Series 13 – Episode 6 – The rapid transformation of the power semiconductor industry

27th October 2023
Paige West

Paige West speaks with Frank Heidemann, Founder, SET GmbH about the changes we’re seeing in the semiconductor industry and what this means for testing and qualification.

Frank's journey began with a background in communication and RF communication, primarily in the automotive and aerospace industries. He founded SET in 2001. Today, with over 140 employees, SET specialises in reliability tests for power semiconductors and is part of the National Instruments family.

The semiconductor landscape, especially in the power sector, is rapidly evolving. With the rise of EVs, the automotive world sees growth in double digits, with some companies even seeing a growth of up to 100%. This surge has led to a corresponding growth in the power semiconductor industry. Specifically, the wide bandgap industry with materials like silicon carbide is witnessing a growth rate of 35-40% annually. However, with this growth comes challenges, especially concerning reliability testing, with new failure models emerging that the industry must address.

The semiconductor shortage has profoundly impacted the automotive industry, with many manufacturers having to halt production. This shortage has led OEMs to become more proficient in semiconductor technology, understanding the nuances of battery chemistry, inverter technology, and software applications.

Frank emphasised the importance of power semiconductors in shaping a greener future. An example he shared highlighted how identifying a drift problem in a particular power semiconductor could save millions of tonnes of CO2 emissions.

The next few years promise significant growth in the silicon carbide sector. As more fabs around the world focus on producing silicon carbide, demand will continue to outpace supply for the foreseeable future. Additionally, as battery technology evolves, we can expect electric cars to offer greater mileage and better performance.

Despite setbacks like the UK's delay in banning petrol and diesel cars, the trajectory towards electric mobility is clear. As Frank aptly put it, there's no turning back from the electric mobility revolution.

To hear more about the semiconductor industry, and much more, you can listen to Electronic Specifier’s interview with Frank Heidemann on Spotify or Apple podcasts.  

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