HBLED Prospects Just Keep Getting Brighter

It is with great pleasure I turn the editorial slot over to our Advanced Technology
Editor, Alan G. Thompson, who attended last week’s Strategies in Light
conference in Burlingame, California USA. This annual event is hosted by PennWell’s
market research arm at Strategies Unlimited
and it has gained a reputation as an excellent “insiders meet” for
the entire compound semi industry’s High Brightness LED sector. Feel free to
contact Alan directly should you have follow-up news and information to share
on this or other topics: alan@compoundsemi.com.
See you next issue–Jo Ann

Report on the Strategies in Light Conference, 2003 by Alan Thompson.
We gave you a warm up to this conference in our last issue with a brief synopsis
of Bob Steele’s keynote address, which reviewed the High Brightness LED (HBLED)
market and future prospects. The conference was very well attended by an estimated
+240 participants who enjoyed a day and a half of interesting and often stimulating
presentations, plus an opportunity to meet with a diverse mix of executives
from the device and applications arenas. The overall mood was very positive,
reflecting the fact that the HBLED segment is currently one of the few bright
spots in the semiconductor industry. As Bob’s presentation emphasized, the HBLEDs
showed a 50% increase in revenues in 2002 over a flat 2001. The rapid growth
in Taiwan for nitride based LED production (i.e. blue, green, and white) during
2002 was noted by several speakers, and with an increasing use of large MOCVD
tools costs are being driven down.

The largest application for HBLEDs is in portable devices, such as
cell phones and PDAs. Although the market for cell phones did not grow appreciably
over the past three years, there was a big swing toward color screens (needing
white illumination) and manufacturers continued their differentiation efforts
by offering a variety of colors for keypad lighting. The LED content therefore
grew and took market share from other technologies. Signs were the second biggest
application, while automobiles, trucks and buses continued their switch from
bulbs to LEDs, particularly in Europe. Signs continue to be a significant sector
for energy efficiency and lowered maintenance cost reasons.

The final category is the smallest but received the most attention,
with one speaker calling it “The Holy Grail for LEDs,” namely the
illumination market. We all know that there are consortia and national initiatives
in the USA, Japan and Taiwan with goals of achieving cost effective general
lighting using LEDs. At present, LED efficiency is too low and the cost is much
too high for such general application, but progress has been rapid in the last
few years and quite a few niche applications are starting to be served by LEDs.
Portability, battery life, low heat output and good lifetime are all positive
attributes that can be exploited.

The presence of attendees from industries such as aircraft (cabin lighting
and reading lights), medical equipment (surgical headlights, cancer treatment),
and machine vision, in addition to luminaire manufacturers, attests to the growing
application of LEDs. Speakers emphasized that designing an LED fixture to replace
an existing incandescent or fluorescent bulb is not the way to go. Rather,
one must analyze the illumination that is needed at the surface of interest
and then design the fixture. This can lead to some very novel and attractive
solutions. Many companies are working closely with the LED suppliers to ensure
the device configuration and properties are optimized for their application,
instead of accepting “standard”packages.

Our congratulations to the staff of Strategies Unlimited for pulling
together a well-coordinated program covering all the aspects of HBLEDs and their
growing suite of applications. The conference attendees I spoke to were unanimous
in their support for this conference and its subject. Given the bright prospects
for the future of HBLED technology, their enthusiasm is understandable. —
Alan Thompson, Advanced Technology Editor, CompoundSemi News.

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