As part of its long-term growth strategy, Cree, Inc. will invest up to $1 billion in the expansion of its silicon carbide capacity with the development of a state-of-the-art, automated 200mm silicon carbide fabrication facility and a materials mega factory at its U.S. campus headquarters in Durham, N.C. It marks the company’s largest investment to date in fueling its Wolfspeed silicon carbide and GaN on silicon carbide business. Upon completion in 2024, the facilities will substantially increase the company’s silicon carbide materials capability and wafer fabrication capacity, allowing wide bandgap semiconductor solutions that enable the dramatic technology shifts underway within the automotive, communications infrastructure and industrial markets.
“We continue to see great interest from the automotive and communications infrastructure sectors to leverage the benefits of silicon carbide to drive innovation. However, the demand for silicon carbide has long surpassed the available supply. Today, we are announcing our largest-ever investment in production to dramatically increase this supply and help customers deliver transformative products and services to the marketplace,” said Gregg Lowe, CEO of Cree. “This investment in equipment, infrastructure and our workforce is capable of increasing our silicon carbide wafer fabrication capacity up to 30-fold and our materials production by up to 30-fold compared to Q1 of fiscal year 2017, which is when we began the first phase of capacity expansion. We believe this will allow us to meet the expected growth in Wolfspeed silicon carbide material and device demand over the next five years and beyond.”
The plan delivers additional capacity for its industry-leading Wolfspeed silicon carbide business with the build out of an existing structure as a 253,000 square-foot, 200mm power and RF wafer fabrication facility as an initial step to serve the projected market demand. The new North Fab is designed to be fully automotive qualified and will provide nearly 18 times more surface area for manufacturing than exists today, initially opening with the production of 150mm wafers. The company will convert its existing Durham fabrication and materials facility into a materials mega factory.
“These silicon carbide manufacturing mega-hubs will accelerate the innovation of today’s fastest growing markets by producing solutions that help extend the range and reduce the charge times for electric vehicles, as well as support the rollout of 5G networks around the world,” said Lowe. “We believe that this represents the largest capital investment in the history of silicon carbide and GaN technologies and production with a fiscally responsible approach. By using existing facilities and installing a majority of refurbished tools, we believe we will be able to deliver a state-of-the-art 200mm capable fab at approximately one-third of the cost of a new fab.”
The expanded campus also creates high-tech job opportunities and will serve as an advanced manufacturing workforce development initiative. Cree plans to partner with state and local community and four-year colleges to develop training programs to prepare its workforce for the long-term, high-quality employment and growth opportunities the new facilities will present.