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2012-05-04
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Editorial: 2012 - The Year LED Lighting Hit Price Parity
 
... The wrap up of April and start of May 2012 is proving to be a very interesting time for the LED lighting industry, and looks as though it will mark the point where solid state lighting is has really begun to achieve 'initial cost' price parity with the incumbent...
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Commentary...
2012 - The Year LED Lighting Hit Price Parity

 
... The wrap up of April and start of May 2012 is proving to be a very interesting time for the LED lighting industry, and looks as though it will mark the point where solid state lighting is has really begun to achieve 'initial cost' price parity with the incumbent...

View the full story at the bottom of the current news page, or if this is a back issue, go here...

Investigators Raid LG Display after Samsung Mobile Display Alleges Technology Theft
LIGHTimes News Staff

May 4, 2012...Investigators raided LG Display's headquarters after Samsung Mobile Display alleged that LG Display stole its technology for large OLED screens, according to a Korean Times article. in the Korean Times article Suwon District Prosecutors revealed that they made the raid to find evidence showing that the LG affiliate attempted to steal technology from Samsung Mobile Display. LG officials said they couldn’t comment on what the investigators searched for because of the ongoing investigation.

A former SMD researcher, identified as Cho, was indicted Wednesday on charges of leaking Samsung’s technology to LG. Cho is one of a dozen former and incumbent SMD researchers and LG Display executives who have been arrested for the technology theft since mid-April. Samsung Mobile Display alleges that Cho tried to get an executive position at LG Display and 190 million won ($168,000) in return for handing over Samsung Mobile Display's technology, called small mask scanning, which allows production of large-sized OLED televisions.

Cho started a consulting firm after retiring from Samsung Mobile Display last year. Samsung also alleges that Cho tried to sell the technology to a Chinese company after failing to land a job at LG Display. SMD claims that because of its market share the damages the firm will incur could reach 30 trillion won for the next five years.

LG Display has maintained that it has different OLED display technology from Samsung and doesn’t need information on Samsung's technology. LG Display indicated that it would sue Samsung for defamation. LG Display officials said they sent SMD a letter last month to protest SMD's alleged spreading of false rumors. The letter claimed that SMD has spread false rumors that LG Display executives systemically stole technology and lured key researchers from Samsung. The letter further claimed that these false rumors damaged the reputation of LG Display and its executives.

SMD officials said that the letter was not worth responding to and that the prosecution’s investigation and court rulings will reveal the truth. SMD also demanded LG Display apologize for the technology theft attempt last month.

Companies Look to GaN-on-silicon to Reduce Production Costs
LIGHTimes News Staff

May 3, 2012...While much of the world's computers and electronics are produced on silicon, most LEDs are produced on sapphire substrates. LEDs require the use of compound semiconductors which have a lattice mismatch when placed directly on silicon. It has only been relatively recent that the technology to produce LEDs on silicon has had the performance to potentially change the cost structure for producing LEDs.

Strategy Analytics says that the LED market is facing softening demand. The company notes that as a result of reduced government subsidies and rapidly declining pricing, manufacturers must investigate new techniques to improve cost structure. While most of the LEDs currently produced use a Gallium Nitride (GaN)-on-sapphire manufacturing process. The Strategy Analytics GaAs and Compound Semiconductor Technologies Service (GaAs) viewpoint, "Compound Semiconductor Industry Review February 2012: Optoelectronics, Materials and Equipment" provides details of two companies that have purchased equipment from Veeco Instruments to develop less costly GaN-on-silicon fabrication processes, SemiLEDS and Epistar. (See Our Coverage). LIGHTimes SecondPage members login for more. Guests can view membership details.

Forepi Places Repeat Order for Aixtron CRIUS II-XL and G5 HT Systems For LED Production
LIGHTimes News Staff

May 3, 2012...Aixtron SE announced that its long-time customer, Formosa Epitaxy Inc. (FOREPI) has placed a new order for several MOCVD systems. Forepi's order includes four CRIUS II-XL systems in a 19x4-inch wafer configuration as well as two G5 HT reactors in a 14x4-inch wafer configuration. Both systems are reportedly going to be used for manufacturing ultra-high brightness (UHB) GaN-based blue and white LEDs. Forepi placed the order in the second quarter of 2012. Following the delivery between the third and fourth quarter of 2012, the systems will be installed and commissioned at the company’s new facility in the Pin-Jen industrial zone, Taiwan.

“Forepi began using the CRIUS II-XL system a few months ago and as we must now make provisions for the capacity increase at our new factory in the Pin-Jen industrial zone, we once again turned to Aixtron to provide the epitaxy systems. With short time-to- production and highest performance, throughput and yield, these systems are best suited to our needs,” a spokesperson from Forepi commented. “As we focus on 4-inch substrates, we have great confidence in Aixtron’s cutting edge epitaxy technology."

UCSB Researchers Find LED Growth Method that Combats LED Efficiency Droop
LIGHTimes News Staff

May 3, 2012...LEDs seem to reach a point where more electricity no longer imparts the same kick and light production levels-off. Now a team of researchers from California and Japan has devised a new design for green and blue LEDs that avoids much of this vexing efficiency droop. The findings will be presented at the Conference on Lasers and Electro-Optics (cleo:2012), taking place May 6-11 in San Jose, Calif. UCSB researchers have found that by changing the orientation of the crystal structure in semiconductor films, the team created LEDs with high efficiency and extremely low droop. Droop, which is a dramatic drop in efficiency at high currents, is one problems limiting the growth of the solid-state lighting market.

The UCSB researchers' LEDs have non-traditional, tilted crystal orientations that they claim decreases the effect of the field. In this way the researchers were able to produce LEDs that exhibited some of the lowest reported measures of droop. Using this approach the team was also able to fabricate LED chips that are smaller than standard commercial LEDs. So manufacturers could theoretically use fewer LEDs running at higher power to produce the same light output. Ultimately this could cut down on manufacturing costs. LIGHTimes SecondPage members login for more. Guests can view membership details.

SDK to Form JV with Toyoda Gosei for GaN LED Business
LIGHTimes News Staff

April 30, 2012...Japanese company, Showa Denko K. K. (SDK) reports that it plans to form a joint venture with Toyoda Gosei for the production and sale of GaN LEDs. Showa Denko K.K. (SDK) has decided to split its business in gallium-nitride (GaN)-based blue LED chips, and transfer 70% of shares in the new company to Toyoda Gosei Co., Ltd. (Toyoda Gosei), by the end of this year. The joint venture will be established in the area of GaN LED chips being produced at SDK’s plant in Chiba Prefecture.

SDK produces and sells a wide variety of LED chips, including aluminum-gallium-indium-phosphide (AlGaInP), gallium-arsenide (GaAs), gallium-phosphide (GaP) in addition to GaN. SDK says it is already cooperating with Toyoda Gosei, a maker and developer of GaN LEDs. SDK says that By establishing a joint venture with Toyoda Gosei for the GaN LED business, SDK will expand overall supply capacity. SDK indicated that that it hopes the cooperation will synergistically effect it R&D in improving brightness and production efficiency. SDK will reportedly continue its independent operations making LEDs with materials other than GaN. The joint venture is tentatively called TS Opto Co., Ltd.

Hangzhou Silan Azure Expands Manufacturing Capacity with Veeco MOCVD
SSLDesign News Staff

May 1, 2012...Veeco Instruments of Plainview, New York USA, announced that Hangzhou Silan Azure Co. Ltd., a leading LED manufacturer in China, has placed a multi-tool order for Veeco's TurboDisc® K465i™ Metal Organic Chemical Vapor Deposition (MOCVD) systems. The equipment will be used to expand Silan’s manufacturing capacity for blue and green high brightness HB LEDs.

Mr. Zhongyong Jiang, President of Silan Azure, commented “The growth we are experiencing supplying LEDs for general illumination, backlighting and outdoor display applications required us to add manufacturing capacity at our Hangzhou facility. After evaluating various suppliers, we chose to purchase additional systems from Veeco because of our satisfaction with the production-worthiness and reliability of existing K465i MOCVD tools at our fab. The excellent field support we have received from Veeco was also a major factor in our decision.”

Osram Opto Semiconductors Smart Phone-based LED selector for Exterior Automotive Lighting
LIGHTimes News Staff

May 1, 2012...Osram Opto Semiconductors has developed a web site designed for your mobile phone that can help designers select the best LEDs for their automotive exterior lighting. The company says that now engineers can select the best LED for their automotive exterior lighting applications right on their smart phone.



The new web-based smart phone app for designers of exterior automotive lighting is called the Automotive Signal LED Selector. It is available for the iPhone, Android or Blackberry OS, or any device with a web browser. The company says that the new tool provides lighting designers and engineers with a mobile, convenient and easy-to-use tool to select the correct LEDs for their applications. LIGHTimes SecondPage members login for more. Guests can view membership details.

DOE Publishes Annually Updated SSL R&D Plan

April 26, 2012...The U.S. Department of Energy published the April 2012 version of the Solid-State Lighting R&D Multi-Year Program Plan (MYPP). The report provides a description of the activities the Department plans to undertake over the next several years to implement its SSL mission, and informs the development of annual SSL R&D funding opportunities.

The MYPP reviews SSL technology status and trends for both LEDs and organic LEDs (OLEDs) and provides an overview of the current DOE SSL R&D project portfolio. The DOE made significant updates to the Technology Research and Development Plan including: revising efficiency projections, priorities, task descriptions, and metrics to align DOE targets with progress made to date and industry trends.

The DOE expanded projections for efficacy to include estimates of likely trends and limits for both phosphor-converted LEDs and color-mixed LEDs. The pc-LED discussion was reportedly updated to consider optimization of phosphors, one of the R&D directions. Additional discussions of hybrid solutions, the effects of low or high current drive, and other design variables were added. The DOE notes that the studies of cost and price trends were also updated. The proposed R&D priorities were explored in two sets of roundtables held in late 2011 as well as in breakout sessions held during the 2012 SSL R&D Workshop in Atlanta.

According to the R&D plan's preface, which is signed by James R. Brodick, "This year's update highlights continuing progress on more energy efficient lighting, with especially promising advances in luminaire products that are reliable, useful, and cost effective. Most of the rapidly growing market is for LED products, but OLEDs have made significant advances as well, with a number of new (albeit expensive) products now available on the market."

The DOE indicated that it will continue to update the MYPP on an annual basis, with input from industry partners and workshop attendees, to incorporate new analysis, progress, and new research priorities as science evolves. To download a PDF of the 2012 MYPP, go to www.ssl.energy.gov/techroadmaps.html.

The end of the plan's preface noted, "Advances notwithstanding, the report also highlights remaining opportunities for further improvements. As in the past, DOE expects to issue competitive solicitations—the Core Technology Solicitation and the Product Development Solicitation—based on this plan, and closely focused on your consensus as to the most important priorities in the near term."

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Commentary & Perspective...

2012 - The Year LED Lighting Hit Price Parity
Tom Griffiths - Publisher

May 3, 2012...The wrap up of April and start of May 2012 is proving to be a very interesting time for the LED lighting industry, and looks as though it will mark the point where solid state lighting is has really begun to achieve 'initial cost' price parity with the incumbent technologies, in key applications. In a sense, Cree kicked off the highest profile 'first shot' with its original CR series of LED troffers announced in the 2nd half of 2011. With that product family, the industry saw an 'architectural grade' troffer that came in at about 10% over the price of its fluorescent competitors, while offering some efficiency advantages, and the standard maintenance and controllability benefits that naturally come from a well-designed LED-based luminaire. If you needed to do a lighting retrofit anyway, and you needed it to either be attractive (architectural) or dimmable, there was now an option that filled the bill in that same $200-ish price point. Most competitive LED-based products were still in the $300+ bracket, which was not out of the ballpark, but they did have to deal with a higher burden of demonstrating operating payback to overcome the higher initial cost.

More recently, Lighting Science Group introduced its new LED Roadmaster street light, which they proclaimed to be in cost parity with traditional street lights. Ever the skeptic, a call seemed in order, primarily to establish their opinion of what a traditional street light costs. The answer was clear enough, as their spokesman replied, "right around $250". For anyone unfamiliar with the lighting market, outside of what you see on the shelves of your big-box home improvement retailer, there really isn't "a price" for "a particular" luminaire. The commercial purchaser is looking at packages that could include design help, financing, installation or complex volume discounts, and the LED lighting players understand that and work within those same channels. As a result, you are dealing with the MSRP kind of model at the extreme, meaning its more of a bell curve than fixed price range. So good news, right around $250 is a good answer to price parity with the incumbents.

The announcements continued this week with Cree's new SR series, which are architectural-grade downlights that sit in price parity with with their twin 26-watt fluorescent competitors (or 150W incandescents, which were used where light quality or 'what it looks like when you look up into the can' mattered). Price parity again needs definition, and in a chat with David Elien, VP of Cree Lighting, he pegged those in the $100-$200 general price range. At 80 lm/watt they give a serious butt-kicking to to their competition, bettering the fluorescents by 40-50% in delivered efficiency. We are used to LED lighting making its case with the long lifetime, to help offset what has been a much higher initial cost. You needed the bulb replacement and maintenance costs to factor into the whole picture to get your 2-5 year type of payback. In this case the 75K hour lifetime is just frosting on the already price-competitive cake. Sweet!

Looking more and more like the Dell Computers of lighting (a small-ish company at the outset, looking to become a 'major' against companies that are multi-billions in size in a heavily entrenched market space), Cree didn't stop with the SR. They've also introduced the KR series, which is intended to reach the still more price sensitive spec/contractor-grade market. At 54 lm/watt, and more like a 50K hour lifetime, it's not squeezing the technology quite so hard, which allows it to stand toe-to-toe with the less rigorous 13- to 26-watt fluorescent downlight space, especially when you consider dimming requirements, such as in California's Title-24, where certain 'first switches' are required to turn the lights on to less than 100% brightness. Fluorescents that are happy with that aren't typically going to be the cheap ones.

It's not just the LED lighting pure-plays that are making strides for price-parity. Lithonia announced this week that they have introduced the L-series downlighting modules that are consist of light-engines and trim that are designed to fit into standard 4, 5 and 6-inch cans. No promise on the price (I didn't check with them), but they're big, and not unaware of the market, so I'd guess within 10-15% or less against 'the competition'... being big has some advantages, but that's why we call it an entrenched market. With the recent price plummet we've seen in LED replacement lamps, things haven't stopped with the luminaires. 2011's range of $30 to $100 has collapsed to more like $15 to $50, with the high end being very-very efficient, and the low end being in that 40-50 lm/watt range we see in CFLs (but with the LEDs are often dimmable and usually better light).

While the bulbs won't get all the way there for a few years, when it comes to luminaires/fixtures, 2012 is going to be remembered as the year price parity arrived for LED lighting in the commercial market.

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