Engineering 101

Power Electronics Moving Towards 300mm

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The power electronics industry is showing a healthy growth for several years now. According to its latest power electronics reports, ‘Status of the Power Electronics Industry and Status of the Inverter Industry’, Yole Développement (Yole) has announced that in 2018 there was a $53.4bn inverter market as well as a $17.5bn for power semiconductor devices market segment.

“Key driving factors include electrical power conversion optimization and expansion, driven by electrification trends in transportation, CO2 emission reduction goals, the development of clean electricity sources, and industrialization,” said Ana Villamor, Technology & Market Analyst at Yole.

Elena Barbarini, Head of Department Devices at System Plus Consulting, added: “The biggest increase will be seen in IGBT modules, which is still driven by the requirement for high power efficiency and density from the main power applications. Today, modules still represent 23% of the total market.”

The expected increase in the CAGR of IGBTs during the coming years is directly linked with the current investments in manufacturing lines from various players. Indeed, some of the big players are preparing for 300mm production.

Villamor continued: “The main driving application with a huge market potential and technological innovation is, without doubts, EV/HEVs. But let’s not forget that there are other applications that are boosted by electrification needs and by EV/HEVs.”

This is the case in renewable energy, which is boosted by clean driving trends and growing electricity consumption. More grid lines also need to be deployed to sustain greater amounts of required energy. Similarly, more energy storage systems need to be deployed for better distribution of the energy to the grid.

The grid must also reach newly installed EV charging stations outside cities, enabling many cars to be plugged in at the same time with an acceptable charging time. Moreover, if we take into account automated driving and long term V2X communication, more data centers could be required, more LiDAR systems, along with other supporting technology.

The power electronics industry is so experiencing a shift in its dynamics. The shift comes from the increase of demand predicted for coming years, which translates into a move for 300mm waferbased production. In 2018 there was saturation of 200mm wafer demand, leading to wafer price rise instead of wafer supply.

As of today, more than seven power electronics players have announced investments in new fabrication capabilities, to be in production from 2021.

Chinese players have also started the expansion to 300mm, like Silan Microelectronics or GTA Semiconductors, the latter having confirmed that it is working on its automotive-grade IGBT production line.

The need for increasing performance as well as the introduction of new materials with different technical properties have pushed manufacturers to find new solutions, not only at the silicon level, but also in packaging. Obviously, all innovations have a cost, thus the improvements by manufacturers must take this factor into account.

“A bigger power module can have a higher cost by itself, but we always have to consider the final impact on the integration and the flexibility of assembling”, explained Barbarini. “The fast evolution of technology on all design levels and the cost of modules are the two factors that in recent years eliminated the presence of a standard in power module design, and we will expect even more innovation in the future.”

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