[News] Manufacturers Vigorously Rev up Investment in Silicon Carbide

2024-04-01 Semiconductors editor

On March 27, Wolfspeed announced the topping out of construction at the its largest and most advanced John Palmour Manufacturing Center for Silicon Carbide.

According to its introduction, the “John Palmour Silicon Carbide Manufacturing Center” has a total investment of USD 5 billion, covering 445 acres. The first phase of construction is expected to be completed by the end of 2024. Wolfspeed CEO Gregg Lowe stated that the factory has begun installing ingot equipment, and it is estimated that production will start in December 2024 or January 2025.

The factory will mainly produce 200mm (8-inch) silicon carbide wafers, which are 1.7 times the size of 150mm (6-inch) wafers. This will meet the demand for the next generation of semiconductors critical for energy transformation and AI artificial intelligence.

It is reported that the ramp-up of the “John Palmour Silicon Carbide Manufacturing Center” will provide support for customers like Renesas and Infineon. Currently, Wolfspeed manufactures over 60% of the world’s silicon carbide wafer at its headquarters in Durham, North Carolina. It is worth mentioning that, Wolfspeed is carrying out a capacity expansion plan with a total investment of USD 6.5 billion.

In recent years, driven by the burgeoning development in applications such as new energy vehicles, 5G, solar energy, and photovoltaics, the demand for silicon carbide has shown explosive growth. According to previous data statistics from TrendForce, the overall market size of silicon carbide power device reached USD 2.28 billion in 2023 with 41.4% YoY, which is expected to stand at USD 5.33 billion by 2026.

Given the promising market prospects, major silicon carbide-related companies worldwide are accelerating their strategic deployments. Recently, reports of investments and progress in various silicon carbide industry projects.

Globally, Mitsubishi Electric is scheduled to open a new 8-inch SiC plant in Japan in April this year, and plans to put it into operation in 2026. European graphite materials and silicon carbide substrate supplier Mersen is expanding its silicon carbide substrate production capacity by obtaining investment from the French government.

In China, SICC announced to spend CNY 500 million to invest in “Silicon Carbide Semiconductor Materials Project”. TANKEBLUE’s silicon carbide project completed the second phase of the main body; Ascen Power steps up the production of its silicon carbide wafer manufacturing project phase I.

On the other hand, the joint venture of San’an and Li Auto has started pilot production of its  automotive-grade silicon carbide wafer and module project with a total investment of 1 billion; a large-size silicon carbide single crystal substrate industrialization project signed in Lishui, Zhejiang, China. Nantong Semiconductor Equipment SiC components project started the second phase. TonyTech intend to expand the 6-inch silicon carbide substrate materials project with a capacity of 200,000 pieces annually.

Cases of collaboration between enterprises frequently came up since 2024. For instance, Infineon has signed a long-term contract with SK Siltron for silicon carbide wafer, Innosilicon and STMicroelectronics have signed a silicon carbide strategic cooperation agreement in Shenzhen of China, the same as United Nova Technology and Li Auto.

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(Photo credit: Mitsubishi Electric)