The average price of power metal oxide semiconductor field effect transistors (MOSFETS) will fall in 2014, but not as steeply as 2013, as demand increases, resulting in strong growth in unit shipments and revenue.
In 2013, average prices will be down about 3%, but price erosion will ease in 2014 when prices decline by about 1% on average, according to researcher IC Insights, based in Scottsdale, Ariz. The average price for a power MOSFET was 16.7 cents in 2012 and will average 16.3 cents in 2013 and then fall to 16.2 cents in 2014, the researcher says.
Declining prices in 2013 mean revenue will drop by about 1%, although unit shipments will rise by about 2%. Power MOSFET sales will total $6.07 billion, down from $6.66 billion in 2012. Revenue will rebound in 2014 when sales rise 9% to $6.6 billion, according to Rob Lineback, senior analyst at IC Insights. He says one reason for sluggish growth for power MOSFETs in 2013 is that systems manufacturers are reluctant to increase inventory levels.
David Valletta, executive vice president worldwide sales for Vishay Intertechnology based in Malvern, Pa., says the power MOSFET market was “kind of lackluster, flat to down overall. The first half was soft. However, in the second half, we are starting to see some normal seasonal growth, but not to the degree of a couple years ago.”
He adds that a slowdown in shipments of laptop computers has affected the power MOSFET market. He says laptops had been a big growth area for MOSFETs, but that many consumers are opting to purchase media tablets instead. Tablets have less power MOSFET content than laptops.
Automotive has been a strong segment for power MOSFETs for some manufacturers. For instance, Antonino Pellegrino, product marketing manager for STMicroelectronics, headquartered in Geneva Switzerland, says ST's power MOSFET business was up about 7% compared to 2012 due in large part to the automotive segment.
With overall demand for power MOSFETs relatively sluggish, manufacturers say leadtimes are mostly stable.
“Our average leadtime is about 9 weeks,” says Pellegrino. "Standard product leadtimes are about six weeks, but our super junction products are 12 to 14 weeks."
Other suppliers say their leadtimes for power MOSFETs are in the six-to-eight week range and are not expected to change until 2014.
Leadtimes could stretch a bit next year because power MOSFET demand will rise, according to Lineback. He says consumer electronics equipment, including tablets and cell phones, as well as industrial and networking equipment, will drive power MOSFET demand.
Another driver of power MOSFETs in the next few years will be electric vehicle chargers, according to Glenn Wright, director of marketing and business development for the power products group of Microsemi, based in Aliso Viejo, Calif.
“We will have silicon carbide MOSFETs next year,” says Glenn Wright, director of marketing and business development, power products group for Microsemi, based in Aliso Viejo, Calif.“The numbers we've seen say there are 135,000 chargers a year being built right now and by 2020 there'll be 2 million per year being shipped," says Wright. He said level 3 chargers, which are fast chargers and the kind that will "effectively replace gas stations are the ones for which we see strong demand."
Move to GaN and SiC
Power MOSFET manufacturers say new technologies will affect power MOSFET sales in the coming years. Lineback says manufacturers are finding it more difficult to enhance performance of silicon-based MOSFETs and are turning to gallium nitride (GaN) and silicon carbide (SiC) technologies to boost performance. He says those technologies "enable reduced power consumption, higher frequencies and lower on-resistance and faster switching speeds in power MOSFETS.”
GaN technology will be able to deliver 10x the performance of today’s silicon power MOSFETs in the next few years, he said.
“The biggest technology trend for us is silicon carbide," says Wright. "We will have silicon carbide MOSFETs next year."
He says silicon carbide will result in a “quantum leap in performance. There will be 10 times lower switching losses and 10 times lower on-resistance. It will be a dramatic improvement from where silicon MOSFETs are today.”
However, he notes that silicon carbide technology is challenging to implement.
“The biggest challenge is getting a good quality gate oxide. Oxide does not grow naturally on silicon carbide, while it does on silicon,” he says. “You have to deposit a gate oxide, and getting a good quality film with a very low charge, which is required for MOSFET, is difficult with silicon carbide.”
“Silicon carbide power MOSFETs will be used in military equipment and anywhere there is an extreme environment," he said.