6-inch SiC Production expanding in Asia and U.S.A.

March 10, 2016 by Jeff Shepard

X-FAB Silicon Foundries aims to put itself at the vanguard of wide-bandgap semiconductor production by announcing the availability of its silicon carbide (SiC) offering from its wafer fab in Lubbock, Texas. And Seoul-based LG Innotek (a subsidiary of South Korean electronics company LG Group) announced it has selected an AIX G5 WW (Warm-Wall) reactor for the development of silicon-carbide (SiC) epitaxial wafers aimed mainly at power devices for automotive and renewable energy applications. The system is configured for 8x6-inch substrates. These developments follow the recent announcement that Taiwan's Episil Semiconductor Wafer, Inc. has successfully put into operation an AIX G5 WW reactor for SiC epitaxy.

Thanks to major internal investments in the conversion of capital equipment, as well as the support provided by the PowerAmerica Institute at NC State University, X-FAB Texas has heavily upgraded its manufacturing resources in order to make them “SiC-ready”. Among the tools now added are a high-temperature anneal furnace, backgrind equipment for thinning SiC wafers, backside metal sputter and backside laser anneal tools. A high-temperature implanter is scheduled for installation later this year. X-FAB can, as a result, now fully leverage the economies of scale that are already available in its established 30K wafer per month silicon line, thereby presenting the market with the means to produce large volumes of SiC devices on 6-inch wafers.

As well as X-FAB’s 6-inch wafer capabilities, other key differentiators need to be factored into the SiC equation. Among these will be higher yields and accelerated ramp-up to full scale production, plus the company’s decades of experience in manufacturing semiconductor devices which adhere to the most stringent quality standards, such as those for automotive applications. Not only will X-FAB supply fabless semiconductor vendors, the company will also be well positioned to serve as a second source solution for IDMs with their own SiC manufacturing.

“Current SiC offerings are either IDMs creating their own products or relatively small foundry operations using 4-inch production facilities,” states Andy Wilson, X-FAB’s Director of Strategic Business Development. “X-FAB is bringing something different to the market, with a SiC capacity of 5k wafers/month ready to utilize and potential to raise this further. We can thus offer a scalable, high quality, secure platform that will enable customers to cost-effectively obtain discrete devices on SiC substrates and also safely apply vital differentiation.”

LG Innotek’s AIX G5 WW vapor phase epitaxy (VPE) system is based on Aixtron's production-proven planetary reactor platform, giving the largest batch capacity and highest throughput in the industry, it is reckoned. The equipment design aims to minimize production costs while maintaining production quality.

"We see rising demand for SiC-based systems from major automotive manufacturers," says LG Innotek vice president Dr Minseok Kang, the leader of Korea's WPM (World Premier Material) national project for SiC materials development (led by LG Innotek). "Based on our long-term experience with Aixtron epitaxy systems, we believe that Aixtron's G5 WW tool offers unique advantages such as high throughput and yield on 6-inch wafers. Furthermore, we can pre-qualify SiC epitaxial wafer samples using Aixtron's SiC application lab and we appreciate the outstanding, dedicated SiC customer support package," he comments.

"We will provide full support to LG Innotek for the quick installation and SiC process qualification of the system," notes Dr Frank Wischmeyer, vice president Power Electronics at Aixtron.