Engineering 101

Power Module Packaging: EV/HEV Changes the Rules

“EVs are driving the growth of power module packaging as going to mass production of EV/HEV changes the rules of game,” said Shalu Agarwal, Technology & Market Analyst at Yole Développement (Yole). “Technology alone is not enough; low cost is increasingly important.”

The power module is one of the key elements in power converters and inverters. The market for power modules will reach $7.6 billion by 2025, with a 2019-2025 CAGR of 9.1%. In the past, packaging needs were driven by industrial applications, but today they are increasingly driven by EV/HEVs.

In fact, by 2025 EV/HEVs will become the biggest power module market, representing a market value of almost $3.4 billion. This market’s promising outlook is beneficial for the power module packaging material business. The power module packaging material market will achieve a 2019 to 2025 CAGR of 10.7%, being worth $2.71 billion by 2025.

In this dynamic context, the market research & strategy consulting company releases its annual power electronics report, Status of the Power Module Packaging Industry. In terms of technology and market forecast, this report presents a comprehensive overview of the power packaging industry at substrate, baseplate, die-attach, substrate-attach, encapsulation, interconnection, and TIM markets.

It proposes an update on key power module packaging trends and also a focus on SiC and GaN technologies. This report is also a good opportunity to deep dive into power module substrates, technology trends, and supply chain. Furthermore, Yole’s analysts point out the power module packaging requirements for various applications. At the end, this report includes a relevant analysis of the Chinese market as well as the impact of the COVID-19 crisis.

What is the status of the power module industry and behind the packaging market? What are the economic and technological challenge? What are the impacts of the COVID-19 outbreak? Which are the leading companies to watch? How will the market evolve? What is the role of the Chinese companies? Yole’s power electronics analysts present, today their vision of the power module packaging industry.

In 2019, the largest packaging material segment was for baseplates, followed by substrates. The next biggest market was represented by substrate-attach, followed by die-attach materials. Thus, major technological choices in these segments can rapidly impact the overall power module packaging market.

For example, the market share for silver nitride as a substrate is increasing, driven especially by EV/HEVs. This technology is pricier than more conventional aluminum oxide substrates, and the CAGR for substrate market is 12.6% – higher than for other market segments, between 2019 and 2025.

The huge business opportunity in the power device market attracts interest from different players in the power electronics and automotive supply chains. With a strong focus on power modules, changes in business models and a re-shaping of the supply chain are expected.

Automotive Tier 1 part suppliers and car making OEMs are become increasingly involved in the design and manufacturing of power modules. As power module packaging of semiconductor devices is a relatively new concept for system and car makers, it takes time to develop a power module with high performance and low manufacturing costs.

Some Tier 1s and OEMs thus prefer to focus directly on newer SiC MOSFET technology, instead of facing competition from power module makers with strong experience in already well-established silicon IGBT automotive power modules. This focus on SiC power module development has been strengthened by the adoption of SiC modules in traction inverters in Tesla Model 3 and BYD Han vehicles.

Chinese companies want to have as local a supply chain as possible. Subsidies are given by the government to support this practice. Many Chinese companies develop power module packaging solutions, mainly still using power dies supplied by European, Japanese and US companies.

Most Chinese packaging companies focus on power modules for industrial applications, which are based on more conventional packaging solutions and have thus less requirements on packaging know-how. Here Chinese companies, which can often hardly compete on a technology basis, can offer cost-competitive products.

However, Chinese players are moving very fast. With the help of leading material suppliers and equipment makers they are evaluating and testing different innovative solutions, such as sintered SiC dies, aiming primarily at EV/HEV applications.

Power module packaging technology is more than just about wire bonding, soldering and encapsulation. The packaging technologies, especially for applications with strong demand for power density, performance and reliability, are very complex and require specific know-how. Many newcomers in power module packaging have underestimated the packaging complexity and are struggling to bring their packaging concepts to the commercial production. Initially they targeted performance and reliability.

Nowadays many players must refocus their development efforts on manufacturing processes and material choices in order to achieve acceptable manufacturing yield and manufacturing throughput and to reduce manufacturing costs. External partners with the required knowhow are therefore more than welcome to speed up the development and bring products to market earlier.

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