After several years of development, Bosch is now starting volume production of silicon carbide (SiC) power semiconductors at its Reutlingen plant and is already expanding capacity. Current capacity is sold out and the new capacity with 200mm wafers will not come online until 2023.
Bosch announced two years ago that it would push ahead with the development of SiC chips and enter production using its own manufacturing processes. This process has been used for samples for customer validation since the start of 2021. It is also working on its second generation devices for volume production in 2022.
“The future for silicon carbide semiconductors is bright. We want to become a global leader in the production of SiC chips for electromobility,” said Harald Kroeger, member of the board of management of Robert Bosch. “Our order books are full, thanks to the boom in electromobility,” said Kroeger.
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Bosch intends to expand its production capacity for SiC power semiconductors to hundreds of millions of devices and is expanding the clean-room space at Reutlingen with support from the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi) as part of the “Important Project of Common European Interest (IPCEI) Microelectronics” program.
In order to meet steadily increasing demand for these semiconductors, an extra 1,000 square meters were already added to the clean-room space at the Bosch wafer fab in Reutlingen in 2021. Another 3,000 square meters will be added by the end of 2023.
“For several years now, we have been providing support to help establish semiconductor production in Germany. Bosch’s highly innovative semiconductor production strengthens the microelectronics ecosystem in Europe and is a further step toward greater independence in this key field of digitalization,” said Peter Altmaier, Germany’s Federal Minister for Economic Affairs.
EU politicians are being strongly encouraged to speed up the IPCEI projects to support semiconductor production and build a supply chain for SiC devices in Europe.
SiC is a key technology for the region with Infineon and STMicroelectronics as major suppliers. Other entrants such as onemi and II-VI in the US and Foxconn in Taiwan are also looking to be significant suppliers of SiC devices. Supply of specialist SiC wafers will be a key issue in meeting demand which is why ST, II-VI and onsemi have all acquired wafer companies.
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Market research and consulting firm Yole predicts the SiC market as a whole will grow on average by 30 percent a year to over $2.5bn by 2025, with $1.5bn for electric vehicles.
“Silicon carbide power semiconductors make particularly efficient use of energy. This material’s advantages really come to the fore in energy-intensive applications such as electromobility,” said Kroeger. In the power electronics of electric vehicles, silicon carbide chips provide around 6 percent more range than pure silicon devices.
The new space will house equipment for the Bosch in-house process on 150mm wafers with plans to manufacture the semiconductors on 200mm wafers for ‘sizeable economies of scale’.
“By producing on larger wafers, we can manufacture significantly more chips in one production run and thus supply more customers,” Kroeger says.
Bosch will supply silicon carbide power semiconductors to customers around the world – both as individual chips and installed in power electronics or complete solutions such as the e-axle. This combination of electric motor, gearbox, and power electronics achieves an efficiency of up to 96 percent thanks to the more efficient design of the overall system. This leaves more energy for the powertrain, which increases the range.
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