The State of SiC: A Roundup of SiC Supply Cuts, Booms, and More
While some companies are scaling back SiC procurement in response to supply chain constraints, others are ramping up manufacturing and even developing SiC-focused simulation software.
Silicon carbide (SiC) is a compound semiconductor that has been gaining attention in the electronics industry for many years. With its unique physical and electrical properties, SiC has the potential to revolutionize power electronics and enable more efficient and compact devices. As SiC technology continues to mature and the price decreases, it is expected to become increasingly prevalent in a wider range of applications—from electric vehicles (EVs) to aerospace technology and beyond.
In this article, we’ll round up recent news in the SiC industry to get a feel for the major players in this technology, manufacturing developments, and new simulation software to speed up the development of SiC-based devices.
Tesla to Scale Back on SiC
Tesla recently announced that it will be reducing the amount of SiC in its next-generation powertrain by up to 75%.
Despite the performance benefits of SiC in EV powertrains, Tesla’s decision comes from a place of logistics. Like many industries, SiC manufacturing has been heavily affected by volatilities in the supply chain over the past few years. Since SiC is a relatively new semiconductor material that lacks the efficient mass manufacturing scale of silicon, the impacts of supply-chain volatility are much more significant for this wide bandgap semiconductor.
A non-exhaustive list of major companies' place in the SiC ecosystem. Image courtesy of Yole Development
Because of this, Tesla’s decision to move forward with 75% less SiC in its future powertrain is largely based on economics and a need to keep its own vehicles affordable and available on a large scale.
Manufacturing Feats for SiC
On the manufacturing side, there have been several major developments for silicon carbide in recent weeks.
Mitsubishi recently announced the construction of a new SiC wafer plant. The plant will require an investment of approximately 100 billion yen and will be used specifically to build 8-inch SiC wafers and enhance related production facilities. The new factory will also incorporate a clean room with advanced energy efficiency and high-level automated production efficiency.
A rendering of Mitsubishi’s new plant. Image courtesy of Mitsubishi
Following Mitsubishi, Wolfspeed also recently announced plans to construct the world’s largest SiC manufacturing plant in Germany. The fab will be located on a 35-acre site of a former coal-fired power plant in Saarland and will employ more than 600 people when fully operational. Here, the company plans to build a cutting-edge 200 mm wafer fabrication facility, which will also be Wolfspeed's first in Europe.
Finally, SiC news also recently came out of Microchip, which revealed plans to invest $880M into future silicon carbide and silicon capacity in Colorado. With this investment, Microchip plans to upgrade its 50-acre, 580,000-square-foot Colorado Springs campus to increase its SiC manufacturing for automotive/e-mobility, grid infrastructure, green energy, aerospace, and defense applications. Here, Microchip is manufacturing technology that will run on 8-inch wafers.
New SiC Simulation Tools
Beyond manufacturing, the SiC industry has also seen recent developments in SiC simulation software and tools.
One of these new tools comes from Microchip, which recently announced its MPLAB SiC Power Simulator. The new power simulator uses a PLECS-based software environment designed with Plexim to allow customers to evaluate Microchip’s SiC power devices and modules before committing to a hardware design. With this tool, Microchip believes that designers can better evaluate product options and design topologies, leading to decreased time to market for SiC designs.
Onsemi's Elite Power Simulator allows users to select the application and topology, device, configuration, circuit parameters, and cooling before running a simulation. Image courtesy of Osemi
Onsemi also announced a new SiC simulation tool with the release of its online Elite Power Simulator and Self-Service PLECS Model Generator. Both tools were designed to give power electronic engineers insight into complex power electronic applications at an earlier stage in the product lifecycle than previously possible. With system-level simulations for onsemi’s EliteSiC products, the company hopes the new tools can save engineers time and money.