New Apps Help Push Power IC, Discrete Markets

Feb. 9, 2011
Pushed by new applications and a growing emphasis on power management, some vendors believe the power IC and discrete markets could grow as much as 15% this year. But that calls for them to come up with more efficient, more highly integrated, and even smaller products.

IHS iSuppli

TSOP85-AP5 series


Pushed by new applications and a growing emphasis on power management, some vendors believe the power IC and discrete markets could grow as much as 15% this year. But that calls for them to come up with more efficient, more highly integrated, and even smaller products.

The power IC market products analyzed in 2010 by the market research organization IMS Research Ltd. have outperformed previous growth predictions, and IMS is projecting strong growth into 2011.

According to another research firm, IHS iSuppli, prices of these devices will begin to decline in the first quarter of this year—but not as dramatically as the firm anticipated in September 2010 when demand normally softens during the seasonally slow first few months of the year. IHS iSuppli also forecasts that lead times for many discretes will continue to extend well beyond their normal delivery times, possibly up to 20 weeks in some cases.

In a new report, IHS iSuppli (Fig. 1) projects small price increases in these products in the first, second, and early third quarters of 2011, with price declines of 0.2% to 0.4% beginning in the third period.

Most MOSFET revenue comes from low-voltage MOSFETs, as the number of low-voltage applications usually rises with the number of processors or other loads used in data processing and communication equipment. Accounting for 51% of the market in 2009, low-voltage MOSFETs will continue to hold the leading share position in 2011, claims the market research firm. IHS iSuppli research projects the entire MOSFET market will experience a 20% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) from 2009 to 2014.

Another new study by IHS iSuppli notes that with a more than 50% increase in sales and constrained production in 2010, China is facing allocation and lead time extensions for certain power MOSFETs from major suppliers. The power MOSFET market in China was expected to grow from $2.4 billion in 2010 to 53% from $1.6 billion in 2009. IHS iSuppli expects the tight supply situation for certain MOSFET types and packages to last well into 2011.

Another market study by GBI Research notes: “Original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and original design manufacturers (ODMs) of smart phones are increasingly using modern power-management ICs due to their superior capabilities, higher efficiency, small form factor, etc.” GBI expects sales revenues of power-management ICs for consumer devices to rise from $1.7 billion in 2004 to $2.75 billion by 2016.

There is also an increased requirement for resistors from OEMs that would extend additional capability of new-generation electronic products. The demand for resistors varies by type, but is growing mostly in the consumer electronics sector, according to a study by Global Industry Analysts (GIA).

Much of the market activity is in cell phones, notebooks, and other handheld computing products, such as tablet PCs. As a result, many resistor makers are increasing their range of product offerings to include wirewound and chip resistors, as well as integrated passives.

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By region, the GIA says Asia-Pacific and Europe represent the most vibrant markets, with the Asia-Pacific area the largest and fastest growing. Chip resistors dominate the global market and represent the fastest growing product segment.

Major players in this segment, according to GIA, include ASJ Holdings, Bourns, KOA, Speer Electronics, Ohmite Manufacturing, Queen Mao Electronic, Rohm Company, State of the Art, Stingray international, Tepro of Florida, Token Electronics Industry Co., TT Electronics, Tyco Electronics, Vishay Intertechnology, Welwyn Components Ltd., and Tageo Corp.

Industry sources seem to agree that 2011 will be a good year for them.

“To be quite honest, \\[the market\\] is tough to call at the moment,” says Jerry McGuire, Fairchild Semiconductor’s senior vice president for low voltage and midpower. Still, McGuire says, “On the low-voltage MOSFET side, where we are at the heart of dc-dc power delivery, we’re anticipating market growth of 5% to 10%.”

McGuire says that in computing, the notebooks based on Intel’s latest Huron River chipset will begin to ramp up production early this year. The tablet PC market is expected to grow dramatically, and servers (the heart of cloud computing) are expected to grow as well.

“Smart phones are also expected to grow strongly this year, and Fairchild has significant positions in each of these market areas with low voltage MOSFETs,” McGuire says.

McGuire says that given Fairchild’s increasing customer demands for power delivery, including higher levels of efficiency to drive battery life, support for more rails within computing systems, better thermal management, and size reductions, it would be a good year for MOSFETs.

“Industry supply constraints have eased somewhat,” says McGuire, adding that Fairchild has continued to invest in MOSFET technology and capacity and is well positioned to grow its LV MOSFET line in 2011.

Infineon Technologies also has high hopes for the new year.

“We’re a broad-based company with a lot of different pipelines and we really expect our power semiconductors to do well this year,” says Ryan Scott, Infineon’s marketing manager for power discretes and power-management devices. “Industry growth, based on where we’re at, should be in the range of 10%, if not a bit more.”

Relatively new and emerging applications are helping push the market. That includes solar, electric vehicles, LEDs, servers, and tablet PCs.

“I don’t know of any customer who is not working on some kind of tablet design,” says Stephane Emoux, strategic marketing director of International Rectifier. “That’s pushing discretes and power ICs.” Low-voltage MOSFETs, at 30 V and below, will get a big lift from solar and tablet PC apps, according to Emoux, who anticipates 15% CAGR growth from this sector over the next five years.

Cloud computing is also giving server applications a boost where discrete components have an energy consumption advantage over other devices. Automotive is another big growth opportunity, with the introduction of more electric vehicles, particularly in power-management devices.

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“The market plan,” says Emoux, “is to improve efficiency (power) with a smaller footprint (miniaturization). You also need better silicon technology and better packaging technology and that’s what we’re doing.”

In the past, Emoux says, silicon was always the limiting factor. “The package was kind of a side topic, with not a lot of investment. But with the latest silicon technology, the silicon becomes so good that the package becomes the limitation,” says Emoux.

Infineon is pretty much on the same page. “We’re producing new packaging and new packaging concepts,” says Scott. “But what makes that work is customers that accept those concepts and put them to use and see the benefits from them. The challenge is going from innovation to adoption.”

It’s also promoting its products for solar and automotive applications, as well as LEDs, which is a new market for Infineon.

“The changing infrastructure for electric vehicles is using insulated gate bipolar transistors (IGBTs) both in discrete and module formats and for some power-supply applications,” says Scott.

Another one of Infineon’s biggest growth areas for IGBTs globally is induction cooking with soft switching and higher frequencies. New neon high-intensity headlights also use IGBTs. Power-management ICs are in the mix as well as sales increase for battery-powered consumer products—especially smart phones.

Vishay Intertechnology, one of the largest manufacturers of discrete semiconductors, announced in January that it was expanding its Trench MOS Barrier Schottky (TMBS) rectifiers for solar bypass applications with four new 45-V devices offering eSMP surface-mount and axial-leaded package options. The devices are designed to enable higher current densities in low-voltage, high-frequency inverters and solar cell junction boxes, where they will be used as bypass diodes for photovoltaic solar cell protection.

Vishay also is broadening its optelectronics portfolio with the release of a new series of IR receivers for remote control systems that combine a PIN diode, preamplifier, and internal filter for power control module (PCM) frequency in one ultra-thin package with a 1.3-mm top-view profile.

The TSOP85-AP5 series (Fig. 2) was designed to fulfill the needs of industrial and consumer products where space is extremely limited but high performance is required. The devices are optimized for remote control and data transmission applications in small handheld electronics, such as notebook computers and digital cameras, as well as ultra-thin LCD TVs.

International Rectifier has expanded its offering of 40-V to 100-V automotive qualified MOSFETs to include a family of logic level devices. The new MOSFETs are suitable for heavy load applications used in traditional internal combustion engine vehicles and micro and hybrid vehicle platforms.

Recently, demand has grown for improved efficiency in power-supply circuits to reduce energy consumption, and there is a particularly strong demand for low power consumption through improved power servers and solar power-generation systems, spurring demand for power MOSFETs with lower on resistance. However, there are limits to the improvements that can be achieved using a conventional planar structure.

In January, Renesas Electronics, which began operations in April 2010 through the merger of NEC Electronics Corp. and Renesas Technology Corp., introduced a high-voltage N-channel MOSFET, the RJK60S5DPK (Fig. 3), for power-supply units for high-efficiency applications. The new power MOSFET targets PC servers, communications basestations, and solar power-generation systems.

Renesas Electronics says it has taken advantage of its development work in power device technology to develop a high-precision super-junction structure employing a deep-groove formation process, making it possible to produce MOSFETs with a lower on resistance per unit of area.

Renesas has identified flat-panel TVs, communications basestations, and PC servers as products that can benefit from switching power supplies with reduced energy consumption. The company plans to market a series of new ultra-low on-resistance MOSFETs targeted at these applications. Renesas says it will expand the scale of its high-voltage power device business by using its power MOSFET technology to develop a range of new products tailored for specific applications.

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