Silicon Carbide Chip Manufacturers

Silicon carbide, or SiC, chips can operate at much higher voltages and temperatures than traditional semiconductors. This has led to interest from electric vehicle companies and manufacturers of power electronics equipment.

But earnings reports this week suggest some leading chipmakers are encountering execution and supply problems with their new SiC facilities. That could delay the growth of their stock prices.

Refractory Materials

Silicon carbide is a non-oxide high-tech material used in functional ceramics, advanced refractories, and abrasives. It is made from quartz sand and petroleum coke as raw materials, with salt added as an additive to produce green silicon carbide, and then smelted at high temperatures in a resistance furnace. It also exists naturally as a mineral called moissanite.

Refractory silicon carbide has several outstanding properties that make it suitable for a wide variety of industrial applications. Among them are thermal shock resistance, low coefficient of thermal expansion, and exceptional mechanical strength. It is also less dense than metals and thus enables refractory linings to better withstand mechanical stress and pressure.

As a result, silicon carbide refractories are widely used in steelmaking, especially as linings for muffle furnaces, heated hearths and heat exchangers, ladles, and crucibles. They are also favored in the glass and ceramics industries as kiln furniture, burner nozzles, and saggers. These refractories are capable of withstanding the corrosive and abrasive conditions of the glass and ceramics manufacturing processes.

Electrical & Electronics

Silicon carbide semiconductor devices are used in power electronics products including off-board chargers for electric vehicles, on-board battery chargers and inverters. SiC devices can perform their functions at much higher voltages and temperatures with less heat and energy loss. Their low ON-resistance and wide bandgap make them more efficient than their silicon counterparts, reducing overall system size and cost.

Other applications for silicon carbide include LEDs & optoelectronics, where it can extend driving ranges per charge & reduce charging times, as well as MEMS (micro electro mechanical systems) devices, which are small sensors with a moving mechanical part and an electrical circuit. Examples are pressure, temperature & vibration sensors.

MEMS can be fabricated with silicon carbide, which has excellent chemical inertness, thermal shock resistance & wear resistance. Manufacturer of standard & custom silicon carbide ceramics, insulators, resistors & varistors. Capabilities include machining, grinding, lapping & micro hole drilling. ISO 9000 compliant.

Energy & Power

The semiconductor products made by these companies are used in a variety of power applications, including electric vehicle battery chargers, on-board chargers, DC-DC converters, power electronic voltage transformers, hybrid electric vehicles, MRI power supplies, wind turbines, photovoltaic inverters, and solar cells. The silicon carbide technology offers benefits such as increased power density, high efficiency and temperature resistance, lower switching losses, a wider band gap, and reduced electromagnetic interference.

Onsemi (OTC: ONSM) and Wolfspeed are both among the top-ranked stocks in IBD’s semiconductor manufacturing industry group, with IBD Stock Checkup ratings of 96 out of 99.

Formerly known as Cree, Wolfspeed recently announced a North Carolina facility to grow the raw ingots that are converted into 200-millimeter wafers. The new factory is expected to increase the company’s manufacturing capacity tenfold. Its chips are being used in electric vehicle chargers to enable faster charging and boost range, and EV makers including Tesla (TSLA) have already signed on.

Automotive

Silicon carbide semiconductor devices are increasingly being used by automakers and other electronics makers to improve the energy efficiency of products that use electric power. Such components process electricity more efficiently than conventional chips, reducing battery consumption and allowing for quicker charging.

Investment bank Canaccord Genuity estimates that EV chipmakers will need to double their production of silicon carbide wafers from 125,000 6-inch equivalents this year to more than 4 million by 2030 in order to meet the industry’s demand for the next-generation technology. Manufacturers that have deeper relationships with OEMs and specialized device capabilities are best positioned to capture market growth, the analyst says.

For example, Wolfspeed’s (formerly Cree) specialized semiconductors can handle temperatures of up to 500 degrees Fahrenheit and electric voltages 10 times what traditional silicon can. Its chips also have smaller footprints and are more reliable than the traditional technology, according to the company. These advantages are helping the company secure contracts with electric vehicle manufacturers.

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