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2006-08-31
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Editorial: BridgeLux Is Ideally Typical of Next Push in Solid State Lighting
 
... The solid state lighting (SSL) industry is deeply rooted in the compound semi (CS) industry. If you haven't been around compound semi circles recently, you might think that SSL looks like the classic overnight success. Not so. Like so many of the compounds (GaAs for example), today's and tomorrow's...
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Commentary...
BridgeLux Is Ideally Typical of Next Push in Solid State Lighting

 
... The solid state lighting (SSL) industry is deeply rooted in the compound semi (CS) industry. If you haven't been around compound semi circles recently, you might think that SSL looks like the classic overnight success. Not so. Like so many of the compounds (GaAs for example), today's and tomorrow's...

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

Emcore Sells 49% GELcore Stake to GE; Names Nichia as GE's Strategic Partner
Jo Ann McDonald, founding editor

August 31, 2006...Breaking News... Speculation on "the street" earlier this week has been confirmed. General Electric Company (GE) has purchased Emcore's 49% of the GE/Emcore joint venture (JV), GELcore LLC of Cleveland, Ohio USA for $100 million. Concurrently, GE's Consumer & Industrial business unit inked a strategic alliance agreement with Nichia Corporation of Japan that this editor believes will result in Nichia's blue spectrum LED and phosphor technology expertise becoming the primary base technology ultimately fielded by GELcore into the budding solid state lighting (SSL) industry. (Ref: GE news release) The move now elevates GE to relatively equal ranks with its two major lighting company giant competitors, Osram of Germany, (which has always owned 100% of Osram Opto) and Royal Philips of the Netherlands, (which purchased all of Lumileds Lighting in San Jose last November. Ref: our coverage). Lumileds, now officially named Philips Lumileds, was originally a JV in which Philips and Agilent each owned equal shares. Osram Opto and Lumileds are blue spectrum (which includes white) LED chip makers, whereas GELcore has always purchased its starting LEDs from the outside, from various vendors. While some may call this announcement evidence of industry "consolidation," I see it as the lighting giants finally flexing their collective muscle, which spells nothing but good news for the entire SSL industry.

The founding head of GELcore in 1999 and then CEO of GE, Jack Welch, conceived of GELcore; Michael B. Petras, Jr. was named head of the JV. Michael is now VP for GE's electrical distribution and lighting. According to Michael, who has long been known to the compound semi community for his personal enthusiasm and strong support of solid state lighting, commented that "This agreement is a true win-win outcome for both parties and clearly demonstrates GE's commitment to solid state lighting technology. GE and Nichia's combined excellence creates a preeminent alliance that is ideally suited to support GELcore's efforts to accelerate the growth and penetration of LED-based lighting solutions in the $12 billion global lighting segment." Commenting on Nichia's stepped-up involvement with GE, Noboru Tazaki, executive VP and COO of Nichia added that, "This is a historic agreement when you consider that GE, a world leader in traditional lighting technology and LED systems and Nichia, a world leader in phosphor and optoelectronics technology are joining forces to advance LED technology and accelerate the penetration of LEDs into the general lighting industry." In the days ahead, I'll extend our coverage of this story in my next McDonald Report, adding opinions from various interested parties, but having personally been involved in the original conception of GELcore, I add the following initial perspective for our 2nd page LIGHTimes subscribers: LIGHTimes SecondPage members login for more. Guests can view membership details.

Nichia Begins Shipping Samples of 100 lm/W LED
Scott McMahan

August 31, 2006...According to an article in Nikkei Electronics Asia, Nichia has begun shipping samples its long-awaited LED with an efficiency of 100 lm/W. Both Nichia and Cree have reported LEDs reaching triple digit efficiencies in the lab, but Nichia is the first to bring the a product to market touting 100 lm/W. LIGHTimes SecondPage members login for more. Guests can view membership details.

Formosa Epitaxy to Open Plant for MOCVD Development and LED Production
LIGHTimes Staff

August 31, 2006...Formosa Epitaxy, an MOCVD developer and LED chip maker, plans to open a new facility at the Southern Taiwan Science Park (STSP), Digitimes reported. In the article the STSP administration indicated that the facility operation will focus on MOCVD and LED chips including gallium nitride-based LED chips. The facility at STSP will be a wholly owned subsidiary, and the company intends to use it to meet the demand of Southern Taiwan. According to the article, the company has not finalized the schedule for construction and its production capacity. LIGHTimes SecondPage members login for more. Guests can view membership details.

BridgeLux Attracts New Talent to SSL Industry
LIGHTimes Staff

August 29, 2006...Promising startup, BridgeLux, has managed to attract new members to the solid state lighting (SSL) industry. Despite finding management with extensive experience and knowledge of electronics and high tech fields, much of the BrideLux management team is new to the SSL industry. Sunnyvale, California-based power LED supplier, BridgeLux (formerly eLite Optoelectronics), recently reported adding some very knowledgeable members to the management team. Dr. Dave Bour, named an Agilent Fellow in 2000, joined BridgeLux as chief scientist; Optoelectronics industry verteran, Dr. Ghulam Hasnain, joined the team as senior scientist; Gloria Fan, formerly with UTStarcom, joined the company as chief financial officer (CFO). LIGHTimes SecondPage members login for more. Guests can view membership details.

USA Signal Technology Says Not All LED-Traffic Lights the Same
LIGHTimes Staff

August 28, 2006...USA Signal Technology reports that the 8- and 12-inch version of its Intelligent Traffic Intersection System has exceeded the minimum performance requirements of both the Los Angeles Department of Transportation and the Institute of Transportation Engineers. Two independent laboratories, LightMetrics and Garwood Laboratories confirmed the results. The company says this makes it possible to market the technology to cities and counties throughout the USA. USA Signal warns cities and municipalities against investing in what it calls “dumb” LED signals that can’t operate in a power outage, don’t have all the technical advantages of their systems, and don’t offer the extensive warranty that their company offers. LIGHTimes SecondPage members login for more. Guests can view membership details.

Honda Model Gets LED Taillights and CHMSLs

August 28, 2006...The 2006/2007 2.4 or 3.0 liter V6 Honda Accord will reportedly feature LEDs in the taillights and the center high-mounted stop lights (CHMSLs). According to a review by the Auto Channel, the difference in the lights is only apparent at night when individual LEDs can be distinguished. While Honda is not the first to integrate LED technology, it is certainly noteworthy that another midsize, low price sedan, comes with LED tail lights standard.

LED Clothing and Furniture Brightens IFA 2006
LIGHTimes Staff

August 28, 2006...While last year Philips showed off LEDs in clothing, this year the company based in the Netherlands has taken the concept a step further, integrating the LEDs and circuitry into the fabric. At IFA 2006 in Berlin, Germany, Philips demonstrated its innovative Lumalive textiles in promotional jackets and furniture. The jackets feature a 200mm by 200mm area of color LED lighting. According to the company, the LEDs remain virtually invisible to the observer until they are on. LIGHTimes SecondPage members login for more. Guests can view membership details.

Chei Mei Optoelectronics Pushes Back Begining of Operation at LED Plant

August 28, 2006...Chei Mei Optoelectronics’ LED production facility in Tainan, Taiwan will not be operational until the first quarter of 2007. The start of operations was pushed back from the previously scheduled start of production in the fourth quarter of 2006, according to an article in Digitimes and the Chinese-language Economic Daily News (EDN). EDN reported that in May the company, a maker of backlighting units for LCD displays, indicated in filing with the Taiwan Stock Exchange that it has increased its stake in LED chip maker Formosa Epitaxy to 10 percent. EDN reported that the company reduced the number of production machines at the plant to 4 instead of 8.

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Commentary & Perspective...

BridgeLux Is Ideally Typical of Next Push in Solid State Lighting

August 30, 2006...The solid state lighting (SSL) industry is deeply rooted in the compound semi (CS) industry. If you haven't been around compound semi circles recently, you might think that SSL looks like the classic overnight success. Not so. Like so many of the compounds (GaAs for example), today's and tomorrow's GaN-based LEDs that are of the caliber truly robust enough to replace incandescents in general lighting applications are the result of over 20 years of collective work, rooted heavily in MOCVD, the manufacturing platforms that first came to light back in the mid-1980s. When hearing about the recent personnel additions to a USA/Asian company named BridgeLux (ref: Aug. 29 coverage), the significance of those roots came to light. The caliber of people now being recruited into the still-nascent SSL industry is very impressive.

BridgeLux (www.bridgelux.com) stands out as the ideally typical young USA company in the SSL field, full of veteran expertise. I think of BridgeLux as a leading indicator of the real progress going on deep inside the SSL industry. If you don't already know BridgeLux, they're a Northern California-based company that's moving forward especially quickly right now. The company was first established in 2003 as eLite Optoelectronics by former Emcore blue spectrum LED expert, Heng Liu who continues to serve as CTO. Then our longtime friend and colleague, Robert (Bob) Walker, also formerly from Emcore and the man who has served diligently as our perennial co-chair for our annual BLUE SSL Suppliers Forum in Taiwan, took over the CEO reins last year. They've been on a dramatic climb ever since. You can view bios and pictures of the senior management team on their website.

BridgeLux obviously knows what it takes to make truly SSL-worthy blue spectrum LEDs and they're proving high volume capability by already shipping millions of high-end InGaN LED chips per year into the SSL market out of their manufacturing facility in Taiwan. They currently have 25 people in residence at the Sunnyvale headquarters in the USA (i.e. "Silicon Valley), with 15 in Taiwan. Key people most recently added to the BridgeLux roster include Dave Bour as Chief Scientist, Gloria Fan as CFO, and Ghulam Hasain as a senior scientist. They join a cadre of other relative newcomers to the BridgeLux team that includes MOCVD-expert Jeff Ramer (also formerly of Emcore's R&D Lab) and Steve Lester, who made quite a name for himself in high power InGaN chip development while at Agilent (and before that, HP). The collective goal of this especially strong team is simple... to help enabling the SSL industry by getting the manufacturing costs of very high yield, truly SSL-worthy blue spectrum LEDs to an affordable and easily reproducible level.

The addition of Dave Bour as Chief Scientist should contribute significantly to achieving that goal. Dave's coming back to the compounds after a brief stint at Applied Materials (AMAT), hopefully bringing with him the silicon mindset that traditionally enables lower cost manufacturing. Dave, a GaN expert, originally hailed from Agilent, where he attained the prestigious honor of becoming an Agilent Fellow in 2000 (as well as being an IEEE Fellow). He's published over 200 articles and has 60 USA patents to his name. My hunch is that the resulting synergy of Dave plus Heng Liu, Jeff Ramer, Steve Lester and Ghulam Hasain will be something worth watching.

Many of us knew Steve Lester from his Agilent days, and others knew him from the University of Texas at Austin, earning his PhD in 1987. Ghulam Hasnain was formerly VP of advanced technology with LuxNet and brings over 20 years of experience in optoelectronics and holds several patents. Jeff Ramer and Heng Liu have strong industry histories, separately working at Emcore developing the original nitride reactors. To do that, they necessarily had to become superb nitride growers. Jeff, who helped teach our classic InP 101 video workshop at the 2001 Outlook conference (newly renamed CS Vision and totally a CS Online Inc. event now), proved at that he's an all-round compound semi MOCVD expert and a gifted grower. After Jeff went to Veeco with the sale of Emcore's TurboDisc division to Veeco, he worked on a new design of the GaN platform to achieve record uniformity for the critical InGaN active region, which dramatically improved the yield of LED devices.

With the team Bob Walker has now put together, we can expect to see noteworthy yield improvement out of BridgeLux that will help the entire SSL industry. And the addition of Gloria Fan basically represents the caliber of person we really want to attract to the SSL industry. She brings over 15 years management experience to BridgeLux, having served as VP of finance at UTStarcom, most recently serving as their VP of global business operations where she oversaw the company's IPO soon after that company scored the title of one of Business Week's 100 hot growth companies in 2002.

Why do I feel BridgeLux to be ideally typical of what's going on right now? Because they've either attracted especially talented people new to the SSL field, or they've enticed re-entries who originally made their mark in blue spectrum R&D. And that's the kind of talent it will take to get the manufacturing costs down where they need to be. The pattern is very much like what we've seen over the years at Cree: employing the best people in the field and concentrating on lowering costs and increasing yields. My hunch is that will require a more silicon-like manufacturing mindset to get there, which could explain why silicon pros are being attracted to the compound semi industry each day, especially as things stay rather tight in the overall tech sector. The prospects of being on the groundfloor of seeing InGaN LEDs take over first, compact florescents, then halogens, and eventually incandescent lighting applications, is the obvious lure.

Where BridgeLux goes, the SSL industry is likely to follow, and that directly benefits many throughout the CS supply chain. And we can't forget one other addition to the BridgeLux team, my friend Anita Draa, who served with Bob Walker when he ran Emcore's Pacific Rim sales team. Anita's now helping with BridgeLux marketing and herself holds a Ph.D. in chemistry. Now that's my kind of "Marcom" (marketing communication) expert! She understands all levels of the challenge. A lot of those MOCVD platforms out there were originally sold by Bob and Anita. And many more were perfected by the steady and excellent work of Jeff Ramer and Heng Liu. As to what's specifically going on behind the scenes at BridgeLux, and why they're able to attract such high caliber people, all I can say is... Stay Tuned.

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