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SiC chips in short supply – Fast Turn Chip

By: Get News

Electric vehicles can be regarded as the killer application of SiC. According to Yole's statistics, it is estimated that more than 70% of revenue (equivalent to US$4.7 billion) will come from the EV/hybrid vehicle market. With the rapid rise of electric vehicles, the demand for SiC chips is increasing day by day. In order to ensure reliable supply, it is a common phenomenon in the industry for an OEM to sign multiple SiC chip manufacturers. In the next few years, the shortage of SiC chips will be the norm.


As the key to the development of SiC chips, the substrate occupies an important position. SiC substrates not only account for a high proportion of the cost of power components, but are also closely related to product quality. If it is said that in the past few years, many SiC device manufacturers have relied on binding Wolfspeed (the original Cree) to ensure the production capacity of SiC substrates, then everything has changed now. The world's leading SiC device suppliers such as Rohm, ON Semiconductor, STMicroelectronics, etc. have successively purchased and invested in different high-quality SiC substrate suppliers, and have begun to establish internal substrate supply, from SiC substrates to vertical integration of equipment manufacture.

However, Infineon, the world's first manufacturer to invent commercial SiC devices, still lacks the supply of its own substrates. For Infineon, as the world's number one manufacturer of silicon-based power semiconductors, it naturally hopes to extend its advantages in the silicon-based field to the field of compound semiconductors, and the current shortage of basic materials is indeed one of Infineon's hidden dangers. According to Yole's data, Infineon occupies the second place in the global SiC market in terms of revenue in 2021. In SiC, a market with great development potential and treacherous waves, Infineon seems to have become increasingly insecure.

SiC manufacturers are gradually completing the substrate layout

The world's leading SiC device suppliers ST, Infineon, Wolfspeed, ON Semiconductor, Rohm, etc. basically have their own relatively stable substrate supply channels.

Rohm acquired SiCrystal, a German SiC substrate and epitaxial wafer supplier, in 2009. SiCrystal is a SiC wafer manufacturer headquartered in Nuremberg, Germany. Rohm has been the first to mass-produce SiC MOSFETs in the world since 2010. So far, Rohm has launched the fourth generation of SiC MOSFETs. When using this product in an automotive inverter, compared with using IGBTs, power consumption can be reduced by 6%. , very helpful to prolong the cruising range of electric vehicles. Although the company's scale is not very large, the key technology of SiCrystal has been widely used in electric vehicles around the world as SiC power semiconductors, and the company has become one of the advanced companies in the SiC wafer market.

Since the acquisition of Swedish SiC substrate supplier Norstel in 2019, the company has been considering the IDM model. However, Norstel has limited production capacity in Sweden, so ST has to rely on a long-term SiC wafer supply agreement with Wolfspeed to supply ST with 150mm SiC bare and epitaxial wafers. Therefore, in October 2022, ST announced that it will establish an integrated SiC substrate manufacturing plant in Italy, which will be built together with the existing SiC device manufacturing facility at STMicroelectronics' plant in Catania, Italy. A factory that produces 150mm SiC epitaxial substrates. This enables ST to reach 40% of its in-house substrate sourcing by 2024, according to Ezgi Dogmus, principal analyst in Yole Intelligence's Compound Semiconductor and Emerging Substrates team.

At the beginning of December 2022, ST announced that it will cooperate with Soitec to develop SiC substrate manufacturing technology, and use Soitec's SmartSiC™ technology in its future 200mm substrate manufacturing to provide support for its device and module manufacturing business, and is expected to achieve mass production in the medium term . ST also hinted that it will develop 200mm SiC wafers in the near future.

On November 1, 2021, ON Semiconductor acquired GT Advanced Technologies ("GTAT"), a SiC substrate supplier, to realize the vertical integration of the industrial chain and ensure the stability of production capacity and quality. ON Semiconductor is currently one of the few suppliers that can provide end-to-end SiC solutions from substrate to module. In addition, in order to meet the accelerated growth of market demand for SiC, ON Semiconductor is still investing heavily in expanding production: On August 11, 2022, ON Semiconductor’s SiC factory in Hudson, New Hampshire was completed. After completion, silicon carbide ( SiC) production capacity will increase five-fold year-on-year; in September 2022, ON Semiconductor will complete its expanded silicon carbide (SiC) plant in Roznov, Czech Republic, and will increase its silicon carbide (SiC) wafer production capacity in the next two years 16 times, further expanding wafer and SiC EPI manufacturing.

Although these manufacturers have established their own substrate supply through acquisitions, their production capacity is still far behind, so they are still bound to Wolfspeed, the world's largest supplier of SiC substrates and epitaxial wafers. Wolfspeed accounts for about 60% of the world's total. % of SiC wafer production capacity. In 2022, Wolfspeed's world's first 8-inch SiC factory will be launched, and small-scale trial production is continuing. It is expected to complete the initial certification and start supply in the first half of this year, which also sends a positive signal to the industry.

In October 2022, Wolfspeed announced a multi-year, $6.5 billion capacity expansion plan that includes the installation of additional equipment at the company's state-of-the-art 200mm Mohawk Valley facility as well as a 445-square-foot facility in North Carolina. The construction of an acre silicon carbide material factory will expand the company's existing material production capacity by more than 10 times. The first phase of construction is scheduled to be completed by the end of the company's 2024 fiscal year. BorgWarner invested $500 million in Wolfspeed to secure an annual production capacity supply of up to $650 million in silicon carbide devices.

However, in recent years, Wolfspeed has also begun to extend to SiC devices such as SiC MOSFETs, SiC diodes, SiC modules and other fields. According to the news released by Wolfspeed, future electric vehicles including Mercedes-Benz and Jaguar Land Rover will use Wolfspeed's SiC devices to provide power.


Wolfspeed SiC Product Overview

(Source: Wolfspeed)

For this relationship of competition and cooperation, Wolfspeed CEO Gregg Lowe previously stated that the company will support these two different business models with the same priority. He believes that in the next 10 years, Wolfspeed will still have a benign competitive relationship with these semiconductor customers and competitors. Wolfspeed needs partners to help the power semiconductor industry transform from silicon devices to silicon carbide devices.

It is true that for materials such as SiC, which have excellent performance and are urgently needed by the industry, but have many challenges, cooperation in competition and win-win cooperation in cooperation are a major means for the rapid development of the industry.

To sum up, it can be seen that in terms of SiC substrates, ON Semiconductor has GTAT, ST has Norstel, Rohm has SiCrystal, and Wolfspeed itself produces SiC substrates. Why is there such a development trend in the SiC field? Zhu Jing, deputy secretary-general of the Beijing Semiconductor Industry Association, said: "The reason for this trend is mainly due to the extremely unbalanced supply and demand of SiC. The demand for SiC substrates is very large, and it is considered by the industry to be a long-term continuous trend, and the production capacity of SiC substrates cannot meet the rapidly growing demand due to yield problems, resulting in the impulse of device manufacturers to "stock up."

Infineon, which does not have a SiC substrate, signed a contract to guarantee supply

Among the top SiC manufacturers, Infineon has no SiC substrate. In fact, Infineon also intends to acquire SiC substrate manufacturers. In July 2016, Infineon had planned to acquire SiC The cash acquisition of Cree's Wolfspeed Power and RF business unit. However, due to the opposition of the US government, the acquisition failed to proceed.

In Zhu Jing's view, although there are not many SiC substrate manufacturers who "do not stand in line", they are still optimistic that Infineon will invest in or acquire a SiC substrate manufacturer in the future. After all, Infineon has acquired Siltectra, and Cold Spilt can To improve the yield rate of SiC wafer dicing, having a controllable substrate manufacturer can also maximize the advantages of Cold Spilt technology.

In 2018, Infineon acquired Siltectra, a cutting-edge company in the field of silicon carbide wafer cutting, and thus obtained Siltectra's cold split technology (Cold Spilt). This is also a key layout of Infineon in the substrate field, because in the substrate processing link, cutting can be said to be the biggest bottleneck in the entire production capacity. Most of the existing SiC wafer slicing methods use diamond wire saws. However, due to the high hardness of silicon carbide, the processing time is long, and a large number of diamond wire saws are required to mass-produce silicon wafers. However, a large amount of material is lost during the slicing process, which results in a small number of wafers produced from a single boule. Slicing is a major factor in the cost increase of SiC power devices.


SILTECTRA™ SiC Wafer Splitting Process

It is reported that the cold splitting technology of Siltectra acquired by Infineon can increase the yield rate of SiC wafers by 90%. In the case of the same silicon carbide ingot, it can provide three times the material and produce more devices. The cost of the final SiC device can be reduced by 20-30%.

But even with the cutting technology, if there is no guarantee of the production capacity of the substrate, it is difficult for a smart woman to cook without rice. So the helpless Infineon signed almost all the world's major SiC substrate suppliers:

On January 12, 2023, Infineon and Resonac Corporation (formerly known as Showa Denko Corporation) signed a new multi-year supply and cooperation agreement. The new contract will deepen their long-term partnership in SiC materials. According to the agreement, Resonac will supply Infineon with SiC materials for the production of SiC semiconductors, covering a double-digit share of forecasted demand over the next ten years. The initial stage mainly focuses on 6-inch wafers, but the two companies will continue to transition to 8-inch wafer diameters.

On August 23, 2022, II-VI and Infineon signed a multi-year contract to provide Infineon with 6-inch SiC substrates for power electronics, and II-VI and Infineon also plan to cooperate to 8-inch SiC substrates. Substrate transition.

On November 9, 2020, Infineon and GTAT signed a supply agreement for silicon carbide (SiC) boules, with an initial term of five years.

On February 26, 2018, Cree (now known as Wolfspeed) announced the signing of a long-term silicon carbide wafer supply agreement with Infineon, which stipulates that Cree will supply advanced 150mm SiC wafers to Infineon.

In addition, it is said that Infineon is still stepping up to verify the products of several other substrate suppliers, among which the substrate and epitaxial wafer samples of domestic manufacturers have been sent.

Infineon is currently actively expanding its SiC manufacturing capacity, which is about to increase tenfold by 2027, with the goal of reaching a 30% market share by the end of the decade. Infineon also recently sold its HiRel DC-DC converter business, increasing its focus and investment in the development of core semiconductors for the high-reliability market.

Vertical integration is currently the dominant trend in the SiC industry. Four years ago, when mentioning SiC substrate suppliers, Wolfspeed might be the first thing that comes to mind. As SiC device manufacturers continue to merge and integrate some small substrate manufacturers, the number of SiC substrate suppliers has increased to at least 8. , The wafer also dropped from the previous $3,000 to $1,000. With the capacity building of SiC substrates and the continuous improvement of the production process, the cost of SiC has been further reduced.

"Now SiC substrate manufacturers are making devices, and device manufacturers are also strengthening their control over substrate production capacity through acquisitions or investments. At the same time, there are more and more phenomena that a device manufacturer may have multiple SiC substrate manufacturers in stock. It is all due to the strong expectation of the explosive growth of the SiC market and the expectation that the current SiC production capacity cannot increase rapidly. The IDM model of the whole industry chain from substrate to device of foreign manufacturers will facilitate the rapid increase of foreign SiC products and seize market." Zhu Jing said.

However, this move will be detrimental to the competition between domestic SiC device manufacturers and foreign countries. At the same time, because foreign substrate production capacity has been contracted to Infineon and other companies in the form of long-term contracts, many SiC device manufacturers in my country that rely on overseas substrates will have a negative impact. to the risk of foreclosure. Zhu Jing mentioned that it is recommended that domestic SiC device and substrate manufacturers strengthen the cooperation between the upstream and downstream of the industrial chain and reduce their dependence on overseas substrates. To meet the strong demand for SiC in various domestic markets.

Fast Turn Chip Electronics Limited,

The company is an electronic components and value-added service provider. The product line resources of the agent are mainly the components applied in the fields of network communication, automotive electronics, medical electronics, Internet of things, new energy, computer, security and so on. Cover MCU, power, analog, interface, isolation, drive, logic, sensor, MOSFETs, storage, IGBT, LED driver and other product series. We also stock and Sell TI, ADI, ST, ON, Microchip, Maxim, NXP, Xilinx, TE, ADI brand original chips. 

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