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SMC: Swelling SiC shipments with a second fab


Opening an additional fab in Nanjing will help to grow sales of SMC Diode Solution’s SiC products to around half the company’s revenue.


Within our industry, one of the biggest trends is the growth in sales of SiC devices by companies with a strong pedigree in producing silicon power electronics. Of the current big five in SiC, Wolfspeed is the only player producing just wideband materials and devices, while STMicroelectronics, Onsemi, Infineon and Rohm have branched out into SiC after establishing a strong portfolio of silicon-based power electronics.

This direction of travel is also being pursued by some of the smaller players, such as SMC Diode Solutions, an American-led company that produces silicon and SiC power devices and has just opened its second fab in Nanjing, China. Opening this 300,000 square foot facility, which cost $3 billion RMB (US $410 million) and is creating 300 new jobs, will enable the company to boost production by 1.2 million silicon wafers and 60,000 SiC wafers per year – that equates to more than a quadrupling of the company’s annual output.

Founded in 1997, SMC started considering the expansion of its power portfolio to include SiC products in 2014. Back then, when far fewer producers of these power devices competed for sales, SMC’s chairwomen and CEO Yunji Corcoran reasoned that expanding into this area would enable her small-to-medium-sized company to expand its range of products and potentially target new applications.

At that time, Corcoran considered diversifying into either SiC or GaN. However, she felt that the pioneers of SiC, particularly Cree, offered a better-defined product. If SMC manufactured these devices, Corcoran believed that it would have a great opportunity to sell them to its existing customers, predominantly large power-supply companies. According to her, compared with GaN power devices, those based on SiC are much closer to SMC’s silicon power rectifier family.

SMC started its commercial expansion into SiC with the production of Schottky rectifiers, shipping from 2019 onwards. Beginning its SiC offering with this product made much sense. “We are a silicon diode company,” argues Corcoran, pointing out that by starting with a SiC Schottky rectifier, it’s been easier to find customers for its first range of products.

Once SMC starting working with SiC, Corcoran and her colleagues could see the tremendous potential for the SiC MOSFET.

Today the company produces both classes of power device. Its SiC Schottky barrier diode portfolio has products with blocking voltages from 600 V to 3.3 kV, and a wide range of current ratings, which can include those that target a customer’s particular needs.

The family of SiC MOSFETs is not as broad. There are 1.2 kV MOSFETs with on-resistances ranging from 16 mΩ to 160 mΩ, as well as a recently introduced a 1.7 kV variant. However, there are plans to expand the range. “We are working on the 650 and the 3300 at this moment,” enthuses Corcoran.

Silicon products are dominating SMC’s sales today, with those based on SiC only accounting for 10 percent of revenue. Corcoran attributes this modest but growing proportion to working with large and rigorous customers that are thorough when designing and evaluating prototypes.

Just a small fraction of the products that SMC makes in China are sold on the domestic market. 90 percent of business comes from sales oversees. Accounting for this, Corcoran explains that while her home town is Nanjing, she moved to the US to study and work, and it is there that she acquired her business acumen.

Given current tensions between the US and China, one might expect it’s not easy for a company to have a fab in Nanjing that ships most of its products overseas. But somewhat surprisingly, SMC’s activities have not been impacted by trade wars.

“When the US applied the duties, we were very concerned,” admits Corcoran. “But in the end, it did not decrease our sales much, because it's not that easy to source our product outside China.” However, she thinks the situation may differ surrounding the SiC MOSFET.