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Yole: Despite low revenues GaN power market should boom

GaN could partially displace SiC thanks to better price positioning
According to the latest report from Yole Développement, the GaN power industry is consolidating in preparation for significant growth.

Overall, 2020 could see an estimated device market size of almost $600 million, leading to approximately 580,000 x 6” wafers to be processed.

Ramp-up is estimated to be quite impressive starting in 2016, at an estimated 80 percent CAGR through 2020, based upon a scenario where EV/HEV begins adopting GaN in 2018 - 2019.

The power supply/PFC segment will dominate the business from 2015 - 2018, ultimately representing 50 percent of device sales- automotive will then catch-up.

In UPS applications, the medium-power segment is likely to be very much in line with the GaN value proposition, and savings at system level will be demonstrated. Yole thinks GaN technology could grab up to 15 percent of market share in this field by 2020.

Room for extra cost in motor drive applications is unlikely. Therefore, the incentives to implement new technologies such as GaN have to be serious and strong.

Considering the possible improvement of conversion efficiency, and augmented by a predictable price parity with silicon solutions by 2018, Yole expects GaN to start being implemented at a slow rate in motor control by 2015 - 2016, and reach around $45 million in revenue by 2020.

The PV inverters segment has already adopted SiC technology, and products are now commercially available. It’s possible that GaN could partially displace SiC thanks to better price positioning.

However, now that SiC is in place, qualifying GaN may be more challenging.

 Recent announcements show that the GaN industry is taking shape as mergers, acquisitions and license agreements are settled.

The latest Transphorm-Fujitsu agreement, in addition to Furukawa’s IP portfolio’s exclusive licensing, are positive signs that GaN technology is spreading across the value chain, reinforcing the leaders’ market position but likely leaving the weakest players by the wayside.

Yole Développement forecasts that 2014 will only generate $10 million - $12 million in device sales (in addition to R&D contracts and so forth). Such a moderate business means only the strongest will survive, and that several early-birds will see their cash-flow swiftly dissipate.

Yole believe that the GaN business will really ramp up in 2016, exceeding the “psychological threshold” of $50M in revenue. The key question is, how can GaN survive the next 1 ½ - 2 years? At the risk of being overly-pessimistic, Yole say some companies will not survive, and will either be acquired or go bankrupt.

Today, the power GaN business is mainly centred on low-voltage DC-DC converters (typically Point-of-Loads, or POL) using available 200V-rated devices. Unfortunately, this business only generates a few million dollars in revenue.

However, thanks to the 600V device’s introduction this year, GaN will grow quite fast in power-supply and PFC applications where technical added-value and economics are obvious

After simulating several case-studies, Yole have concluded that even though today’s market price for GaN devices exceeds the price for silicon devices, efficiency improvements and electricity bill savings can overcome this extra cost in less than one year for a 300W, 24/7 operation power supply (data server type).

By 2018, the same power supply could be even cheaper than its silicon counterpart thanks to the reduction in passives (capacitor, self-induction) cost, along with switching frequency increase.

Therefore, Yole see the PFC segment taking off by 2015, and achieving an 80 percent CAGR over 2016 - 2020.

Other applications such as PV inverter, and, to a lesser extent, motor control, will see GaN begin capturing market share by 2015-2016.

The next big thing will unquestionably be the EV and HEV segments, where GaN could definitely play a role in power systems such as low-voltage (14V -> 200 - 400V) DC-DC converters, and later for battery chargers (on-board 3.6 & 7.2 kW first, and then off-board 50kW+). However, we don’t see any chance for GaN to enter power-train inverters (60kW+) before 2019-2020, due to the current lack of high-current devices and the projected price.


600V-rated GaN devices were announced and promoted more than two years ago. However, only a few select customers have had access to 600V for qualification purposes. The majority of the power electronics community has been unable to source such devices. This has probably affected GaN technology’s credibility, and opened the door for its main competing technology, SiC, to continue expanding its industry presence.

Similarly, Noff (e-mode) availability has also been over-promoted, meaning real devices with stable, reliable specs took time to be diffused from off-the-shelf.

 It seems that the main players have caught up with their original roadmap, and devices are now available on the marketplace.

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