The insulated-gate bipolar transistor (IGBT) is a three-terminal power semiconductor device. The main trends impacting IGBT include the power stack trend, revolution of Chinese IGBT, growth of IGBT use in consumer applications, and competition from SiC and GaN based devices, respectively.
According to Alexander Avron, Yole Developpement, current density of the IGBT has been multiplied by 3.5 in 20 years. IGBT technology is now very mature, using trenches and thin wafer. Wafer size for IGBT production is still growing and Infineon is currently the leader.
Infineon expects a cost advantage of 20-30 percent by increasing the wafer size from 8- to 12-inches. For Infineon, the 12-inch production line is for MOSFETSs, and they will probably produce IGBT 600V on thin wafer. Fairchild and IR prefer to remain at 8-inch.
A new generation release is always a low voltage product (600-900V). Main improvements have been in losses reduction. In the IGBT supply chain, vertically integrated companies are Japanese only, besides a few, like ABB. Only a few companies, like Danfoss, take advantage of doing module and inverter for motor drives. In a cost-driven market, there is not much competitive advantage in developing own module.
Trends impacting IGBT
Power stack trend – The need for more modularity and higher performance made components makers (active and passive) to join and create consortiums or JVs. It is trending toward more integration.
Revolution of the Chinese IGBT – First Chinese companies are starting to manufacture IGBTs using standard technology and low cost, perfect for a local market. Asian players are becoming a greater part of the IGBT market. While they do not make a lot of devices as yet, it is expected that they will quickly gain market shares in low cost local businesses.
Some new entrants include CSMC, Hua-Hong NEC, PSMC, BYD, Grace Semiconductor, Alpha & Omega Semiconductor, etc. Many Chinese companies are very close to or already able to manufacture their own IGBTs. This will grow and create a Chinese IGBT.
Growth of IGBT use in consumer applications – IGBTs are becoming more part of the consumer lifestyle. Renewable energies and EV/HEV are good examples. Pioneers of HV IGBT have the best market shares. Margin for HV IGBT modules is high. It is first in the EV/HEV and renewables markets. New markets are targeted by all players.
The ASP evolution of consumer markets has dropped down very fast as compared to the industrial markets. Also, DLB or direct lead bonding is a specific technology from Mitsubishi Electric to produce epoxy molded power modules for hybrid and electric cars. Mass production is targeted for 2013.
Competition from SiC and GaN – Next generation devices are becoming available. They will displace IGBT, but not at all the levels and in all the applications. Characteristics of GaN-based inverters are: they primarily target medium voltage apps (200-600V range). SiC diodes are already in production, mainly coupled with IGBT. Penetration of SiCs in wind turbines will happen later than expected.
As for the 2006-2020 power devices market forecast, Yole expects a more stable growth by 2020. There was an unanticipated slowdown in 2012. The market share in 2011 was Mitsubishi 27 percent, Infineon 23 percent, Fuji Electric 11 percent, etc. The IGBT market share was Infineon 35 percent, Mitsubishi 32 percent, Hitachi 12 percent, ABB 9 percent, respectively.
Yole estimates that at least 15 companies – foundries, fab lights and fabs — are working on IGBT development in China.
There are more available solutions than ever in power devices, according to Alexandre Avron, market and technology analyst, Yole Développement. The landscape is moving, and its moving quite fast, from every region of the world.
There are many opportunities for power device manufacturers. This is the time for strong strategic planning and making the best choices. He was speaking at a seminar on the power semiconductor devices industry, in Lyon, France.
IGBTs and SJ MOSFETs
Silicon is not dead and will still live for a long time. Standard device design are slowly disappearing (planar IGBT, planar MOSFET). IGBT and SJ MOS are highly mature technologies. Rules of competition are evolving.
Historic players need to keep on innovating. New entrants have a different business model: there are more and more foundries, with fab-less and fab-light players. IGBT is still a key asset: master and secure IGBT supply is necessary for system makers. SJ MOSFETS will be used in more and more systems, taking market shares to planar MOSFET.
About SiC and GaN, there is still a big question mark: Where and when? With time, it is becoming clearer. SiC will target medium and high power. From our point of view, medium power (1200V base) is a mean to arrive to high power (+3.3kV). R&D has to go through this to reach higher voltage. The main issue is still on current ratings (having a high impact on cost).
GaN will target low and medium power, and will probably allow extraordinary power supplies designs (Tiny supplies, very high frequency systems). It is almost ready for 600V, but not yet at 1200V. It leaves room for SiC to develop and expand. Major players are involved on both fields — SiC and GaN. They need to be present on both domains, as there will be an overlap, but the split is unclear: we will probably experience a very fine segmentation, not only by voltage or current, but also by frequency, ruggedness, system size, temperature of operation or maybe culture or history.
SiC is now here. First full SiC PV inverters are available. First field tests for SiC in rail traction is ongoing. GaN is under qualification. According to the most advanced players, 600V GaN devices samples are tested by system makers.