From computers, functional phones to smartphones, along with the global economic trajectory, there is a representative semiconductor application market in every period. Nowadays, a large number of new technologies such as 5G, AI, Internet, big data, cloud computing emerge. Which application market can bear these technologies and play the role of this era?
Li Jian, Chief of Huahong Hongli Strategy, Marketing and Development Department of Wafer Generation Factory, said at a recent event that technologies such as 5G and AI will not exist alone. They need a real product as a carrier to display. With the weakness of smartphones in recent two years, applications that can serve as carriers of multi-technology convergence and drive the rapid rise of semiconductors will not be available. Here comes the smart car.
New Opportunities for Automotive Electronics
First of all, Li Jian believes that automobile electronization is the general trend. From the cost structure of automobiles, chip costs are expected to account for more than 50% of the total cost of automobiles in the future, which will bring huge market demand for the whole semiconductor industry. Secondly, automobiles are a traditional manufacturing industry, but a manufacturing industry that can make people boil.
"When the traditional automotive industry meets the semiconductor of today, it will become the next"talent"to lead the wave, just like a thousand miles horse with wings. Semiconductors can bring calm minds to smart cars, such as autopilot processors, ADAS chips, etc., but also stronger muscles and faster speeds for thousands of miles, i.e., lots of power devices, such as MOSFET, Li said.
According to its statement, the sales target of domestic new energy vehicles in 2020 is 2 million units, and the global market is 7 million units, which is a very large market. Unlike traditional vehicles, new energy vehicles have motors, batteries, on-board chargers, motor inverters and air conditioning compressors, which require a large number of power device chips. In addition to the changes of the vehicle itself, electrification also brings new demands to the afterloading parts market. At the same time, supporting electrical facilities, such as charging piles, also brings a large number of power device requirements.
Power chips in electric vehicles are widely used, such as start-stop system, DC/DC transformer, DC/AC main inverter + DC/DC boost, generator, vehicle charger, etc. Taking IGBT as an example, 18 IGBTs are needed for both front and rear motors of electric vehicles, 4 for on-board chargers and 8 for electric air conditioners. A total of 48 IGBT chips are needed for an electric vehicle.
According to its calculation, if the domestic sales of electric vehicles will reach 2 million units in 2020 and the market of rear-mounted maintenance spare parts is calculated by 1:1 matching, roughly estimates that the domestic market will need about 100,000 pieces/month of 8-inch gauge-level IGBT wafer capacity (converted by 120 IGBT chips/pieces). Based on the fact that the domestic electric vehicle market accounts for one third of the global market, the global automotive market may require a capacity of 300,000 pieces per month of 8-inch IGBT wafers by 2020.
In addition to the automotive market, IGBT is also popular in other application markets. "There are views in the industry that 10 new IGBT wafer factories are needed. I think that's true." Li Jian said so.
Four Core Cores of Power Devices
As the core business of Huahong Hongli, Li Jian said that in terms of power devices, Huahong Hongli mainly focuses on four aspects: Trench MOS/SGT, DT-SJ, IGBT and GaN/SiC new materials.
According to its introduction, silicon-based MOSFET is the basis of Huahong Hongli's power device technology. The company has worked in this field for many years. By the fourth quarter of 2018, Huahong Hongli's 8-inch MOSFET wafers had shipped more than 7 million pieces. At present, in the automotive field with strict reliability requirements, Huahong Hongli's MOSFET products have passed the gauge certification, and cooperated with customers to complete the application of relative key components such as automotive oil pump, steering assist system, etc.
Compared with the basic silicon-based MOSFET, superjunction MOSFET (DT-SJ) is the mainstay of Huahong power device technology. Li Jian said that the most prominent feature of super-junction MOSFET is the P-pillar structure. Deep groove super-junction MOSFET is independently developed by Huahong Hongli and has complete intellectual property rights. Super junction MOSFET is suitable for 500V to 900V voltage band. It has smaller resistance, higher efficiency and lower heat dissipation. It can be widely used in switching power supply with stringent requirements.
The positioning of silicon-based IGBT chips in Huahong Hongli is the future of power devices. Huahong Hongli is one of the few manufacturers in China that can use 8-inch wafer production line as a customer agent. Huahong Hongli IGBT-related process early to 1200V LPT, 1700V NPT/FS, currently focused on the field cut-off process, mainly 600 volts and 1200 volts; the future direction of 3300V to 6500V high-voltage section technology development has been completed, is doing specific product validation with customers.
In terms of GaN/SiC new materials, Li Jian said that this is the direction that Huahong Hongli has been focusing on. In the next five to ten years, SiC power devices will become the main force in the automotive market, mainly on the main inverters of electric vehicles and charging piles of high-power DC fast charging. However, Li Jian also pointed out that the reliability of wide band gap materials still needs further observation.
From the perspective of market application demand, the market application of SiC and silicon-based IGBT coincide completely. The application scenario is clear, while GaN aims at innovative areas. There are some variables in the application scenario. In terms of technology, SiC secondary transistor technology has matured, and MOS transistor has been supplied in small batches, while SiC-based GaN is relatively mature, but its cost is high, while SiC-based GaN is still immature; in terms of cost performance, SiC is expected to rapidly pull down its cost after mass production in the future, while GaN remains to be observed. If the new application is not on schedule, the cost will decline slowly.
"8+12" to cope with a new round of recession
For the future, Li Jian said that looking back on the development trend of the global semiconductor industry, it seems that the development of the semiconductor industry is relatively consistent with the development of the whole world economy. The development of the world economy has a certain periodicity, from prosperity to recession and then to recovery, and then to the next round of prosperity, starting again and again.
Li Jian pointed out that in a complete economic cycle, easing and tightening go hand in hand and are regulated by monetary interest rates. Therefore, he superimposed the law of interest rate change of the international mainstream currency, the US dollar, as one of the references to predict the trend of the whole industry. According to its analysis, combined with the changes in US dollar interest rates since the 1990s, it is possible to face another recession when the Fed's interest rate is simply calculated to increase to 3.5%.
"If the Fed's statement of not raising interest rates in 2019 is credible, and the range and interval of single interest rate increases follow the usual practice, it is estimated that it will take one to two years to reach 3.5%, that is to say, there will be a new and larger recession in 2021." Li Jian said.
There is a recession on the demand side, but on the supply side there is another situation. According to Li Jian's statistics on the current capacity and planned growth of 6 inches, 8 inches and 12 inches in mainland China, the capacity available for power devices in 2018 will be 550,000 units per month (equivalent to 8 inches, the same below), and will increase to 1.2 million units per month in 2023, with a growth rate of 118%.
"When the demand side has a relatively large decline, but the supply side has a very large growth at this time, it is prone to crisis." Li Jian said so. For such a future, Li Jian said that Huahong Hongli's overall strategy is still to adhere to the road of unique technology, that is, to adhere to the strategic layout of "8 + 12", that is, 8 inches of "vast grain" and 12 inches of "high wall".
At present, Huahong Hongli is pushing its unique technology from 8 inches to 12 inches through technology research and development, and its technology nodes are further pushed below 90 nanometers, such as 65/55 nanometers. "To sum up, only by accumulating a solid foundation can we walk more steadily on a higher stage, even if there were some crises at that time."
However, Li Jian also pointed out that reviewing the first two recessions of the semiconductor industry, it took three and a half years from recession to recovery for the first time, and only three years for the second time. He stressed that the semiconductor industry as a whole is still a very healthy upstream shock, "even if there is a crisis in the future, it doesn't matter, just fall and climb up."