Since the 2009 semiconductor downturn and strong 2010 recovery year, power transistor sales have been rocked by market volatility, falling in three of the last five years because of inventory corrections and drawdowns by systems makers worried about ongoing economic weakness and price erosion in some product categories. After recovering from a 7% drop in 2015, power transistor sales grew 5% in 2016 to $12.9 billion and are forecast to set a new record high this year with worldwide revenues rising 6% to $13.6 billion, according to IC Insights’ 2017 O-S-D Report—A Market Analysis and Forecast for Optoelectronics, Sensors/Actuators, and Discrete Semiconductors.
The expected 2017 growth in power transistor sales will be the first back-to-back annual increase in this semiconductor market segment in six years, and that will push dollar volumes past the current record high of $13.5 billion set in 2011. In 2012 and 2013, power transistors suffered their first back-to-back annual sales decline in more than three decades—dropping 8% and 6%, respectively—after rising 12% in 2011 and surging 44% in the 2010 recovery from the 2009 downturn year. The power transistor market then rebounded in 2014 with a strong 14% increase, only to drop 7% in 2015. In 2016, this semiconductor discretes market category began to stabilize and is expected to continue expanding at a modest rate in the next several years, based on IC Insights’ O-S-D Report forecast (Figure 1).
Power transistors are the primary growth engine in the $23 billion discrete semiconductor market because they play a vital role in controlling and conditioning electricity for all types of electronics—including a growing number of battery-operated systems. Worldwide efforts to reduce the waste of power in electric utility grids have significantly increased the importance of power transistors in consumer, commercial, and industrial systems. Renewable-energy applications (e.g., wind and solar systems) as well as electric and hybrid vehicles have also become important applications for power transistors in the last 15 years.
However, volatility in the first half of this decade resulted in an uncharacteristic drop in market size for power transistors during the last five years. Between 2011 and 2016, power transistor sales fell by a compound annual growth rate of -0.9% compared to a 25-year historical annual average increase of 6.4% (between 1991 and 2016). The 2017 O-S-D Report is projecting that worldwide power transistor sales will grow by a CAGR of 4.2% between 2016 and 2021, reaching $15.8 billion in the final year of the forecast.
All power transistor technology categories are expected to register sales growth in 2017 with MOS field effect transistor (FET) products increasing 6% to nearly $7.7 billion, insulated-gate bipolar transistor (IGBT) products also rising 6% to $4.1 billion, and bipolar junction transistor products growing 4% to about $875 million. RF/microwave power transistors and module sales are forecast to rise 3% in 2017 to $960 million, according to the O-S-D Report.