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10 June 2015

IHS reports developments in power semiconductors highlighted at PCIM

Richard Eden, senior analyst (Power Semiconductors) at market research firm IHS Technology, attended the recent PCIM (Power Conversion Intelligent Motion) Europe 2015 tradeshow in Nuremberg, Germany (19-21 May), and in a Research Note has reported the following key highlights, including the significance of new product releases, the status of the semiconductor materials battle, and the industries driving current and future market growth.

SiC and GaN developers continue to make headlines

For the past few years, the headlines have been filled with technology announcements by silicon carbide (SiC) and gallium nitride (GaN) startups, and this year's show was no exception, says Eden. The wider market has caught on to these stories, as well-established manufacturers are now explaining their development strategies and introducing their own products.

When it comes to new players coming to market, the attitude of existing SiC and GaN companies as a whole is "the more, the merrier", he adds. For such companies, the main competitors are silicon suppliers, not each other.
In recent years, SiC and GaN semiconductor companies had to explain the benefits of their devices in practical applications, in order to evangelize about the technology. The message appears to have registered with customers, as design engineers are now proactively asking them for products to help provide power conversion efficiency gains. According to IHS, the SiC and GaN power semiconductor market is conservatively forecasted to surpass $270m in 2015.

The silicon empire strikes back

With SiC and GaN power semiconductor developers intent on gaining market share, the dominant silicon suppliers are reacting, says IHS. Several new devices were on show at PCIM for the first time.

Fairchild Semiconductor introduced its fourth generation of discrete insulated-gate bipolar transistors (IGBTs), which it claims can slash energy loss by 30%. Fairchild's new approach should enable new ways to efficiently control large amounts of power, it is reckoned.

Germany's Infineon Technologies launched the MIPAQ Pro, a new intelligent power module (IPM) integrating IGBTs, gate drivers, heat-sink, sensors, digital control electronics and digital bus communication into one robust, reliable package. The new module is aimed at providing an integrated solution for new scalable and compact inverter designs for wind, solar, and industrial motor drive applications.

Eden says that these examples illustrate two trends that were increasingly apparent at the show. First, the devices are aimed squarely at improving power efficiency. Second, power transistors are increasingly being integrated with sensing, control and communication functions in common module packaging.

Merger & acquisition activity increases

The number of semiconductor business mergers and acquisitions has increased recently, and the appetite for mergers and takeovers within the semiconductor industry is expected to continue, notes Eden. For power semiconductors, the biggest story of 2014 was Infineon's purchase of International Rectifier (IR). The deal completed in January, so the PCIM show was the first time in Europe that the combined power portfolio of Infineon and International Rectifier was presented as one company.

At the event, there was a lot of discussion surrounding the recent $40bn merger of Netherlands-based NXP Semiconductors and US-based Freescale Semiconductor. NXP already supplies discrete power semiconductors to the automotive sector, so combining this strength with Freescale's significant presence in automotive microcontrollers should increase the merged company's penetration in that market, reckons IHS.

Conclusions from PCIM

Until 2008 the power semiconductor market grew at about 8% each year, but that is no longer the case following the global financial crisis. The overall long-term market growth projection for the next five years has slowed to about 5% per year, according to IHS. The key factors causing this reduced optimism are the general global macroeconomic conditions, the weaker Chinese economy, concerns about the Euro-zone countries' prospects, and the Euro-to-dollar exchange rate, notes the firm.

In summary, power semiconductor companies can look forward to an environment of continued merger & acquisition activity, customers demanding improved energy efficiency, and exciting new technologies and products, reckons IHS. However, as long as the need exists to convert electric power into useful work with increasing efficiency, the power semiconductor market will continue to grow, it concludes.

Tags: GaN SiC Power electronics

Visit: www.ihs.com

Visit: www.mesago.de/en/PCIM/main.htm

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