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Start-up looks to expand SiC substrate market

Having closed the books on a fund-raising round, SiC Systems is now hoping to move from stealth mode to selling wafers to mainstream semiconductor firms and LED companies.

The SiC world has gained an ambitious additional player called SiC Systems, which will crash onto the substrate market with its 6-inch 3C-SiC wafers later this year.

Incorporated in July 2007, SiC Systems says it has already developed an economical crystal growth process thanks to a small business grant and the expertise of two of the company's founders.

The prototype process now in place at the company s Golden, Colorado, fab gives it a big advantage, according to the company's third founder and CEO, Ken Whelan.

“The two popular methods for growth of SiC crystal today have issues with keeping level heat across the diameter of the substrate, which makes their ability to do larger diameters highly suspect,” Whelan explained.

“Our process solves that. We have better control over all the parameters that go into improving the quality of SiC growth than any of our competitors.”

Whelan explained that the 6-inch wafer diameter is a key part of SiC Systems hopes to introduce the semiconductor material s benefits to companies with a legacy of silicon processing.

“There are 6-inch [silicon] fabs out there that the major manufacturers are looking at shutting down because they're no longer cost-effective,” Whelan explained.

“We think this represents an opportunity for existing 6-inch fabs to utilize sunk investment, get experience with the material as well and enter new higher-margin markets.”

Whelan also said that part of the intention in producing 6-inch 3C-SiC is to provide another low cost substrate for the LED market. He feels that, at a comparable cost, the conductivity of SiC might enable it to displace non-conductive sapphire from its dominant position.

Following on from its Small Business Innovation Research grant, SiC Systems has just closed an initial round of external investment. It will use this to establish two additional production lines and secure its first orders, and is also currently looking to adapt its growth methods to 4H and 6H crystal polytypes. Now it has the money in place the company will begin trading in earnest, according to Whelan.

“We ve been in a bit of a stealth mode,” he said.

“We made private enquiries in the marketplace in the process of validating our business plan and then suspended those discussions pending our securing Series A funding. I expect to re-engage on those conversations very soon.”

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