[News] Global Silicon Carbide Production Expansion Steps up

2024-03-19 Semiconductors editor

Benefited from robust demand in downstream application markets, the silicon carbide (SiC) industry is in high gear. According to TrendForce, the SiC power device market is expected to reach USD 5.33 billion by 2026, with its mainstream applications still highly reliant on electric vehicles and renewable energy sources.

Recently, the widely-publicized SiC market has seen new developments involving companies such as Mitsubishi Electric, Mersen, and Ascen Power.

  • Mitsubishi Electric to Begin Construction of SiC Fab in April

According to recent reports from Nikkei, Mitsubishi Electric plans to commence construction of a new 8-inch SiC fab in Kumamoto Prefecture, Japan, in April 2024, with operations scheduled to start in April 2026.

In March 2023, Mitsubishi Electric announced the plan to invest approximately JPY 100 billion (Around CNY 4.856 billion) over five years to construct an 8-inch SiC fab and enhance related production facilities. The fab is projected to kick-start operation in April 2026.

The new fab, spanning six floors with a total floor area of around 42,000 square meters, will primarily handle front-end processes for 8-inch SiC wafers. Mitsubishi Electric will introduce an automated transport system across all processes to create a highly efficient production line and plans to gradually increase capacity, aiming to increase SiC production capacity by five times by the fiscal year 2026 (compared to fiscal year 2022).

In May 2023, Mitsubishi Electric signed a MOU with Coherent to supply 8-inch n-type 4HSiC wafers for the new factory. Both parties are committed to expanding the production scale of 8-inch SiC devices.

  • Ascen Power Accelerates Phase One Capacity Ramp-up of SiC Chip Manufacturing Project

Recently, Shao Yonghua, the plant manager of Ascen Power’s fab, introduced that the entire fab is currently ramping up capacity, with the planned capacity of producing 240,000 pieces of 6-inch automotive-grade SiC chips annually expected to be achieved by the end of this year.

The reserved 8-inch production line is adjacent to the 6-inch line and will have the capability to produce 240,000 pieces of 8-inch automotive-grade SiC chips annually once completed.

As previously reported, Ascen Power’s SiC chip manufacturing project is a major project under Guangdong’s “Strengthening Chip Technology Project,” with a total investment of CNY 7.5 billion, covering an area of 150 acres.

The first phase involves an investment of CNY 3.5 billion to build a production line capable of producing 240,000 pieces of 6-inch SiC chips annually, with the second phase focusing on establishing a production line capable of producing 240,000 pieces of 8-inch SiC chips annually. The products include IGBTs, SiC SBD/JBS, SiC MOSFETs, targeting applications including new energy vehicles, photovoltaics, smart grids.

In November 2022, the project’s clean room was officially put into use, achieving a monthly production capacity of 10,000 pieces. Its automotive-grade and industrial-grade chips have been successfully mass-produced and sampled, and these chips are about to complete the automotive verification. Up to now, Ascen Power has signed agreements with more than 40 customers and achieved tape-out, covering most SiC chip design companies nationwide.

  • Mersen To Rev up SiC Wafer Production

On March 12, European graphite materials and silicon carbide wafer supplier Mersen announced that it has received investment from the French government for capacity expansion of its SiC wafer project. The subsidy amount may exceed Euro 12 million (Approximately CNY 94 million), sourced from the “France 2023 Plan”—a significant joint interest project in microelectronics and communication technology in Europe.

Mersen stated that they intend to advance the research and industrial production of p-SiC wafers with this investment. p-SiC is a low-resistivity polycrystalline SiC wafer that can be combined with single-crystal SiC active layers, enabling SiC device manufacturers to improve production yield and transistor performance.

Mersen expects to invest Euro 85 million (Approximately CNY 670 million) between 2023 and 2025, employ 80 to 100 staff, promote capacity construction at the Gennevilliers plant in France, and accomplish a potential manufacturing capacity of 400,000 wafers (150mm) by 2027.

Additionally, Mersen will supply SiC wafers to Soitec. In November 2021, two sides entered into a strategic partnership to jointly develop polycrystalline SiC wafers with extremely low resistivity for SiC power electronic components based on Soitec SmartSiC technology, leveraging their respective expertise in substrates and materials.

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(Photo credit: Mitsubishi Electric)

Please note that this article cites information from DRAMeXchange and Nikkei.