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Planet Analog and EDN Electronics exclusive: Cree Announces Wolfspeed

I spoke to John Palmour, Cree co-founder and CTO of its Power and RF business yesterday about the decision to put CREE’s Power and RF businesses under a new name. CREE announced in May that it would separate the businesses into a standalone company in anticipation of an upcoming IPO in 2016 for this 100% CREE-owned group named Wolfspeed.

I really like the new name and especially now that I know from where it originated. First of all, the new name is perfect for the power and speed of the SiC, GaN and RF solutions that this CREE group has. CTO John Palmour is an alumnus of North Carolina State University, whose “Wolfpack” athletic program has one of the most loyal and passionate fan bases in college athletics. Palmour commented that Wolfspeed has the characteristics of an actual wildlife wolfpack which has intelligence, teamwork, endurance and pursuit (of innovation).

The company

CREE’s goals were to go beyond the limitations that silicon has in power and wireless systems. Wolfspeed is a new name, but emerges as a well-established, entrepreneurial growth company with a focused team, a profitable business and more than 28 years of industry-leading wide bandgap semiconductor technology and experience.

The Team

Aside from John Palmour, Frank Plastina is the CEO (I remember him from my days calling on Nortel Networks). A very capable guy with a proven track record and great background.

Cengiz Balkas is the COO with excellent experience in SiC and GaN semiconductor development and commercialization. (Another Wolfpack guy)

John Kurtzweil is the CFO with significant public company financial experience (He was CFO of ON Semi) which will be essential when the IPO happens next year.

Jim Gentile is VP of Global Sales with 30 years of experience in the semiconductor industry with former positions at Microsemi and Mitel Semiconductor.

Joanne Latham is VP of Corporate Communications (Formerly of Nortel Networks) and was communications leader for state government agencies as well as spokesman for North Carolina’s governor.

Finally, Brenda Castonguay is VP Human Resources. With former experiences in HR, Security and IT.

The portfolio

I really see CREE’s SiC and GaN prowess as a very solid advantage. They have both of these amazing new technologies on Silicon and offer this choice to designers without trying to force-fit one or the other into an application for which it might not be suited had they only had one of the two technologies. CREE claims they have the distinction of being the only player in the industry with a fully commercialized, broad portfolio of the most field-tested SiC and GaN power and wireless technologies and products on the market.

GaN and SiC robustness

I asked Palmour about having a Rad Hard offering and he told me that they do not now have one per se, but SiC and GaN are inherently better than most other process technologies in the industry. Palmour did not discount the future possibility of having a Rad Hard capability.

If we compare SiC with Si, it has about a 10x higher breakdown voltage, lower switching losses, with 3x better thermal conductivity, is capable of 3 to 4x higher current densities and can be operated at much higher temperatures (600 °C theoretical). Additionally, due to its wide bandgap (3.26eV in SiC compared to Si’s 1.12eV), SiC has been theorized to perform well under radiation.

GaN has also been have characterized for stability under radiation exposure. It has been shown that GaN FETs have much higher tolerance to single event effects (SEE) and can withstand a relatively high total ionizing dose in some tests.

The logo

The logo color is a purple which is the combination of the “Wolfpack” red and the CREE blue.

Wolfspeed™ will power its customers’ innovations, enabling higher power density, higher switching frequencies and reduced system size and weight. These advantages lead to smaller systems, lower system costs and improved performance, and will ultimately lead to more powerful applications in the transportation, industrial and electronics, energy, and communications markets (5G comes to mind)

I fully expect to see some very innovative developments in both power and speed in both RF solutions and SiC and GaN solutions going forward.

What do you think?

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