STMicroelectronics expands SiC wafer supply agreement again to over $800 million, and also manufactures first 200mm SiC wafer in-house.
STMicroelectronics this week again expanded its agreement with Cree for the supply of 150mm silicon carbide (SiC) wafers over the next few years.
Over the last two years, ST has successively increased the value of its multi-year agreement to source SiC wafers from Cree, starting as a $250 million deal in January 2019, and doubling it in November 2019 to $500 million. The latest amendment to the agreement calls for Cree to supply ST with 150mm silicon carbide bare and epitaxial wafers over the next several years, to a value of more than $800 million.
An ST spokesperson said to EE Times that the agreement does have a finite length, but it is not able to disclose how long. However, he added that the company has already stated its goal to support 40% of ST’s SiC wafer needs internally by 2024, and it has strategic agreements in place with a range of these third-party suppliers to protect its customers and its interests.
In a press statement, Jean-Marc Chery, president and CEO of STMicroelectronics, said, “This latest expansion to our long-term wafer supply agreement with Cree will continue to contribute to the flexibility of our global silicon carbide substrate supply.” He added that would complement the other external capacity ST has secured and the internal capacity the company is ramping. “The agreement will help meet the high volumes required by our product manufacturing operations in the next years, with a large number of automotive and industrial customer programs in high volumes or ramping up.”
Cree CEO Gregg Lowe added, “Our long-term wafer supply agreements with device manufacturers now total more than $1.3 billion and help support our efforts to drive the industry transition from silicon to silicon carbide. Our partnerships and significant investments in increased production capacity ensure we are well positioned to capitalize on what we believe to be is a multi-decade growth opportunity for silicon carbide-based applications.”
ST’s first in-house 200mm SiC wafers also indicate good yield
The adoption of silicon carbide-based power solutions is rapidly growing across the automotive market as the industry moves from internal combustion engines to electric vehicles, enabling greater system efficiencies that result in electric cars with longer range and faster charging, while reducing cost, lowering weight and conserving space. In the industrial market, silicon carbide solutions enable smaller, lighter and more cost-effective designs, converting energy more efficiently to unlock new clean energy applications. To better support these growing markets, device manufacturers are interested in securing access to high-quality silicon carbide substrates to support their customers.
To boost its internal capacity, ST recently announced it had manufactured its first 200mm SiC bulk wafers at its Norrköping, Sweden, facility. ST said its initial 200mm SiC wafers are also very high quality, with minimal crystal dislocation defects. The low defect rate has been achieved by building on the expertise the company picked up with the 2019 acquisition of Norstel AB, since renamed STMicroelectronics Silicon Carbide AB.
In addition to meeting the quality challenge, the transition to 200mm SiC substrates requires a step forward in manufacturing equipment and the overall support ecosystem performance. ST, in collaboration with technology partners covering the entire supply chain, is developing its own 200mm SiC manufacturing equipment and processes.
ST currently manufactures its STPOWER SiC products on two 150mm wafer lines in its fabs in Catania (Italy) and Ang Mo Kio (Singapore) and performs assembly and test at its back-end sites in Shenzhen (China) and Bouskoura (Morocco).
“The transition to 200mm 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 STMicroelectronics. “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.”
This article was originally published on EE Times.
Nitin Dahad is a correspondent for EE Times, EE Times Europe and also Editor-in-Chief of embedded.com. With 35 years in the electronics industry, he’s had many different roles: from engineer to journalist, and from entrepreneur to startup mentor and government advisor. He was part of the startup team that launched 32-bit microprocessor company ARC International in the US in the late 1990s and took it public, and co-founder of The Chilli, which influenced much of the tech startup scene in the early 2000s. He’s also worked with many of the big names—including National Semiconductor, GEC Plessey Semiconductors, Dialog Semiconductor and Marconi Instruments.