Top 7 news in power electronics in 2015

This is not really a classical post. You will not learn any new information by reading it… but it could make you see the World a bit differently (well, our World to be precise, the Power Electronics World). See, none of the pieces of news we used for this article are new. But at PointTheGap, what we like to do is see beyond the single news and look for trends, for patterns. And believe me, some serious trends are shapening in front of our eyes!

So if you hibernated for a year and are just coming out of your sleep, don’t bother reading previous articles: you’ll have everything here. And you’ll be able to show off during strategy meetings, or coffee breaks.

1. Tesla and Mercedes-Benz home batteries:

This news was relayed everywhere, mostly because it was a Tesla Motors news. But we, power electronics engineers, saw nothing new in terms of technology. A home battery to store your produced energy and re-use it later? Okay, It’s a UPS for your home, plugged to the PV installation… Mercedes-Benz, and a few weeks ago, Audi as well, were already doing the same.

But this news is actually saying something else, which is of great importance.

A few thoughts, analysis and drafts later, we had it: Car makers finally got that they can become the new « GE », « Alstom » or « Siemens » of the home powered systems.

Mercedes Benz picture announcing the home battery.

Mercedes Benz picture announcing the home battery.

2. ON Semiconductor acquiring Fairchild:

We told there were rumors on-going. We told you ON Semi and Infineon were interested. But, we also told you Infineon already acquired International rectifier this year – and two 3B$ worth acquisitions in the same year are too much. 

So let’s focus on ON Semiconductor acquiring Fairchild. That would be ON Semi becoming getting well positioned in power modules, in SJ Mosfet production. It would be ON semi acquiring some SiC JFET technology and IP…. and much more. In short, it may be the news of the year!

Not listed here is their partnership with Transphorm to package GaN devices. They already gained access to GaN users this way. Yes, they’re in the starting blocks.


But now what? BREAKING NEWS: A Chinese consortium has raise the bid from ON Semiconductor. Fairchild may become a Chinese company.

Game is on! And the results will be key. Follow us through the newsletter, on Twitter or on LinkedIn to stay tuned.

3. International Rectifier’s acquisition by Infineon finalized

Okay, this was announced during summer 2014. But it was finalized in January 2015. And it’s a huge one. It does not happen every day, so we wanted to include it in here. IRF, the inventor of the Silicon Mosfet, is now part of Infineon, the former Siemens Semiconductor.

It’s a transfer from the USA West Coast of Semiconductor from GaN Beach (LA Area) to the Silicon ValleyBut not only: from a strategic point of view, International Rectifier and Infineon are quite complementary in their product portfolio and business models.

IRF is more at the lower et medium power level, up to their 1200V IGBTs. They sell mostly bare-dies, and discrete devices. Power modules and high power is not their thing. Their are also in the low power GaN, with devices used in Audio Amplifiers.

Infineon technologies and international rectifier have complementary portfolio of products on almost all low, medium and high power semiconductors in power electronics

Infineon and IRF complementary portfolio. Source: Infineon

On the other side Infineon is that well known high power, power module based supplier having IGBTs, GTOs and Thyristors up to 6,5 or 10kV. They are also world leader in 600V SJ Mosfet. A technology IRF does not have. And they don’t have any GaN developments on-going (based on public knowing).

4. Google Little Box challenge finalists

The list is here.

little box challenge google IEEEIt’s not the news of the year, but we at Point The Gap want to follow the challenge. Google’s involvement in power electronics (after Google Ventures investment in  the GaN player Transphorm) is unusual, as we could expect from Google, and we wanted to know where this leads.

Rendez-vous is in January for this one. We will be there, and will of course analyzing deeply the results to deliver a clear analysis in a nice and fun blog article. Stay tuned!

5. NXP Acquiring Freescale

Freescale has been in a bad position for a while, but the question remained of who was interested to acquire the company, knowing that Freescale is not a high power player. Through this acquisition, NXP show that they still want to stay at their low power, RF & IoT oriented strategy. They are not the one to get involved in high power trends as electric car power train, wind turbine or photovoltaic.

6. Cree spinning-off Power & RF – acquiring APEI and renaming the whole « Wolfspeed »

Wolfspeed logo GaN SiC Cree power RF

“Wolfspeed” logo.

We knew that it would make sense for CREE to spin-off the Power & RF from the LED business. Technologies are not at the same level of development, and product lifecycle to stay developed under the same brandname. The surprise came from the acquisition of APEI Inc. (Arkansas Power Electronics Inc.).

Cree group created Wolfspeed, a SiC and GaN power devices, power modules and converter specialist. It’s quite a step in the value-chain.

7. Panasonic and Infineon signing a second source agreement for GaN

Okay, that’s what one calls a win-win. Panasonic gains the possibility of being second sourced for their GaN GIT (Gate Injection Transistor: To be explained in our market report).

Infineon gains the possibility to step into the GaN market – not by having devices to propose – but by having a contact with customers. Accessing and understanding unmet needs from customers is the key to enable a technology adoption.

Conclusion: What main trends in power electronics and semiconductor?

2015 was full of great announces. Infineon is at the top of it. The before and after explains it all. Now they have access to GaN customers and to low, medium power devices and dies technologies and market. That is huge.

ON Semiconductor is not that loud in its communication. But succeeding in the Fairchild accessions would make them up to heavy weight of power electronics semiconductor and that is not Japanese. A big « Hell Yeah! » to them, Good job. Hang on and you will impress lot very soon.

Another trend we observed this year is the evolution of the GaN market. Haven’t noticed? All major companies involved in GaN now have a partner: EPC with IDT, Transphorm with ON Semiconductor, Panasonic with Infineon, GaN Systems with TSMC and ExaGaN with X-Fab.

GaN is moving to manufacturing status… If this subject tickles your curiosity we have a report on pre-sales with limited seats available.

Man, we really enjoyed providing all these news and articles this year and hope you enjoyed it too. And we’ll keep on doing it again next year!

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