SiC industry developments: the ones to watch

Thanks to aggressive acquisitions, vertical integration and vast investment sums, the SiC device market revenue is expected to topple $4 billion by 2026 as forecasted in Yole Developpement (Yole) Compound Semiconductor Quarterly Market Monitor Q2-2021. But which industry developments are really driving the market?

Yole’s Compound Semiconductor Quarterly Monitor is published every beginning of March (Q1), June (Q2), September (Q3) and December (Q4)… Aim of these services is to provide an in-depth coverage of rapidly changing market dynamics and main players’ status and strategy.

The Yole’s Quarterly Market Monitor includes two modules:

  • Module I: GaN and SiC for power electronics applications
  • Module II: GaAs and GaN for RF electronics applications

The market research & strategy consulting company invites you to explore a snapshot of this industry, with the Compound Semiconductor Quarterly Monitor, Q2 2021, recently published.

In the last decade, the worldwide SiC scene has been characterised by consolidation, vertical integration, strategic partnerships and cash. Japan’s SiC pioneer, ROHM, kick-started market activities back in 2009 when it acquired SiC wafer manufacturer, SiCrystal of Germany, and the dynamic market developments haven’t stopped since.

Fast forward to today, and Rohm has just completed construction of a $190 million SiC wafer and device production plant in Chikugo, Japan. Manufacturing is scheduled to start next year with up to a five-fold increase in production expected.

ROHM is hardly alone. Like its Japanese competitor, US-based Cree strengthened its position as the leading SiC material and device suppliers and paved the way for the Wolfspeed Power and RF spin-off in 2018. Following the $1 billion investment announcement in 2019, Wolfspeed’s 200 mm SiC wafer fabrication facility in Mohawk Valley, New York, is well underway with production of automotive-qualified wafers and devices expected to start in 2022.

Along the way, investment in SiC has been rising from industry players far and wide, with many businesses setting up manufacturing facilities in Asia that will only fuel this dynamic market further. In April this year, SiC wafer supplier, II-VI of the US, confirmed it had established a wafer finishing manufacturing line for SiC substrates in Fuzhou, to increase the overall SiC substrate manufacturing capacity by up to ten times in the next five years. These plans include 200 mm SiC wafer manufacture and underline the importance of the massive Chinese market to II-VI.

Germany’s Infineon has also laid out its intention to increase SiC epitaxy wafer production after signing a two-year contract, which includes an extension option, with one of the industry’s leading SiC epiwafer manufacturers, Showa Denko of Japan. The partners will develop and supply SiC epiwafers targeting emerging power electronic applications. Following the Siltectra acquisition in 2018, Infineon also intends to ramp up its SiC wafer and boule splitting in the upcoming years.

China moves

But as investments gather pace around the world, undoubtedly all industry eyes are on China. In the last few years, numerous Chinese players have been swiftly getting ready to compete on the global SiC stage.

For example, in June this year, Hunan Sanan Semiconductor, wholly owned subsidiary of Sanan Optoelectronics, opened China’s first vertically integrated SiC production line that covers the entire supply chain from crystal growth to power devices, packaging and testing. This mighty $2.5 billion dollar facility was built in less than a year and can churn out up to 30,000 six inch SiC wafers a month. And right now, Hunan Sanan’s sister company Sanan IC is producing 650V SiC diodes and qualifying a range of SiC-based devices including 1200V diodes, and 600V and 1200V MOSFETs.

At the same time, myriad Chinese SiC players are either building, or have announced plans to construct, production fabs. In just a few of many examples, HDSC, GZSC and Tankeblue are each investing more than $100 million to build SiC wafer facilities.

But it’s not just the wafer manufacturers that are pouring billions of Yuan into SiC production. Chinese OEMs have also been investing in the supply chain to ensure future wafer capacity.

For example, in 2019, Huawei took a 10% share of SiC materials manufacturer, SICC, planning to go public and to build a facility in Shanghai for expanding the capacity in the next five years. Industry reports also indicate the Chinese multinational has increased its registered capital in SiC epiwafer maker, Tianyu Semiconductor, from nearly $14 million to just over $15 million. Both developments signal Huawei’s clear intent to engage more closely with the SiC supply chain.

Similarly, Chinese OEM and car manufacturer, BYD, recently confirmed plans to raise some $400 million from an IPO of its subsidiary, BYD Semiconductor. These funds are expected to be ploughed into the semiconductor business, which includes SiC wafers, IGBTs and MCUs. Plans include investing just over $100 million in a SiC wafer production line with a monthly production capacity of 20,000 wafers that will target electric vehicle markets.

European developments

Still, as US and Asia players hurry to build more and more SiC production lines, interesting events are unfolding in Europe. In November 2019, France-based engineered substrate supplier, Soitec, teamed up with Applied Materials, US, to install a SiC substrate pilot line at France’s CEA-Leti.

Here, the partners have been developing SiC engineered substrates, based on Soitec’s SmartCut technology, which was pioneered by CEA-Leti and transfers crystalline thin films from a donor substrate to the carrier wafer. Soitec also recently hired CEA-Leti CEO, Emmanuel Sabonnadière, to commercialise this program.

The move to combine of Sabonnadière’s intricate knowledge of European SiC supply chains with SmartCut’s potential to slash wafer costs is likely to be a part of new plan to build a solid European ecosystem. Since the acquisition of the Swedish SiC wafer manufacturer Norstel in 2019, it is no longer a secret that the leading European SiC device supplier STMicroelectronics is highly focused on internal SiC wafer production to reduce dependence on the external sources.

Could there be a future alliance on the way? If so, how would a European SiC ecosystem develop in the coming years? Many questions arise, but one thing is certain, the dynamic power SiC business isn’t going to settle down anytime soon.

About the Compound Semiconductor & Emerging Substrates team

Ahmed Ben Slimane, PhD. is a Technology & Market Analyst, specialized in Compound Semiconductors and Emerging Substrates at Yole Développement (Yole).

As part of the Power & Wireless team, Ahmed is contributing to the development of dedicated collection of compound semiconductors market & technology reports and monitor. Previously, he worked as an epitaxy (MBE/MOCVD) & fabrication process engineer for GaAs-based photovoltaic applications at TOTAL and IPVF (Paris-Saclay, France). Ahmed also completed his PhD in Material Engineering from KAUST (Saudi Arabia), where his mission was focused on GaN-based microstructures for flexible solid-state lighting.

During his career, Ahmed Ben Slimane proposed lot of presentations towards an international audience. He authored/co-authored more than 20 publications in the semiconductor field and submitted a patent on the III-V hetero-structure for PV industry. 

Ahmed obtained his Master Degree in Electronics Engineering from INPG (Grenoble, FR).

Ezgi Dogmus, PhD. is Team Lead Analyst in Compound Semiconductor & Emerging Substrates activity within the Power & Wireless Division at Yole Développement (Yole).

She is managing the expansion of the technical expertise and the market know-how of the company.

In addition, Ezgi actively assists and supports the development of dedicated collection of market & technology reports, monitor as well as custom consulting projects.

Prior to Yole, Ezgi worked as a process development engineer for GaN-based RF and power solutions at IEMN (Lille, France).

Ezgi has authored or co-authored more than twelve papers.

After graduating from University of Augsburg (Germany) and Grenoble Institute of Technology (France), Ezgi received her PhD. in Microelectronics at IEMN (France).

Poshun Chiu is a Technology & Market Analyst specializing in Compound Semiconductor and Emerging Substrates at Yole Développement (Yole). As a member of the Power Electronics & Wireless division at Yole, Poshun focuses on power, RF, and opto-electronics. He is engaged in the development of technology and market reports and is also involved in custom projects.

Before joining Yole, Poshun had 9 years’ experience in R&D and product management at Epistar (TW & CHN). He is the author or co-author of more than 10 patents in solid-state-lighting. Poshun was also engaged in the development and evaluation of novel applications of process technology and components based on relevant semiconductor material systems

Poshun received an MSc degree in Microelectronics from National Cheng Kung University (TW) and an MBA from IESEG School of Business(FR).

Selsabil Sejil, PhD. is a Technology & Market Analyst, specialized in Compound Semiconductors and Emerging Substrates at Yole Développement (Yole).  As part of the Power & Wireless team, Selsabil is contributing to the development of dedicated collection of compound semiconductors market & technology reports and monitor.

Previously, she worked as an Integration Engineer for SOI products at SOITEC (Grenoble, France). She also worked in CEA as a process development engineer for 5G applications.

Selsabil obtained her PhD. in Material Science from Claude Bernard University (Lyon, France) in collaboration with STMicroelectronics (Tours, France), where her works explored and optimized all the facets of the complete manufacturing of power electronic devices, with a focus on the optimization of SiC epitaxy.

During her career, Selsabil SEJIL authored/co-authored more than 8 publications in the semiconductor field.

Selsabil was graduated from University Paris Sud with a master’s degree in NanoSciences (Orsay, France).

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