ST starts on European SiC wafer ‘megafactory’

ST starts on European SiC wafer ‘megafactory’

Business news |
By Nick Flaherty

STMicroelectronics is building a major plant in Europe to make silicon carbide (SiC) wafers for its booming electric vehicle business.

The company will not comment on the location of the plant other than ‘in Europe’ and comes alongside a $3.4bn capital expenditure for the company in 2022 that includes funding for the SiC fabs in Catania, Italy, and Singapore that currently use 150mm wafers. Eventually the plant will include the ability to make devices and make larger 200mm SiC wafers.

The most likely options for the plant are alongside the SiC fab in Catania although ST also has a 300mm silicon fab in Crolles, France and is commissioning a new 300mm silicon and power fab in Agrate, Italy.

“ST wants to have parts of its own supply chain on SiC as we do not want to be limited in innovation and wafer size increase,” said Jean-Marc Chery, CEO and president of ST. “The megafactory for raw material with epitaxy and this will have the capability to support wafer fab capability,” he said.

The strategic importance of wafer supply was highlighted by the failure of the GlobalWafers takeover of German silicon wafer maker Siltronic, and follows ST’s acquisition of SiC wafer developer Norstel in Norway to provide in-house SiC wafer capability.

“We have already started the building of facilities in Europe to prepare our supply internally for raw material and epitaxy to 40 percent internally by 2024 or 2025,” said Chery.

Production of SiC chips is key for electric vehicles and supply of silicon and silicon carbide wafers is a key area of concern for the European Union. The US government this week highlighted the risk of supply shortages in wafers.

“The electrification transformation is accelerating at a rate that was not expected and it is valid in all the regions of the world for all the car makers,” said Chery. “It will take many years to execute this transformation to 2027. Automotive capacity for 2022 is sold out and there is no inventory in the channel. The challenge is to have the capability to support the transformation.”

“In SiC we continue to win sockets and programmes. We are engaged with 90 ongoing programmes at 72 customers so we are confident of $1bn revenue by 2024 and well balanced between automotive and the industrial market,” he said.

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