Monday, December 3, 2012

Status of power semiconductor devices industry

There are more available solutions than ever in power devices, according to Alexandre Avron, market and technology analyst, Yole Développement. The landscape is moving, and its moving quite fast, from every region of the world.

There are many opportunities for power device manufacturers. This is the time for strong strategic planning and making the best choices. He was speaking at a seminar on the power semiconductor devices industry, in Lyon, France.

Silicon is not dead and will still live for a long time. Standard device design are slowly disappearing (planar IGBT, planar MOSFET). IGBT and SJ MOS are highly mature technologies. Rules of competition are evolving as well.
Historic players need to keep on innovating. New entrants have a different business model: there are more and more foundries, with fab-less and fab-light players. IGBT is still a key asset: master and secure IGBT supply is necessary for system makers. SJ MOSFETS will be used in more and more systems, taking market shares to planar MOSFET.

About SiC and GaN, there is still a big question mark: Where and when? With time, it is becoming clearer. SiC will target medium and high power. From our point of view, medium power (1200V base) is a mean to arrive to high power (+3.3kV). R&D has to go through this to reach higher voltage. The main issue is still on current ratings (having a high impact on cost).
GaN will target low and medium power, and will probably allow extraordinary power supplies designs (Tiny supplies, very high frequency systems). It is almost ready for 600V, but not yet at 1200V. It leaves room for SiC to develop and expand.  Major players are involved on both fields — SiC and GaN. They need to be present on both domains, as there will be an overlap, but the split is unclear: we will probably experience a very fine segmentation, not only by voltage or current, but also by frequency, ruggedness, system size, temperature of operation or maybe culture or history.

SiC is now here. First full SiC PV inverters are available. First field tests for SiC in rail traction is ongoing. GaN is under qualification. According to the most advanced players, 600V GaN devices samples are tested by system makers.

Infineon and ST Microelectronics are the undisputed leaders in power devices. Asian and American players want to gain market shares to compete with Infineon and ST.

IGBTs main applications can be divided in six market segments – rail traction, wind turbines, UPSs, PV inverters, motor drives and EV/HEVs. Smaller market segments include:
* Other industrial systems (welding, heating).
* Consumer (camera flash, induction, power supplies).
* Medical, military, aerospace, automotive.

Many players entered the market in the last 24 months. It may be the first signs of maturation, and generalization of super junction MOSFETs. Planar MOSFETs presence would then decline. SiC diodes today are already in production, mainly coupled with IGBT technology. Penetration of SiC in wind turbines will happen later than expected. For all other segments, Yole Développement roadmaps have been confirmed.

Next step for large production SiC-based devices will be JFETs; MOSFETs will come later. Keep in mind that today, product availability, price and test results are not in line with inverter maker’s expectations. GaN is on its way to being available: The manufacturers, perhaps, did not want to do early announcements (as for SiC), and will then follow their roadmaps.

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