961). It allows crystals to grow with low dislocation densities and at relatively low temperatures (attractive for cubic polytype 3C-SiC). About 37% of patents claim a Chemical Vapor Deposition technique (CVD) which is almost exclusively used today to manufacture SiC epiwafer. The Molecular Beam Epitaxy (MBE) is only mentioned within 1% of patents. The polytype (hexagonal or cubic) is explicitly claimed in 15% of patents. Numerous strategies to reduce crystal defects (micropipes, carrots …) and make semi-insulating material are proposed in 23% and 10% of patents respectively.


Sic crystal wafer and epiwafer patents distribution by technology
INVESTMENT IN R&D DOESN’T MATCH SALES REVENUE

About 350 applicants are involved in SiC crystal/epiwafer technology. They are mainly located in Japan (72% of patents) and USA (12% of patents). The five major applicants based on their patents number are Denso, Sumitomo, Nippon Steel, Bridgestone and Toyota. They represent about 35% of studied patents. The first US firm Cree Inc. occupies the 6th position. This balance is totally uncorrelated from the reality of the market where 75% of the SiC wafer business is generated by US-based companies, namely CREE, II-VI or Dow Corning. Japan is only responsible for 5% of the revenues (at least before SiCrystal Acquisition by Rohm). Same observations are seen in Europe and Asia (out of Japan) where the [# of patents/revenues] ratio is very weak at the moment.

Regional comparison of pourcentage of filed patents
JAPAN LEADS THE IP BUT KOREA AND CHINA TAKE-OFF

Japan is increasingly involved in SiC technology since the 1980’s. United States was the early player and still is active. In contrast, only 3 Japanese companies are commercially active in SiC material: Showa Denko (epiwafer), Bridgestone (wafer) and Nippon Steel (wafer and epiwafer). China and Korea emerged as new players during the last five years along with the establishment of companies such as Epiworld (CN), TianYue (CN), TYSTC (CN), Tankeblue (CN), SKC (KR).However, these companies market shares remain very low at the moment.

SiC MATERIAL:  A QUESTION OF KNOW-HOW? It looks obvious that IP considerations do not create a differentiating factor for success in the SiC substrate business. CREE is leading this industry with about 50% market share on a worldwide basis, and has clearly the best reputation in terms of quality, diameter and reproducibility. However, CREE does not own the widest patent portfolio. Thus, know-how and patent numbers do not seem correlated. The only field where number of patents and business size appears to be more balanced is Semi-Insulating (S.I.) SiC technology where both CREE (Vanadium-free) and II-VI (Vanadium-doped) have extensively patented their respective developments.

Key SiC growth patents1
WHAT IS THE BEST RECIPE TO ENTER THE SiC SUBSTRATE BUSINESS?

The barriers to the entry in the SiC substrate world are very high: today state-of-the-art deals with 6” diameter, likely no-micropipe and very low dislocation density. Only CREE seems able to offer such a product today. Why? First of all, CREE has been widely funded by DoD, DoE, DARPA and Navy contracts during these last 20 years, meaning CREE had comfortable position to handle lots of experiments and improve the technology for both LED and Power Electronics. So mastering SiC growth is probably a question of money, but clearly a question of development time, that cannot be compressed. It looks reasonable then to think there  has been a cross-fertilization between LED and Power businesses that allowed CREE to benefit from the LED mass manufacturing, which is probably less stringent than power at wafer level, to fuel the power electronics side. Finally, the R&D efforts have never ended, maintaining CREE leadership in the safe-area. Apart from receiving funding to develop the technology, the only options to enter quickly in the SiC substrate battlefield appears to be  through M&A (Merger & Acquisition) of an existing activity or to buy a license and related know-how, paying royalties in return. However who is for sale? Virtually nobody is at this current time. Beyond the  top five SiC substrate leaders, we don’t see a clear positioning of  companies who may want to participate in a sale or merger of their business. Ultimately, we should pay attention to the new developments around LPE (Liquid Phase Epitaxy), done by Toyota, Denso or Sumitomo,   as well as 3C-SiC (Cubic) which may disrupt the current PVT domination.

Table of contents

InTroDuCTIon
ConTexT AnD frAme of The Survey
DefInITIonS & gloSSAry
obJeCTIve AnD meThoDology
exeCuTIve SummAry
overvIew of SiC SubSTrATe mArkeT
SiC rAw SubSTrATe mArkeT
> SiC bulk wafer manufacturing fundamentals
> State-of-the-art in SiC Crystal Growth
> SiC growth technologies main concepts
> From polytype to devices
> From Powder to SiC Epi-ready Wafers
> SiC Crystal Growth Technique comparison table
> Main SiC Material Manufacturing Site Locations
> Commercially Available Material Polytypes, Doping & orientation
> Evolution of relative Market Shares in the SiC Business
> Current business model
> Origin of SiC involvement
> Status of the SiC wafer suppliers as of late 2011
> Market Size Projection for SiC Substrates in Various Applications 2010-2020
> Market volume projection split by diameter 2010-2020
> Wafer Diameter Evolution in Production for Power Electronics: 2005-2020
> Wafer Diameter Evolution in Production for GaN/SiC LED: 2005-2020
> Wafer Diameter Evolution in Production for GaN/SiC RF devices: 2005-2020

SiC ePITAxy mArkeT
> SiC epi-wafer manufacturing fundamentals
> Current business model
> Status of the SiC epi-wafer suppliers as of late 2011
> SiC epi-house and epi-service offers
> SiC epitaxy evolution forecast
> Opportunity for an epi-service house
> SiC epitaxy market estimate
> The µm.wafer method
> Annual volume of epitaxy demand in µm.wafer split by application to 2020
> Market projection for SiC epitaxy demand to 2020
> Outsourced SiC epitaxy business revenues to 2020
> Typical process time

SiC PATenT lAnDSCAPe
> Evolution of SiC patent publication time-line
> Regional distribution of patents based on priority & publication country
> Regional comparison of % of filed patents vs. revenues by headquarter location
> Regional distribution of patents priority time-line
> ToP-20 leading patent applicants
> ToP-15 leading patent applicants over the time
> ToP-15 leading patent applicants by publication country
> Assignee collaboration network
> Keyword and strategy of research for the technological segmentatio,
> SiC patents, by technology
> Company assignee vs. technology matrix
foCuS on SiC SIngle-CrySTAl PATenT lAnDSCAPe
> The 4 main technologies for SiC single-crystal growth
> SiC single-crystal growth patents time-line
> SiC single-crystal growth patent companies involvement
> ToP-15 leading patent applicants over the time for SiC finishing
> Focus on Physical Vaport Transport (PVT)
> Patent time-line
> PVT patents company involvement
> ToP-15 leading patent applicants over the time for PVT
> Focus on Liquid Phase Epitaxy (LPE)
> Patent time-line
> LPE patents company involvement
> ToP-15 leading patent applicants over the time for LPE

key PATenTS In SiC CrySTAl growTh
> How did we select key patents ?
> Key patents / issues / timeline
> North Carolina State university, raleigh (US)
> Nisshin Steel (JP): sublimation process
> Siemens (DE): Sublimation reactor design
> ABB research (CH) & okmetic (FI): HTCVD method
> Northrop Grummann (uS): Vanadium-doped S.I. SiC
> Northrop Grummann (uS): seed enlargement
> CREE (US): Vanadium-free S.I. SiC
> Sumitomo (JP): LPE technique
> CREE (US): low dislocation density
> CREE (US): defects reduction
> Nippon Steel (JP): Va-doped method
> CREE (US): High-resistivity SiC crystal
> CREE (US): low micropipe density
> Toyota (J): LPE technology

SiC ePITAxy
> SiC epitaxy patents time-line
> SiC epitaxy patent companies involvement
> ToP-15 leading patent applicants over the time for SiC finishing
> Focus on nH-SiC polytype epitaxy
> Focus on 3C-SiC polytype
> Focus on defect reduction
> Focus on Semi-insulating & p-type

key PATenTS In SiC ePITAxy
> How did we select key patents ?
> Key patents / issues / timeline
> Fujitsu (J): 3C SiC epitaxy
> North Carolina State university, raleigh (US)
> National Aeronautics and Space Administration (US)
> Panasonic (J): CVD growth
> Mitsubishi (J)
> ATMI (uS): off-cut epitaxy
> AIST (J)
> CREE (US)
> Toshiba (J): 3C SiC epitaxy
> Hoya (J): ondulant substrate for 3C growth
> National Tsing Hua university (TW): 3C SiC

SiC fInIShIng
> SiC finishing patents time-line
> SiC finishing patent companies involvement
> ToP-15 leading patent applicants over the time for crystal growth

 

Companies Cited

ABB
ACrEo
AIST
Ascatron
ATMI
Bridgestone
C9 Corporation
Cabot
Cree
Crysband
Denso
Dow Corning
Ecotron
Epiworld
Fuji Electric
Fujimi
Fujitsu
Hitachi
Hoya
II-VI
Infineon
Kansai Electric Power
Kwansei Gakuin Univ.
Mitsubishi
Mitsui
NASA
National Tsing Hua Univ.
N-Crystals
NEC
NeoSemitech
Nippon Pillar Packing
Nippon Steel
Niro
Nisshin Steel
Norstel
North Carolina Univ.
Northrop Grumann
NovaSiC
okmetic
Panasonic
PoSCo
Rohm

Sanyo
SemiSouth
Sharp
Shikusuon
Shinetsu Chemical
Showa Denko
SiC Systems
SiCilab
SiCrystal
Siemens
Sumitomo Metal Industries
TankeBlue
Toshiba
Toyota
TyanYue
TYSTC
United Silicon Carbide
US Navy
Widetronix

 

KEY FEATURES OF THE REPORT

  • Patent landscape for SiC single crystal and epiwafer over a total of 1772 patent families
  • Contrast the patent landscape with the current and expected market status, highlighting the most active companies, the patent transfer and the sleeping IP.
  • Key patents that could possibly block new comers, for both crystal and epi-growth
  • A unique cross-analysis between market dynamics, technology improvement, industry shaping and related patent activity
  • Excel™ spreadsheets presenting the 1772 patents (Publication Number, Publication Date, Priority Date, Title, Abstract, Assignee(s) and Inventor(s), Legal Status) with direct link to the full patent text and pictures