Following plans to spin out its power and radio frequency business, Cree recently revealed the new company and its brand: Wolfspeed. Though the company will operate independently, Cree will hold majority ownership once the spinout is approved by regulators.
Frank Plastina, the executive vice president of the Cree business, will become the chief financial officer of Wolfspeed. The brand, he said, symbolized the potential of wide bandgap semiconductors, such as gallium nitride and silicon carbide, to shape the future of power electronics and RF components.
These devices “do things at higher voltages, higher frequencies, and higher temperatures. So speed kind of encompasses all of that R&D effort we’ve been working on,” Plastina told the News and Observer in Raleigh, N.C.
Wide bandgap semiconductors are capable of handling voltages and switching frequencies at least 10 times higher than silicon chips, according to the United States Department of Energy, which funds research into the technology. With new advances in manufacturing, the devices are finding favor in radio components, especially in parts for military radar and wireless infrastructure.
Wolfspeed will operate a semiconductor foundry for making GaN-on-SiC substrates to be used in satellite, telecommunications, and radar systems. The foundry will handle the manufacturing of high-electron-mobility transistors (HEMTs) on massive microwave integrated circuits. The foundry contains equipment for two different production lines: one yields a 0.4-μm gate-length HEMT and the other yields a 0.25-μm gate-length HEMT.
The new company structure is one of Cree’s latest attempts to focus more closely on its light-emitting diode business. According to filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the LED business suffered a 37% decrease in profits from last year. The power and RF division earned almost $120 million in revenues last year, up 15% from last year.
Wolfspeed is staying at its current location in Research Triangle Park in North Carolina, not far from Cree’s headquarters in Durham. Power Electronics International, a maker of silicon-carbide components that Cree acquired in July, will likely remain under the Wolfspeed brand.