[News] Strategic Shift in Samsung’s Personnel Focuses on SiC

2023-10-19 Semiconductors editor

According to a report from South Korean media ETNEWS, Samsung Electronics has appointed former Onsemi director Stephen Hong as Vice President to oversee the SiC (Silicon Carbide) power semiconductor business. They’ve also set up an internal department dedicated to SiC power semiconductors.

Stephen Hong, an expert in power semiconductors with around 25 years of experience at major global companies like Infineon, Fairchild, and Onsemi, is leading this effort after joining Samsung.

Stephen Hong is currently in the process of assembling a team for SiC commercialization, while actively engaging with South Korea’s power semiconductor industry ecosystem and academic institutions for market and business feasibility studies. It’s noteworthy that when Samsung officially ventured into the GaN (Gallium Nitride) business, it had also formed relevant business teams in advance.

It’s expected that Stephen Hong will be pivotal in devising the direction and strategies for Samsung’s SiC power semiconductor business. In addition, Samsung Electronics has commenced comprehensive preparations for the GaN power semiconductor business. Samsung’s commitment to this endeavor is underlined by its decision to acquire Aixtron’s latest MOCVD equipment, specifically for processing GaN and SiC wafers. This investment is estimated to be at least 700-800 billion Korean won, roughly equivalent to 0.54-0.62 billion US dollars.

Although Samsung’s third-generation semiconductor foundry business is expected to launch in 2025, it is currently in the research and sample stage, necessitating significant investments in equipment to support future mass production endeavors.

In accordance with TrendForce’s analysis, the global SiC power device market is projected to reach $2.28 billion in 2023, with a notable YoY growth of 41.4%. It is expected to expand to $5.33 billion by 2026.

Samsung made a strategic shift by planning to produce GaN and SiC semiconductors on 8-inch wafers, deviating from the common 6-inch approach and gaining industry attention. The increased focus on SiC aligns with the challenges faced by its wafer foundry business, where fluctuations in fab utilization rates significantly impact financial performance.

According to the most recent research from TrendForce, there’s an expectation that Samsung’s utilization rate for its 8-inch wafer fabrication facility could drop to 50% in 2024. This decline is largely due to a worldwide reduction in semiconductor demand, compounded by geopolitical factors, creating a tough business environment that has affected Samsung’s order volume.

As the demand for SiC and GaN power semiconductors continues to rise and Samsung confronts challenges in its Si wafer business, the company, along with competitors like DB Hitek and Key Foundry, is gearing up to launch 8-inch GaN foundry services. This strategic move is anticipated to come to fruition between 2025 and 2026.

In response to these multifaceted dynamics, Samsung has taken an accelerated approach to GaN and SiC, with the aim of capturing a more substantial market share and breathing new life into its traditional wafer foundry business.

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(Image: Samsung)