ST Microelectronics has started manufacturing the first 200 mm silicon-carbide (SiC) bulk wafers from its facility in Norrköping, Sweden.
The SiC chips will be used for prototyping next-generation power devices.
ST claims the 200 mm (8 inch) SiC wafers are among the first in the world and are of high quality with minimal yield-impacting and crystal-dislocation defects.
Why it is important
ST said this is an important milestone for SiC technology and in capacity build-up for devices for the automotive and industrial sectors.
The so-called disruptive technology allows for smaller, light and more efficient power electronics with a low cost of ownership. Characteristics that are critically important in the automotive and industrial segments.
“The transition to 200 mm SiC wafers will bring substantial advantages to our automotive and industrial customers as they accelerate the transition towards electrification of their systems and products,” said Marco Monti, president of the automotive and discrete group at ST Microelectronics. “It is important in driving economies of scale as product volumes ramp. Building robust know-how in our internal SiC ecosystem across the full manufacturing chain, from high-quality SiC substrates to large-scale front- and back-end production, boosts our flexibility and allows us to better control the improvement of yield and quality of the wafers.”
Currently, ST manufactures SiC products on two 150 mm wafer lines in fabs in Catania, Italy, and Ang Mo Kio, Singapore. Additionally, the company performs assembly and testing at its back-end sites in Shenzhen, China, and Bouskoura, Morocco.
The transition to 200 mm SiC volume production as part of ST’s ongoing plan to build a new SiC substrate plant and source more than 40% of its SiC substrates internally by 2024.
The semiconductor shortage that is currently gripping the industry has caused major disruptions in production for the automotive industry. Nearly all automotive OEMs have reported that due to the shortage, revenues will be lower in 2021 than other years and production of some models will be stymied.
Because of this, numerous new production facilities are launching to help with capacity but also to meet the upcoming demand for automotive chips that are not expected to waver any time soon. Bosch recently opened its new automotive chip fab in Dresden, Germany, to boost chips used in automated and connected driving. Production of the facility was scheduled to begin this month — six months earlier than originally planned.
However, even with new capacity coming online, it is unlikely to help near-term with the ongoing crisis as factories take years to develop and multiple rounds of investment to get fully operational. Long term, these facilities will benefit future chip demand, but it is likely the chip shortage may push well into 2022.