Smartphones and tablet PCs continue to drive China’s diode industry, particularly the backlighting sector. Flash LEDs and those for mobile projectors will attract more manufacturers.
China LED makers leverage the trend for higher resolution displays in mobile electronics, particularly smartphones and tablet PCs, to boost the backlighting category. They are eyeing the light source technology’s widening adoption in smartphonecamera flashes and portable projectors as well.
Suppliers continue to improve production techniques through facility upgrades. Link-Sun Hong Kong Electronics Ltd, for instance, has built two class 1000 cleanrooms. It will continue to update equipment in 2014. Shenzhen Refond Opto-electronic Co. Ltd, meanwhile, has started offering backlighting LEDs to take advantage of the growing market. It realized $47.8 million in total sales in 1H13, surging by 67 percent over the same period in the previous year. The manufacturer anticipates the upturn will persist in the months ahead.
In terms of R&D, makers remain focused on meeting custom shape and size requirements, especially in the backlighting field. Still, they maintain standard selections for mobile electronics backlighting. The options consist of side- and top-view SMD diodes. The former type comes in 020, 010, 215, 335, S201 and S202, while the second kind includes mostly 0603 and 0805. Releases come in white, blue, green, red and yellow, with the first dominating output with more than 90 percent share. By size, the range is from 1.1 to 9in. Manufacturers adopt locally sourced materials and components except optical film. Most offer RoHS-compliant products.
Besides smartphones and tablet PCs, China LED makers cater to the GPS, PDA, digital camera, and MP3/MP4 and portable media player segments. At present, mobile electronics is still China makers’ largest application market, with 50 percent share of output. Lighting products have 40 percent and indicators the remainder.
This trend is reflected globally. Smartphones and tablet PCs are the main growth catalysts of the LED industry, which is estimated to have realized $11.3 billion in sales, according to LEDinside.
Apple’s HD promotion in the iPad and the iPhone continues to benefit the sector as it translates to more diodes required for device screens. The latest iPad has 2048x1561 pixels at
264ppi, compared with earlier models with 1024x768 pixels at 132ppi. Future versions are expected to upgrade further to 2560x1920 pixels at 330ppi, needing a bigger number of LEDs. In the iPhone, resolution has been upgraded to 1136x640dpi at 227ppi in iPhone 5 from iPhone 3’s 480x320dpi at 163ppi.
Diode companies are also watching the developing market for flash LEDs used in smartphone cameras. The forecast requirement for the input is 1.4 billion units in end-2013 and 1.7 billion by 2014. The iPhone 5S adopts two such diodes, one in white andthe other in pale yellow, for enhanced color. Compared with mainstream xenon units, LEDs have advantages in fast flashing, low power dissipation and EMI, and compact configuration. Flash diodes are typically in 3014, 3020, 3228, 3528 and 5050.
Another emerging application is the mobile projector, which comes in mini and pocket types, and is usually lighter than 1.5kg. Embedded configurations are also included in the category. Deliveries of the products are climbing from fewer than 50,000 units in 2009 to 3 million in 2013, according to iSuppli.
Only a few China makers have introduced LEDs for mini projectors due to the high technology involved. This will change, however, in the next one or two years when more companies, especially large operations, are expected to venture into the line. Key international players dominate the segment at present. Osram offers several models, with the latest delivering 400 lumens and measuring 5.8x4.6mm only.
With an expanding application base, local suppliers are anticipating further growth. China’s LED industry realized $6.9 billion total sales in 2012, which will rise to $11.1 billion by 2015 posting 18 percent CAGR. As a result, most companies increased output in the past one year.
China has about 1,000 diode makers and half are focusing on the mobile electronics application sector. More than two-thirds of those in the latter group are homegrown enterprises targeting the smartphone and tablet PC markets. The rest of the companies have investment from Taiwan and Hong Kong. Over 60 percent of the manufacturers are in Guangdong province.
All price quotes in this report are in US dollars unless otherwise specified. FOB prices were provided by the companies interviewed only as reference prices at the time of interview and may have changed.