Power semiconductors were once a niche market. Global megatrends, which require extremely efficient energy generation as well as resource-saving energy management, have brought an enormous boom to the power semiconductor industry in recent years.
And an end to this development is not yet in sight. The world market for power semiconductors, including power ICs, amounted to just over USD 42 billion according to the latest market survey by the market research company IHS Markit. In total, this represents growth of 10.1 percent compared to the previous year. The largest individual segment here is discrete and modules, which account for sales of USD 18.5 billion. Right behind it are the MOSFETs. Last year, they accounted for sales of USD 6.7 billion.
With USD 2.2 billion, standard IGBT modules take third place in this ranking, followed by IPMs with USD 1.1 billion. Discrete IGBTs represent the smallest sub-segment of the global power semiconductor market with a sales volume of USD 1.1 billion. According to this report, Infineon Technologies is the world market leader with a market share of 12.5 percent. Infineon achieved the highest organic growth in the industry in 2017, according to the market researchers.
In the particular market of discrete devices and modules, Infineon Technologies is the market leader for the fifteenth time in a row, according to IHS Markit. In the area of MOSFETs, Infineon extended its market leadership and is now more than twice as large as the number 2 in the market. Another result of this current report is that in the market for discrete IGBTs, Infineon is now more than three times the size of its closest smaller competitor. The global player from Munich made the biggest leap in IPMs. The company increased its market share by 1.4 percentage points; more than all its competitors. In addition, with 39.2 percent in this segment, the company grew almost twice as fast as the market (20.1 percent).
To consolidate and expand this leading position, Infineon will invest a total of EUR 1.6 billion over the next six years in the construction of a new 300 mm chip factory in Villach, Austria. Construction will begin in the first half of 2019. Production is scheduled to commence at the beginning of 2021. With full capacity utilization, the sales potential from the factory is anticipated to reach EUR 1.8 billion annually. “Global demand for power semiconductors is soaring. As the market and technology leader, Infineon is particularly sought-after by customers and is even growing more strongly than the market,” remarked Dr. Reinhard Ploss, Chief Executive Officer of Infineon Technologies, regarding the multi-billion euro investment in the new factory.
A veteran of the semiconductor industry at Cree, and a pioneer of silicon carbide (SiC) power semiconductor technology, has provided clarity in a different form. Shortly after assuming responsibility as CEO and President at Cree, Gregg Lowe made it clear that Cree’s SiC activities were no longer the ugly grey duckling that they wanted to sell to Infineon in 2017, but what then was prohibited by the US administration. Instead, within five years, SiC is now to become Cree’s main source of sales revenue. Based on current sales of around USD 220 million in this area, the Cree subsidiary Wolfspeed, which specializes in SiC, aims to increase its contribution to sales to USD 850 million by 2022, according to the plans of Gregg Lowe. Cree’s total turnover is then expected to reach USD 2.5 billion.
The topic of electric mobility plays a decisive role for Gregg Lowe in this plan. “From 2020 onwards, we will see significantly more electric vehicles on the roads, and these electric cars will have large batteries. SiC power semiconductors will therefore be essential for the success of electric cars. Or think of the upcoming transition from 4G to 5G – SiC technology will also play a decisive role here.”
Is the power semiconductor industry struggling with supply problems? Anyone who takes a look at the delivery monitors of well-known distributors knows that, for months, some manufacturers have apparently only been prioritizing certain product groups. For example, it is said that there are large Asian power supply manufacturers, who are the only ones still being supplied by a large power semiconductor manufacturer. Anyone, for instance, talking to power supply developers has been hearing for months that “MOSFETs are a highly sensitive issue.”