Look Towards A New Future

Feb 20, 2012

Inverter Technology Trends, Market & Supply Chain Analysis

Semiconductor Technological developments to enhance inverter performance

The heart of developments clearly come from the evolution of semiconductor devices! These developments, mostly oriented by device performance also have an impact on other parts of modules and inverters: power packaging, system size reduction, performance, passive and connectivity solutions.

This report shows, however, that SiC and GaN-based switches are not ready yet to penetrate the market in high volume: indeed, technology still needs improvements and cost reduction. Yole believes that mass adoption will not come before 2015. In addition, compound semiconductors will still compete with silicon based technologies such as (fast) IGBTs and Super Junction MOSFETs, specially driven by new inverter architectures like NPC at the power modules level.

Inverter Technology Market Trends

Published: February 2012
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Price : Single User License - US$4737

Power packaging: important developments from application & material standpoints

In order to illustrate advantages of new semiconductor devices, this report will provide a clear understanding of power module packaging evolution. Today, semiconductor manufacturers, power module makers and system integrators are looking for: more reliable interconnections, materials which withstand higher working temperature, and ways to remove or reduce cooling system size. Indeed, due to the higher switching frequencies and heat coming from external sources (external motors, high ambient temperature) semiconductor dies are getting closer to the heat dissipation system. This also means die attach materials are being investigated in order to maintain strong connection between the DBC and the semiconductor device. Copper wire bonds or Aluminum ribbon bonds are preferred to standard Aluminum technologies (which still represent 90% of the market), since they also support harsh working conditions. Another track for interconnection is foil-based solutions, which enable power module volume reduction, higher reliability to vibrations, connection of SMDs or other devices on top of the module and adoption of double sided cooling systems.

Supply chain evolution: Vertical integration in ASIA; R&D services and diversification in Europe & North America

Power electronics now implies working with a broad spectrum of knowledge and know-how: mechanical, electrical, semiconductor, fluidics, hydraulics, connectors… Therefore, developments can be complicated and final products can be expensive.

As a consequence, we have observed and analyzed in this report the two main trends coming from the power electronics industry, which actually depends on the players locations:
Japanese and Chinese players, especially from system makers tend to go downstream and master the manufacturing processes of each sub-system and component. In the case of Japanese companies, this tendency is mostly driven by cost reduction and absorption of intermediary margins, whereas Chinese companies want to access the technology and show some proof of quality
On the other hand, EU and US players are more diversified, and acquisition of new competencies (such as Mersen, Rogers or Power Integration) or high-end R&D and prototyping services (APEI, Primes, IMEC, GE Global Research) is getting more common.

  • Silicon and compound semiconductor suppliers
  • Semiconductor equipment suppliers
  • Power device and module makers
  • Passive device manufacturers (resistors, capacitors) and connectivity solution providers (connectors and busbars)
  • Inverter makers and end system integrators
  • R&D laboratories for power electronics purposes
  • Investors