The traditional method of extending electronic devices’ battery life via reducing power consumption and increasing battery capacity has now reached its limits. In response, the fast charging industry is now looking to adopt fast chargers equipped with GaN chips as the latest mainstream solution that can further improve device battery life, with the demand for GaN chips recently seeing a progressive rise as well. At the 2021 Global Third Generation Semiconductor Fast Charging Industry Summit, major Chinese GaN solution supplier Innoscience announced the release of four GaN chips used in fast chargers: INN650D150A, INN650DA150A, INN650D260A, and INN650DA260A. All four chips have a maximum voltage of 650V, while their package dimensions mainly range from DFN 8×8 to DFN 5×6.
Established in 2015, Innoscience specializes in GaN chip design and manufacturing. The company’s GaN on Si process technology makes it one of the leading third-generation semiconductor IDMs in China. As geopolitical tensions escalate between China and the US, accelerating the development of domestic semiconductor supply chains has now become one of the top priorities for China. More specifically, due to the heavy usage of third-generation semiconductors such as SiC and GaN across the telecom, energy, and EV industries, the Chinese government has been aggressively fostering the growth of companies specializing in these semiconductors, with Innoscience becoming one of the leading suppliers chosen by the government.
GaN fast chargers released by Chinese brands at the moment, such as the Meizu GN01 and ROCK RH-PD65W, all feature GaN chips manufactured by Innoscience. Given China’s continued push for domestically manufactured semiconductor substitutes, Innoscience is expected to seize considerable shares in the rapidly growing GaN fast charging market in China.
Navitas and Power Integrations possess the greatest competitive advantages in the global GaN fast charging chip market
Founded in Ireland, IC design company Navitas has seen its GaN chips widely adopted in GaN fast chargers in recent years. For instance, Xiaomi’s 65W GaN charger contains Navitas’ NV6115 and NV6117 GaN chips, while Lenovo’s Thinkplus 65W charger also contains Navitas’ NV6125 GaN chips. At the moment, Navitas solutions are used by major brands including Xiaomi, OPPO, Lenovo, ASUS-Adol, and Dell, as well as by peripheral manufacturers including Anker and Baseus. TrendForce estimates that Navitas GaN chips reached a 50-60% share in the GaN charger market in 2020, making Navitas the largest supplier of GaN charger chips in the world.
Power Integrations, a US-based IDM, specializes in power semiconductor devices and possesses relatively mature GaN chip integration technologies. Power Integrations manufactures products with relatively smaller PCBA dimensions due to their reduced number of discrete components. By adopting Power Integrations’ GaN chips, charger manufacturers are in turn able to reduce the size of their chargers in order to deliver solutions that are more mobile and more convenient, making these chargers a perfect fit for fast charging needs of smartphones and notebook computers.
TrendForce, therefore, holds a positive outlook towards Power Integrations’ future potential. Power Integrations’ GaN chips are primarily used in peripherals manufactured by Aukey, Ugreen, IINE, and Remax, although they will likely enter the smartphone and notebook markets in the future due to Power Integration’s competitive advantage in technological integration.
Some of the advantages of third-generation semiconductors SiC and GaN include their ability to operate under high voltages, high temperatures （for SiC）, and high frequencies（for GaN）. Not only do these advantages allow manufacturers to significantly reduce the physical sizes of chips, but peripheral circuit designs can also be simplified as a result, thereby further reducing the sizes of modules, peripheral components, and cooling systems. That is why SiC and GaN have become important strategic focuses of the global semiconductor industry.
As part of its ongoing goal of semiconductor independence, China has been accelerating the development of third-generation semiconductors in recent years
From the perspective of substrate development, countries find it difficult to procure SiC substrates due to the lack of production capacities worldwide. Hence, the ability to control the supply of SiC substrates equals having more influence in the semiconductor industry. The current ranking of geographical regions that control the supply of SiC substrates is, in order, the US （Cree and II-VI）, Japan （Rohm）, and Europe （STM）.
It should be pointed out that China’s overall standing in the third-generation semiconductor industry is hindered by its insufficient supply of substrates. Hence, Chinese companies are slightly lagging behind other global companies in this industry. At the moment, both TankeBlue and Shanxi Shuoke have successfully developed 8-inch SiC wafers, though their scale of mass production is yet to catch up to global leader Cree.
Despite the vast majority of GaN substrate suppliers being Japanese and European companies, Chinese companies have been making an aggressive push to enter this market. Regarding substrates, Nanowin, Sino Nitride, and Eta Research are all currently investing in R&D and mass production, though their current focuses are limited to 2-inch and 4-inch wafers. Regarding epitaxy, Enkris, GLC, and Genettice have been similarly making progress on R&D and mass production.
Furthermore, Chinese companies are farther ahead in the development and manufacturing strategies for GaN substrates compared to SiC substrates. For the GaN RF segment, Chinese companies span the entire supply chain, including IDM（CETC, Aofengyuan, Chengchang, Dynax, Innoscience, Bofang Jiaxin）, foundries（HiWafer and San’an）, and fabless IC design companies（GaXtrem）.
In response to the increasing demands of mobile applications, manufacturers are now placing a priority on extending the battery life of such devices like smartphones and notebook computers. However, due to the inherent limitations of physical space in these devices, the quest for ever-greater battery capacity has seemingly reached a bottleneck, forcing them to look elsewhere for solutions, hence the development of fast charging technology. As such, fast chargers equipped with GaN (Gallium nitride, which is a third-generation semiconductor) chips have are now expected to introduce the next chapter for the fast charging market.
According to TrendForce’s latest investigations, as smartphone brands including Xiaomi, OPPO, and Vivo have successively been releasing fast chargers since 2018, the market demand for GaN power devices has undergone a corresponding growth as well. Given the continued upward trajectory of the market, GaN power device revenue for 2021 is expected to reach US$61 million, a 90.6% YoY increase.
Due to their low portability and tendency to overheat, traditional fast chargers are increasingly unable to meet consumer demand
In the past, fast chargers were generally based on Si (Silicon) chips. However, as these chargers increase in wattage, their mass and physical dimension increased as well, meaning they suffered from low portability and a tendency to overheat when fast charging. On the other hand, as battery capacities expanded past the 4000mAh mark, traditional Si chargers began to see a drop in charging efficiency. In light of this, after certain breakthroughs in GaN manufacturing technologies were achieved, next-gen GaN chargers are likely to completely transform most consumers’ preexisting impressions of fast chargers.
Nonetheless, the manufacturing costs of GaN chargers are still 80%-120% higher compared with Si chargers at the moment. That is why very few devices bundle GaN chargers as a standard accessory included with the purchase and why GaN chargers are consequently sold separately instead. TrendForce expects the market for GaN chargers to experience rapid growth in 2021, with about 57 million units shipped for the year.
IC design company Navitas is the biggest winner in the GaN charger supply chain
The GaN charger supply chain encompasses virtually all major companies in various industries, and companies for which GaN businesses account for a larger share of their sales or technologies are more likely to benefit from the booming GaN charging market as well. As the largest supplier of GaN charger chips at the moment, Navitas has a clientele consisting of such major brands as Xiaomi, OPPO, Lenovo, Asus-Adol, and Dell. TrendForce’s investigations find that Navitas’ share in the GaN charger chip market surpassed 50% as of last year.
Navitas’ chips are currently fabricated with TSMC’s GaN on Si technology on 6-inch wafers, while TSMC is planning to increase its GaN production capacities by outsourcing its epitaxial processes to Ennostar subsidiary Unikorn. As Navitas expands its shipment volume going forward, TSMC and Ennostar are expected to benefit as well.