Wolfspeed and ZF partner for future SiC semiconductor devices; new R&D center, new 200mm fab
02 February 2023
Wolfspeed and ZF announced a strategic partnership that includes the creation of a joint innovation lab to drive advances in Silicon Carbide (SiC) systems and devices for mobility, industrial and energy applications. The partnership also includes a significant investment by ZF to support the planned construction of the world’s largest 200mm Silicon Carbide device fab in Ensdorf, Germany.
Both the joint innovation lab and the Wolfspeed device fab are planned as part of the Important Project of Common European Interest (IPCEI) for Microelectronics and Communication Technologies framework and are dependent upon state aid approval from the European Commission.
Silicon Carbide R&D Center. The strategic partnership includes a joint research facility in Germany that will focus on real world e-mobility and renewable energy system level challenges. The goal of the collaboration is to develop breakthrough innovations for Silicon Carbide systems, products, and applications, covering the full value chain from chip to complete systems.
Additional collaboration partners will be invited to participate in the innovation process, establishing an end-to-end European Silicon Carbide innovation network.
The R&D center will focus on innovation for Silicon Carbide systems and devices to meet specific requirements in all mobility segments including consumer, commercial, agricultural, and industrial vehicles as well as in the industrial and renewable energy markets. The collaboration will drive improvements such as higher efficiency, increased power density and higher performances for electrification solutions.
The decommissioned coal-fired power plant in Ensdorf, Saarland (top), and with a rendering of the planned 200 mm SiC semiconductor factory by Wolfspeed and ZF (bottom).
ZF to invest in Wolfspeed for next-generation 200mm SiC fab. As separately announced, Wolfspeed plans to construct a fully automated, highly advanced 200mm wafer fabrication facility in Saarland, Germany—the company’s first fab in Europe.
The fab will be designed for manufacturing processes to produce the future generation of Silicon Carbide devices. The new fab will also employ innovative sustainability measures, including high percentages of recycled water and a reduced emission footprint, which will serve as a model for more sustainable fabs in the future. The fab will employ more than 600 people when fully operational.
ZF intends to support this new construction by making a sizable financial investment in the hundreds of millions of dollars in exchange for Wolfspeed common stock.
As a part of this investment ZF will have a minority ownership position in the fab. Wolfspeed will maintain all operational and management control rights in the new fab. ZF and Wolfspeed previously announced a strategic partnership in 2019 to create industry-leading, highly efficient electric drivelines with a Silicon Carbide inverter, and these new initiatives represent the next generation of innovation for the partners.
The European fab announcement is an important part of Wolfspeed’s broader $6.5-billion capacity expansion effort, which includes opening of the company’s 200mm Mohawk Valley device fab in April 2022 (earlier post), and the construction of The John Palmour Manufacturing Center for Silicon Carbide, a 445-acre (180 hectare) Silicon Carbide materials facility in North Carolina, which will expand the company’s existing materials capacity by more than 10x.