Chipmaker STMicroelectronics will build a silicon carbide substrate manufacturing facility in Italy. This production capacity should allow it from 2023 to gain autonomy vis-à-vis suppliers, who are struggling to meet demand in the current context.
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Silicon carbide will be crucial in the rise of electric vehicles. Semiconductors that use it to replace simple silicon are more efficient, offer a better switching frequency and limit energy loss. Reduced in size, they fit in more easily and are more resistant to heat. The fact remains that it is a rare raw material and, as such, obtaining supplies is complex these days. STMicroelectronics has understood this.
This is why the company, whose turnover weighs 13 billion euros, announced on Wednesday its intention to build a silicon carbide substrate manufacturing plant on its site in Catania (Italy). The goal: to find a balance between internal production and external suppliers. A strategy well received on the stock market. The title gained 1%, to 34.8 euros, in a falling market.
Cover 40% of their needs
The project will benefit from an investment of 730 million euros over five years, to which is added a subsidy of 292.5 million euros from the Italian government. When launched in 2023, the infrastructure “will integrate all stages of the production flow” according to STMicroelectronics. The Franco-Italian, which thus intends to cover 40% of its needs from 2024, notes that it is a question of “the first production line of SiC wafers by integrated epitaxy on an industrial scale in Europe”. This process constitutes the first action taking place on the substrate in order to manufacture power electronic devices, which determines the characteristics of the device to be manufactured.
The operation should allow the company to gain autonomy vis-à-vis its suppliers, who are struggling to meet demand. The plant will produce 150 mm pads, before tackling those of 200 mm. This will mechanically increase the production capacities of the chipmaker, whose order book is full. The European Commission, which gave its approval to the payment of the Italian subsidy, considered that it “will strengthen Europe’s semiconductor supply chain and help us achieve our green and digital transition”. STMicroelectronics will then play its full part in the challenge of technological sovereignty.