As seen from the market, components of power semiconductors are mostly used in industrial fields, including motor control, rail transit, wireless power supply, energy control, and smart grid, which occupy more than 30% in the long run that is expected to arrive at 35% in 2021, followed by automotive applications at 29% that will gradually expand the automotive and high voltage MOSFET markets alongside the development of NEVs and EVs. In addition, consumer electronics also account for 18% of the elevated demand for notebooks, smartphones, wearable, and quick chargers. Communication and computing each take up 10% and 7%.
Demand for Consumer Electronics Applications: Quick Charging
The faster transmission of 5G smartphones compared to that of 4G requires additional radio frequency components, thus an increase in power consumption and the speed of battery drainage becomes inevitable. Brands have been releasing USB-PD quick charging products that are currently most adopted with Type-C under the rising requirements of consumers in charging efficiency, and a support of transmission voltage from higher specifications will require an integration with synchronous rectification MOSFET that is essential in adjusting optimization, as well as an increase in the quantity of MOSFET. In terms of materials, small chargers of high power density are steadily becoming market mainstream amidst the development and popularization of GaN technology, as well as the ever-changing market of USB Type-C PD chargers, and GaN that has a low calorific value and small dimension has become the optimal material for MOSFET pertaining to quick charging.
Demand for Communication Applications: 5G Base Station
5G base stations, adopted with the Massive MIMO technology, and require multi-channel architectures such as 32 channels (32T32R) and 64 channels (64T64R), are the core equipment of 5G network, and an increase in channel density will also lead to an increment in power consumption and cost for 5G base stations at the same time. 5G base stations consume double the power than 4G, while the demand for lowering power consumption has risen the demand for low depletion and high thermostability. In addition, the establishment of 5G network has elevated the scale of data centers and cloud services, while the installation of servers has also stimulated the demand for power management modules such as AC/DC converters and DC/DC converters. Hence, communication MOSFET is now one of the major demands.
Demand for Automotive Applications: NEV
The transition of the existing automotive industry that marches from traditional fossil fuel vehicles to NEVs requires extra power semiconductor components such as MOSFET to operate synergistically. For traditional fossil fuel vehicles, various power supply components are powered by the battery, which usually comes in either 24V or 12V. The voltage for the power battery of NEVs is usually 336V or 384V and can go up to 580-600V for large electric passenger cars, which is why power semiconductor components are necessary between high and low voltage systems of NEVs to implement voltage adjustments and achieve flowing of current between two systems that allow each electronic component to function.
The electronic components that complement the battery system of a NEV operate at different voltage levels, so voltage conversion is required as electric power moves through different components. As a MOSFET continuously switches, it gradually raises or lowers the voltage. Hence, the important considerations in MOSFET designs include current strength and withstand voltage. Additionally, different applications have their own design needs with respect to switching frequency, switching noise, oscillation damping, and DPM.
As the number of electronic components in a car increases, the number of automotive applications grows for power semiconductor components such as MOSFETs. Originally, a car with a traditional ICE has at least 90 MOSFET chips. As for NEVs, the number of MOSFET chips per vehicle is usually around 200 but can reach up to around 400 for high-end models. With more functions and features being added into a NEV, the chip number is expected to rise further in the future.
Demand for Industrial Applications: Automation and Charging Piles for NEVs
The industrial segment of the market for power semiconductor components has the widest range of applications. Most kinds of industrial equipment contain MOSFETs. At the same time, many manufacturing and processing sectors are adopting automation technologies in order to shorten process cycle time, reduce production costs, and minimize equipment idling. Besides the ongoing trend toward Industry 4.0, the shock of the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the progress in industrial automation during recent years because manufacturers have been compelled to find ways to keep their production lines running with limited manpower.
Compared with traditional Si-based MOSFETs and IGBTs, SiC-based MOSFETs have significant advantages in the industrial segment of the power semiconductor market because they are able to withstand higher voltages, perform faster switching, and offer lower on-resistance. Furthermore, the adoption of SiC can contribute to a reduction in power consumption and a more compact system. Hence, SiC-based solutions have become the focus of product development for power component suppliers.
Regarding charging piles for NEVs, these are considered industrial equipment and therefore have to conform to the certifications of the major industry bodies. Playing a key role in the proliferation of NEVs, charging piles are being developed to provide a shorter charging period as well as higher-power charging in different scenarios. In this application field, power semiconductor components are essential to electric power conversion. Electromechanical devices including AC/DC converter and DC/DC converter are the key parts of a charging pile because they perform voltage and frequency conversions. Due to the demand for an ever shorter charging period, power components have to achieve a higher standard in terms of withstand voltage. Hence, SiC-based MOSFETs are trickling into the charging pile market as component suppliers develop solutions that minimize both thermal resistance and switching loss that occurs during high-frequency switching.
Demand for telecom base stations, converters, and charging stations has seen considerable growth this year as a result of ongoing developments in 5G telecommunication, consumer electronics, industrial energy conversion, and new energy vehicles (NEV), according to TrendForce’s latest investigations. While this demand generated a corresponding surge in demand for components and devices powered by third-generation semiconductors GaN and SiC, the GaN power devices market is expected to undergo the highest magnitude of growth. TrendForce expects GaN power devices revenue for 2021 to reach US$83 million, an impressive 73% YoY increase.
According to TrendForce’s investigations, GaN power devices are primarily used in consumer electronics; annual GaN power devices revenue is expected to grow at a 78% CAGR and reach US$850 million in 2025. Regarding applications, consumer electronics, NEVs, and telecom/data centers, in order, comprise the three largest sources of GaN power devices consumption, at 60%, 20%, and 15%, respectively. TrendForce finds that about 10 smartphone OEMs have released more than 18 models of smartphones equipped with fast charging capability, while notebook manufacturers are also indicating a willingness to adopt fast charging for notebook computers.
Annual SiC revenue, on the other hand, is expected to grow at a 38% CAGR and reach US$3.39 billion in 2025, with NEVs, solar power generation/storage, and charging stations representing the top three largest source of SiC power device consumption, at 61%, 13%, and 9%, respectively. For the NEV industry, in particular, SiC power devices are most widely used in powertrain inverters, OBCs (on board chargers), and DC-DC converters.
Major IDMs from Europe, the US, and Japan still control the vast majority of substrate supply
Due to their relative difficulty in epitaxial growth and the fact that the industry is moving from 6-inch towards 8-inch substrates as the mainstream, third-generation semiconductor GaN and SiC substrates are 5-20 times more expensive to manufacture compared to traditional 8-inch and 12-inch Si substrates. It should be noted that most substrate materials are, at the moment, controlled by such major IDMs as US-based Cree and II-VI, Japan-based Rohm, and Europe-based STMicroelectronics. In response to this oligopoly, certain Chinese suppliers, including SICC and Tankeblue, have successively entered the substrate market with the support of China’s 14th five-year plan. Their participation will likely accelerate China’s goal of semiconductor self-sufficiency.
Although substrate suppliers from Europe, the US, and Japan enjoy an early presence in the market and possess relatively mature process technologies, TrendForce believes that Taiwanese suppliers still hold certain competitive advantages. For instance, not only do Taiwanese companies have vast experiences in silicon development, but Taiwan is also home to a comprehensive upstream/downstream silicon supply chain. In addition to these aforementioned advantages, Taiwan is further aided by policies that promote domestic material supply, design, and technological development. Taiwan is therefore well on its way to achieving its goal of becoming a center of advanced semiconductor fabrication that derives its strength from a gradually maturing front-end substrate and epitaxy industry chain, as well as mid- and back-end competencies in chip design, manufacturing, and packaging. Currently, two major strategic alliances, led by Hermes-Epitek (with subsidiaries EPI and EPISIL), and SAS (with subsidiaries GW, AWSC, CWT, and ATC) are attempting to maximize their efforts in Taiwan’s lacking substrate industry. Furthermore, TAISIC, jointly funded by KENMEC and TAINERGY, has submitted 4-inch SiC substrates for qualification and is actively investing in 6-inch SiC substrate R&D.
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