On Nov. 12, Infineon Technologies AG announced its acquisition of Siltectra GmbH, a start-up based in Dresden, Germany. A purchase price of €124 million ($139.3 million) was agreed on with the venture capital investor MIG Fonds, the main shareholder of Siltectra. With this move, Infineon will exploit an innovative technology called Cold Split to process crystal material efficiently and with minimal loss of material.
Infineon will use the Cold Split technology to split silicon carbide (SiC) wafers, thus doubling the number of chips produced from one wafer compared to current wafer sawing processes. The key benefit from the doubling in the yield per wafer is that it should translate into a corresponding cost reduction of SiC chips of a comparable degree.
“Our system understanding and our unique know-how on thin wafer technology will be ideally complemented by the Cold Split technology and the innovative capacity of Siltectra,” said Dr. Reinhard Ploss, CEO of Infineon. “Thanks to the Cold Split technology, the higher number of SiC wafers will make the ramp-up of our SiC products much easier, especially regarding further expansion of renewable energies and the increasing adaptation of SiC for use in the drive train of electrical vehicles.”
Currently, the Cold Split technology is essentially in the laboratory stage. “Having shown that the Cold Split technology can be used at Infineon in principle, we will now work together to transfer it to volume production,” explained Dr. Jan Richter, CTO of Siltectra. The press release from Infineon notes that the Cold Split technology will be industrialized both at the existing Siltectra site in Dresden and at the Infineon site in Villach, Austria.
The key point on the timing of implementation of the technology on an industrial scale is noted at the bottom of the release: “The transfer to volume production is expected to be completed within the next five years.” This pushes the benefits of the technology beyond the anticipated acceleration of growth in the SiC market—beyond the 2019 inflection point forecast by market analysts such as Yole Developpement.
Infineon Invests to Pursue a $1.4 billion market
Infineon has been a leader in SiC technology and products from the earliest days when the first SiC diode was produced in 2001. It has continued to push its role as a technology leader as it introduced the first hybrid SiC solution in 2006 and then continued with introductions of modules and MOSFETs most recently. Infineon’s recent investments have shifted toward plans for increased volume production. In February 2018 Cree signed $100 million long-term deal to supply 150 mm SiC wafers to Infineon.
In reviewing its history, it is clear that Infineon has pursued a consistent strategy to capture a major share of the SiC market. That market is now forecast to accelerate in its growth and surpass $1 billion by 2022 on its way to $1.4 billion in 2023, according to the most recent report on the SiC Power Device market by Yole Developpement. Its forecast is shown below. Yole predicts that 2019 will see SiC adoption reach a tipping point as PFC, PV, and xEV applications enable the adoption of SiC technologies. It forecasts the market growth will accelerate after 2020, with a 40% CAGR from 2020 to 2022.
According to Dr Hong Lin, Technology & Market Analyst at Yole, “SiC technology’s added value is today widely understood and accepted by the power electronics community. We are gradually going from the customer awareness and education stage to the customer trial and adoption stage.
“And this is especially true for SiC transistors,” Lin continues. “Applications like PFC /power supplies and photovoltaic inverters are driving the SiC market growth today. In the future, xEV related applications, rail and others will also contribute to the market evolution.”
SiC Power Device Market Revenue Forecast (Split by Application)