If you don’t know much about third-generation semiconductors, or this is not your circle of competence; I suggest you need to read two blog posts I wrote a few days ago, “Gen 3 semiconductor“, “Gen 3 semiconductor gallium nitride” and “The hot gen 3 semiconductor silicon carbide”; otherwise, there will be a lot of content and basic knowledge mentioned in this article, you will not be able to understand.
Origin of the company
Silicon carbide can be used as a diode in Light Emitting Diode (LED) lighting, this charged diode light source with silicon carbide was later designed as a way to grow silicon crystals in the laboratory, and the company was founded in 1987, produces silicon carbide for commercial use in semiconductors and lighting.
The previous company name of Wolfspeed (ticker: WOLF) was Cree Inc., and Cree’s previous main business was LED lighting business. Wolfspeed was spun off by Cree in 2017. In 2019, it began to completely divest other businesses such as lighting and LED. At present, almost all non-silicon carbide lighting product departments have been processed; it is concentrated on the business of third-generation semiconductors. In October 2021, the company officially changed its name to Wolfspeed and changed the ticker to WOLF.
Cree originally planned to sell the RF power business (that is, the main business of Wolfspeed under Cree at the time) to the German company Infineon, but the US Department of Defense opposed it on the grounds of national security. The result was a big reversal. In March 2018, the company acquired Infineon’s RF power business for EUR 345 million.
Wolfspeed is a constituent stock of the Philadelphia Semiconductor Index, and is currently the only company in the Philadelphia Semiconductor Index that has a “main business focus” on third-generation semiconductor materials.
In September 2019, the company invested US$1 billion in the world’s largest 200mm silicon carbide wafer fabrication facility in Marcy, New York. The Marcy facility in New York was completed and started operation in April 2022,. This 8-inch silicon carbide fab is currently the most advanced technology and the most competitive silicon carbide fab in the industry.
Wolfspeed also announced in the first half of 2022 that it will build a new silicon carbide plant in Chatham County, North Carolina, which will become the world’s largest silicon carbide material plant when completed in 2030, increasing its silicon carbide wafer manufacturing capacity by about 13 times.
At present, the company adopts the IDM model, and its business includes the research and development, production and sales of third-generation semiconductor materials, equipment and devices. It is difficult to separate the semiconductor material business separately, but considering that its main business is still the production and sales of materials, So other business is not the focus. In the materials business, Wolfspeed’s main product is silicon carbide substrates. The basic principle is to grow thick films such as silicon carbide and gallium nitride on it.
Note: IDM stands for integrated device manufacturer. This business model handles the design, production, packaging and testing, and sales of semiconductors.
According to Wolfspeed’s website, the company’s main products fall into three main areas:
- WolfPACK Silicon Carbide Power Module Series
- WolfPACK GM3 power module mainly provides system scalability and flexibility, and provides higher usable current carrying capacity.
- Advanced X-Band Radar Equipment
- Four new, carbide MMIC parts using gallium nitride stacked on a silicon substrate technology (GaN on Si) allow designers to improve the size, weight, and power of RF systems.
- 650 Volt Silicon Carbide MOSFET
- The 650-volt MOSFET product family is ideal for applications including high-performance industrial power supplies, server/telecom power supplies, electric vehicle charging systems, energy storage systems, uninterruptible power supplies and battery management systems.
Market size and share
According to TrendForce’s forecast, the global output value of SiC power semiconductors will be about US$1.589 billion in 2022, and will reach US$5.302 billion by 2026, with a compound growth rate of 35%.
Industry analysts estimate that SiC-type power semiconductors currently account for 5% of the overall power semiconductor market, but will reach 20% by 2027, Wolfspeed said.
Wolfspeed is the world’s largest silicon carbide substrate factory, and its patent strength in silicon carbide substrates and crystallization is far ahead. Its global silicon carbide substrate market share in 2021 is estimated by TrendForce to be as high as 62%.
Special status, too many competitors
Please note, I mentioned earlier that Wolfspeed is a vertically integrated manufacturer by IDM, which owns the design, production, packaging and testing, and sales. Therefore, it not only produces wafers, but also produces related third-generation semiconductor parts, so almost all third-generation semiconductor parts are produced. Companies in the semiconductor industry of all generations can be regarded as its competitors.
Since Wolfspeed occupies more than half of the market on silicon carbide substrates, many related manufacturers in the market are both enemies and friends. On the one hand, they are competitors, but they also need Wolfspeed’s raw material support for silicon carbide substrates.
Components and module competitors
Infineon (ticker: IFNNY) launched the electric inverter silicon carbide module has been used in Tesla (ticker: TSLA) Model 3 and Model S models. Tesla, which sold 508,000 Model 3s in 2021, is now using Infineon’s next-generation SiC MOSFET power inverters.
And Infineon’s next-generation silicon carbide MOSFET power inverter will also be used in Hyundai Motor’s (ticker: HYMTF) next-generation electric vehicle.
Infineon does not produce silicon carbide raw materials by itself, so Infineon signed a five-year silicon carbide ingot supply agreement with On’s GT Advanced Technologies to accommodate future layouts.
STMicroelectronics (ticker: STM) also signed a long-term supply agreement with SiCrystal GmbH, a subsidiary of ROHM (ticker: ROHCY), in early 2020. According to the agreement, SiCrystal needs to supply STMicroelectronics Provide 150 cm silicon carbide wafers with a total price of more than 120 million US dollars to meet the growing market demand for silicon carbide power components.
In the first quarter of 2020, ON Semiconductor (ticker: ON) released new silicon carbide MOSFETs that can support 1,200 volts and 900 volts.
ON Semiconductor is the world’s second largest supplier of power (discrete and module) semiconductors, and ON Semiconductor produces about 70% of its chips in-house. ON Semiconductor claims to be the only major supplier of SiC and Insulated Gate Bipolar Transistor (IGBT) solutions with end-to-end supply capabilities, including SiC ingot growth, substrates, epitaxy, device fabrication, integrated modules and discrete packaging .
In addition, ROHM(ticker: ROHCY) launched 1,200-volt fourth-generation SiC MOSFETs in 2020, which are quite suitable for power inverters and other electric powertrain systems and industrial control device power supplies.
The silicon-based traditional IGBTs produced by Renesas (ticker: STM) compete with Wolfspeed’s new generation of silicon carbide MOSFETs.
Material and wafer competitors
In July 2022, Coherent (ticker: COHR) acquired II-VI, and the combined company name was Coherent Corp. Coherent has signed a long-term supply agreement for silicon carbide wafers with Infineon as Infineon’s silicon carbide wafer supplier. The 8-inch wafer foundry, which will be completed in 2024, can further strengthen its competitiveness and supply capacity.
The production facility SiCrystal in Nuremberg, Germany supplies silicon carbide wafers to the global market. Geely plans to extend electric range, reduce battery costs and shorten charging time through ROHM’s advanced SiC power solutions.
SiCrystal ‘s 8-inch wafer, which will be completed in 2024, will directly compete with Wolfspeed.
Navitas Semiconductor (ticker: NVTS), a small but fast-growing third-generation semiconductor company.
Power Integrations (ticker: POWI) is also a small but fast-growing third-generation semiconductor company.
GT ADVANCED TECHNOLOGIES
A semiconductor company that was previously listed, but delisted after declaring bankruptcy in 2014. In August 2021, ON Semiconductor acquired the company for $415 million.
Top 3 customers
Its top three customers are STMicroelectronics, Sumitomo (ticker: SMFG), Arrow Electronics (ticker: ARW), accounting for about 41% of total revenue.
As of the second quarter of 2022, Wolfspeed has signed long-term supply agreements for raw materials worth more than $1.3 billion with Infineon, STMicroelectronics, ON Semiconductor and other manufacturers.
Tesla’s silicon carbide supplier is STMicroelectronics, and the silicon carbide raw material supplier standing behind STMicroelectronics is Wolfspeed. Since 2020, Tesla has been the largest customer of STMicroelectronics, and STMicroelectronics has also accounted for more than half of the global silicon carbide market in the power electronics field.
Wolfspeed has signed a strategic supply agreement with General Motors (ticker: GM). Wolfspeed will provide SiC power unit solutions for GM’s future electric vehicles. Silicon carbide will be used exclusively in the integrated power electronics of the GM Ultium battery platform (Note: GM and LG Energy Solution Ltd. jointly developed a product for the flagship electric car that will be launched in 2021).
The manufacturer of Lucid Automotive (ticker: LCID ) uses Wolfspeed silicon carbide powerplant solutions in high-performance pure electric vehicles. Wolfspeed SiC MOSFET power semiconductors will be used in the Lucid Air.
I am the author of the original text, the abridged version of this article was originally published in Smart monthly magazine.
- “The lucrative semiconductor supply chain“
- “Gen 3 semiconductor“
- “The hot gen 3 silicon carbide (SiC)“
- “Wolfspeed, the upstar of gen 3 semiconductor“
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