“The 2016-2018 period has been crucial for the whole SiC industry,” said Rémi Comyn, PhD, Patent & Technology Analyst at Knowmade, the Technology Intelligence and IP strategy consulting company. “SiC MOSFETs, commercially available for several years, are gaining the confidence of numerous customers and have clearly begun to penetrate into different applications”.
The IP landscape confirms the trend with the strong leadership of the Japanese companies, the entrance of the Chinese players, as well as an impressive penetration rate within the automotive industry.
By 2018, Knowmade’s team was certain. The SiC market is going to grow. The question is more on how big the market will grow in the next five years, than whether the market will increase. Yole Développement (Yole), sister company of Knowmade, predicts a $1.5bn market in 2023, with a 31% CAGR between 2017 and 2023.
As a consequence, numerous players are wondering if the supply chain is ready to embrace such market acceleration.
Hong Lin, PhD, Senior Technology & Market Analyst at Yole, stated: “Attracted by the market potential, there are plenty of players who want to enter the market together with heated competition from power device giants. The competition has intensified”.
What exactly is the status of the IP ecosystem? Who are the current leaders? Who will have the best IP in the coming years? Knowmade’s analysts have provided an up-to-date overview of the SiC IP ecosystem.
Knowmade identified a remarkable acceleration in patent filing related to SiC MOSFETs between 2011 and 2015, concomitant with the commercialization of the first SiC MOSFET products. Japanese integrators, especially Denso and Fuji Electric, have taken the lead in SiC MOSFET related patenting activity.
In parallel, China has entered the SiC MOSFET patent landscape in recent years, starting with R&D players in 2011. These were followed by major state-owned integrator companies in 2015, such as State Grid Corporation of China (SGCC), CRRC and SiC pure player IDM Century Goldray, which was established in 2010 to address the whole power SiC supply chain.
“The common feature of these new entrants is that they intend to develop IP on both planar and trench MOSFET structures,” explained Comyn.
In addition, Taiwan has a long-standing R&D player in SiC MOSFETs with ITRI, but there was no industrial player until 2016 when Hestia Power emerged, focusing on cost effective planar JBS diode-integrated MOSFET structures.
Comyn continued: “We note that current leading SiC device makers like Cree/Wolfspeed, Rohm, Infineon Technologies and STMicroelectonics own some key patents but do not necessarily have strong IP leadership.”
IP analysis from Knowmade includes dedicated sections focused on planar/trench SiC MOSFETs, SiC Schottky Barrier Diodes as well as SiC power modules.
As a consequence of this growth, the industrial SiC supply chain is constantly evolving. For power devices, the foundry and IDM model are both developing. Between 2017 and 2018, Yole’s analysts highlight the following trends:
The foundry model is clearly developing. This industry evolution is facilitating the SiC fab-less and fab-lite companies in launching SiC products and making the technology more accessible to the industry. Other foundries such as CLAS SIC wafer fab and Episil Technologies are also entering the market.
Andy Chuang, President, Episil Technologies, said: “We now offer four inch SiC foundry services for 600V SBD and MOSFETs and are establishing a six inch SiC line, which can be ready for customer pilot production in the second half of 2019.”
As for the IDMs, the semiconductor giants are more and more active. Infineon Technologies ramped up MOSFET production in 2017. On Semiconductor and STMicroelectronics were also ramping up MOSFET production in 2018.
Knowmade has released a dedicated patent landscape analysis, ‘Power SiC: MOSFETs, SBDs and Modules’. This report provides a detailed picture of the industrial and research IP ecosystem for SiC-based power electronic products, from MOSFETs to Schottky barrier diodes including power modules. Covering worldwide patents published up to October 2018, it offers a comprehensive analysis of more than 1,600 patent families.