Spotlight ON Semiconductor: From Motorola’s Shadow to Global Luminary

September 07, 2023
By Knowledge Leaders Team in Knowledge Leaders

ON Semiconductor is a semiconductor supplier based in Scottsdale, Arizona. Known as “onsemi” for short, this Knowledge Leader is a global leader in intelligent power and sensing solutions for industries ranging from automotive to industrial, and from 5G & cloud power to medical solutions.

Founded in 1999, the company began as a spinoff from Motorola’s Semiconductor Components Group, carrying forward Motorola’s legacy of producing discrete, standard analog, and standard logic devices. The name “onsemi,” stylized in lowercase, is a reflection of the company’s forward-thinking approach. In less than two decades onsemi secured a spot on the Fortune 500 list, ranking #483 based on its 2021 sales. This achievement was not just a testament to its financial success but also an acknowledgment of its growing influence in the semiconductor sector. Over the years, ON Semiconductor has made strategic acquisitions to bolster its position in the market. For instance, in 2000, just a year after its founding, ON Semiconductor acquired Cherry Semiconductor. This was followed by a series of acquisitions, including TESLA SEZAM and TEROSIL in the Czech Republic in 2003, LSI Logic Gresham in 2006, and AMI Semiconductor in 2008, to name a few. Each of these acquisitions played a pivotal role in expanding ON Semiconductor’s product portfolio and market reach. Another significant milestone in ON Semiconductor’s history was its acquisition of Fairchild Semiconductor in September 2016. This move further solidified ON Semiconductor’s position in the semiconductor industry, bringing together two giants with complementary product lines.

onsemi 1200 v EliteSiC M3S Devices, credit: onsemi

Groundbreaking Technological Innovations

One of onsemi’s most significant technological breakthroughs was in the area of optical image stabilization for smartphone camera modules. Imagine a world where every picture taken from a moving vehicle or in low light conditions turned out blurry. That was the reality before optical image stabilization became mainstream. ON Semiconductor’s 2013 innovation in this space was a game-changer. By allowing the camera module to compensate for minor hand shudders or vibrations, this technology ensured that images remained sharp and clear, even under challenging conditions.

The global impact of this innovation was profound. Today, optical image stabilization is a standard feature in most high-end smartphones. It has transformed the way we capture memories, ensuring that our photos are always in focus, irrespective of the conditions. This breakthrough not only set a new benchmark for camera technology but also paved the way for further innovations in the smartphone industry.

The transformation it brought to the industry was multifold. First, it raised consumer expectations. A blurry photo was no longer acceptable, and smartphone manufacturers had to incorporate this technology to remain competitive. Second, it opened up new avenues for content creators. With stabilized video and sharp images, even amateur photographers could produce professional-quality content. Last, it spurred further research and development in the domain of camera technology, leading to innovations like super-resolution zoom and computational photography.

Product Portfolio and Unique Strengths Today

In the dynamic world of semiconductors, ON Semiconductor has carved a niche for itself with its diverse range of products that cater to various industries and applications, including the following.

Discrete & Power Modules: ON Semiconductor offers a comprehensive spectrum of high, medium, and low voltage power discrete devices. This includes IGBT, MOSFET, SiC, Si/SiC Hybrid, Diode, SiC Diode, and Intelligent Power Modules (IPMs). These products play a pivotal role in power management across various applications.

Signal Conditioning & Control: The company boasts a wide variety of products ranging from amplifiers and comparators to redrivers, microcontrollers, data converters (ADC), and digital potentiometers (POTs). These components are crucial in ensuring optimal signal processing and control in electronic devices.

Sensors: ON Semiconductor’s sensor portfolio is expansive, offering everything from innovative image sensors and processors to photodetectors (SPAD, SiPM). These sensors find applications in myriad industries, from automotive to healthcare.

Motor Control: For all motor control solutions, ON Semiconductor provides motor drivers (brushed, brushless, stepper, load & relay) and integrated motor control systems. This ensures efficient and precise motor operations in various applications.

Custom & ASSP: Catering to specific needs, ON Semiconductor offers innovative System on Chip (SoC), System in Package (SiP), ASIC, audio/video ASSP, and other custom solutions for a plethora of applications, from automotive to aerospace.

Interfaces: Their broad product portfolio in interface technologies ensures the highest performance signal transfer with reduced power consumption and size.

Wireless Connectivity: ON Semiconductor is at the forefront of providing advanced WiFi solutions supporting various standards and wireless RF transceivers operating in different frequency bands.

Timing, Logic & Memory: Their extensive product range includes programmable clocks, clock generation and distribution systems, standard logic, and memory components like Flash, EEPROM, and SRAM.

onsemi NCP 1680 PCF controller, credit: onsemi

From Arizona to the World

ON Semiconductor began its journey in Scottsdale, Arizona, to establish a significant presence on the global stage. Today, ON Semiconductor’s operations span across continents. With a robust infrastructure, the company boasts an extensive network comprising of 19 manufacturing sites, 43 design centers, and 8 solution engineering centers. This vast network is spread across numerous countries, reflecting the company’s commitment to serving a global clientele. This widespread presence allows ON Semiconductor to cater to various market segments effectively. For instance, their advanced MOSFETs, Image Sensors, and Silicon Carbide technology (EliteSiC) serve tens of thousands of customers across several markets. These markets include automotive, industrial, 5G & cloud power, medical solutions, and aerospace & defense, among others.

Innovation at Its Core

In the fast-paced world of semiconductors, staying ahead of the curve is paramount. For ON Semiconductor, research and development (R&D) is not just a department; it’s the lifeblood that fuels its growth and innovation.

The company’s approach to innovation is deeply rooted in its mission: “We push innovation to create intelligent power and sensing technologies that solve the most challenging customer problems.” This mission statement underscores the significance of innovation as a core value for ON Semiconductor. Every product, every solution, and every initiative is a testament to this commitment. ON Semiconductor’s attitude toward innovation is proactive and forward-thinking. The company doesn’t just respond to market needs; it aims to anticipate them. This proactive approach aims to ensure the team remains a step ahead, offering solutions that are not just relevant but also that aim to be revolutionary. For instance, the focus on Silicon Carbide (SiC) technology showcases their commitment to providing reliable and efficient solutions for power management. SiC technology, with its thermal performance and reduced energy loss, aims to be a game-changer in power electronics.

ON Semiconductor is heavily invested in areas like automotive solutions, industrial automation, 5G & cloud power, and medical solutions. Each of these domains presents unique challenges, and ON Semiconductor’s R&D endeavors aim to address these challenges head-on.

Recent Product Breakthroughs

Over the past five years, the company has made significant strides in various domains, showcasing its commitment to pushing the boundaries of technology. Here are some of the major R&D breakthroughs from the company in recent years:

Reliable Supply of Silicon Carbide (SiC): Silicon Carbide technology, known as EliteSiC, has emerged as strategic in power electronics. ON Semiconductor has positioned itself as a strategic long-term partner for SiC, ensuring a reliable end-to-end supply chain. With its deep application expertise and a broad portfolio of market-specialized solutions, ON Semiconductor’s SiC technology promises to revolutionize power management across various applications.

Automotive Solutions: The automotive industry is undergoing a significant transformation, with electric vehicles (EVs) and autonomous driving taking center stage. ON Semiconductor has been instrumental in this shift, offering solutions for On Board Chargers, Traction Inverters, EV DC-DC, Sensing, In-Cabin solutions, EV Auxiliary, and 48V Systems. These innovations are paving the way for a sustainable and efficient future in transportation.

Industrial Solutions: Catering to the diverse needs of the industrial sector, ON Semiconductor has introduced solutions for Solar Power, Energy Storage, DC Fast EV Charging, Energy Infrastructure, Connected Lighting, Machine Vision, Robotics, Industrial Drive, Asset Management, and Industrial Automation. These solutions promise to enhance efficiency and sustainability in various industrial applications.

5G & Cloud Power: As the world transitions to 5G, ON Semiconductor is at the helm of this revolution, offering solutions for 5G Radio Units, Rack Power Supply, Basestations, Core Power, and Server & Telecom Infrastructure. Their innovations in this domain are set to redefine connectivity and data processing.

Medical Solutions: In the realm of healthcare, ON Semiconductor has been instrumental in introducing compelling solutions that aim to enhance patient care and medical research.

Climate Change Initiatives

The company is deeply committed to driving technological breakthroughs that align with the promise of a sustainable future. ON Semiconductor’s endeavors in the realm of clean energy are evident in their product offerings and strategic initiatives. One of the standout examples is their focus on Silicon Carbide (SiC) technology. EliteSiC in ON Semiconductor’s portfolio, is a game-changer in power electronics. It offers superior thermal performance and reduced energy loss, making it a pivotal technology for the clean energy transition. By being a premier long-term partner for SiC, ON Semiconductor’s is ensuring that industries have access to efficient and sustainable power management solutions. In addition, the firm’s solutions for solar power, energy storage, and DC fast EV charging are prime examples of this commitment. These products not only cater to the growing demand for renewable energy solutions but also pave the way for a more sustainable and energy-efficient future.

Electric Vehicles (EVs) are at the forefront of the clean energy transition. Recognizing this, ON Semiconductor’s offers a range of solutions tailored for EVs, including On Board Chargers, Traction Inverters, EV DC-DC, Sensing, In-Cabin solutions, EV Auxiliary, and 48V Systems. These innovations are set to redefine transportation, making it more sustainable and efficient. As industries worldwide transition to cleaner and more sustainable practices, the demand for ON Semiconductor’s innovative solutions will only grow. By aligning its R&D efforts with the needs of a sustainable future, ON Semiconductor’s is ensuring its continued relevance and growth in the industry.

Collaborations and Partnerships

By joining forces with other industry leaders, ON Semiconductor has been able to accelerate its R&D efforts, tap into new markets, and deliver compelling solutions to its customers. In 2011, ON Semiconductor acquired SANYO Semiconductor, a move that expanded its product portfolio and strengthened its position in the market. This acquisition allowed ON Semiconductor to tap into SANYO’s expertise in consumer, automotive, and industrial semiconductors, thereby enhancing its offerings in these domains. In 2014, ON Semiconductor acquired Aptina Imaging Corporation, a leader in CMOS image sensors. This acquisition was pivotal in bolstering ON Semiconductor’s presence in the image sensor market, allowing the company to cater to a broader range of applications, from automotive to consumer electronics. In 2018, ON Semiconductor acquired SensL Technologies, a company specializing in Silicon Photomultipliers (SiPM) and Single Photon Avalanche Diode (SPAD) technologies. This acquisition underscored ON Semiconductor’s commitment to expanding its sensor portfolio and tapping into new and emerging markets. In 2019, ON Semiconductor acquired Quantenna, a global leader in Wi-Fi chipset solutions. This move was strategic in enhancing ON Semiconductor’s connectivity solutions, ensuring that the company remains at the forefront of the connected world. Finally, in 2021, ON Semiconductor acquired GT Advanced Technologies, further solidifying its position in the semiconductor industry.

This Knowledge Leader spotlight was generated using our AI engine with a series of prompts custom-developed by Knowledge Leaders Capital and designed to uncover the innovation strategies of companies we consider to be Knowledge Leaders. We have edited it for content, style, and length.

The following sources are examples of sources that may have been consulted in the preparation of this spotlight

  • onsemi official website
  • Wikipedia: onsemi

As of 6/30/23, ON Semiconductor was held in the Knowledge Leaders Strategy.

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