Makers of LED drivers or power supplies in China are directing product development efforts toward elevated efficiency, longer life span and smaller size. Low noise and intelligent control are among the objectives as well.
These undertakings are aimed at meeting the varying requirements of a growing application base, which includes panels, displays and lamps for indoor and outdoor use. Suppliers, in particular, are concentrating on large types for road and landscape illumination. These units with about 100W rating are forecast to post solid growth this year because the target lighting has significant cost-performance ratio over traditional counterparts.
Companies are employing technologies such as power factor correction, pulse width modulation, high frequency, zero-voltage and -current softswitching, synchronous rectifier and single switching power supply. So far, many have raised efficiency to more than 90 percent from 80 to 85 percent, and reduced standby energy consumption to less than 1W. These were achieved by using advanced power management ICs and semiconductor components.
Pushing these gains further, makers hope to hurdle technological challenges to expand reach and keep up with foreign competitors. They will improve the life span of driver circuits with key components such as capacitors that can withstand elevated temperatures.
Achieving greater conversion efficiency, especially in high-power LEDs, is another goal to ensure maximum energy-saving performance of the diode and the application device. Suppliers also strive to increase the dimming ratio and deliver consistent color characteristics in both high- and low-brightness settings. Current R&D efforts, however, are hampered by cost considerations.
Nevertheless, China's LED driver industry continues to progress and is forecast to achieve at least 30 percent growth in sales this year, buoyed by the prevailing trend for environment-friendly lighting.
Domestically, diode-based illumination has become widespread in the past years, with extensive use in the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games accelerating adoption. In the same way, US and EU efforts to replace incandescent bulbs gradually are fueling the switch to the "green" technology, boosting demand for related components.
At present, the local industry's share of global production is 12 percent based on annual exports of more than 45 million units.
The category represents about 15 percent of China's switching power supplies output. At Ningbo Jiangbei HWZ Electronic Co. Ltd, it accounts for half of yield. The maker churns out up to 800,000 units monthly. Large-scale operations such as Shenzhen Moso Power Supply Technology Co. Ltd have an annual production exceeding 10 million units.
China has more than 500 makers that mass-produce LED drivers. All come from the SPS segment. About 60 percent of them gather mainly in Shenzhen, Guangdong province. Companies have set up factories there to benefit from a mature supply chain and manufacturing and trading infrastructure, modern transportation system and solid government backing. The city accounts for 25 percent of the aggregate output of the Pearl River Delta region.
Other makers are located in Zhejiang and Jiangsu provinces.
LED drivers from China are available in different power ratings, which can be lower than 10W or greater than 200W. Customized models represent the bulk of production.
The popular models for road lamps include 35, 80, 100, 150, 200, 240 and 300W types. For indoor lamps, there are 12, 25, 36, 40 and 50W units.
The HR80L series for lighting and moving signs from Ningbo Jiangbei has 60/80W rated power output, 100/240VAC 47/63Hz input and 12/42V output voltage, and 0/5A output current. It comes with a universal AC input, and short-circuit, and overload and -voltage protection.
Shenzhen Moso's 100W single-output model boasts 100/240VAC input voltage, 95 percent efficiency and 99 percent power factor. The RoHS-compliant unit has constant-voltage and -current functions and operates in -40 to 65 C.
The company's 300W single-output constant-voltage version has 90 to 305VAC input voltage, 24/120V output voltage, 92 percent efficiency and 50,000hr MTBF. The model is IP68-rated.
China manufacturers also offer indoor dimmable LED drivers. Ningbo Jiangbei's HR12L series with 90/132VAC, 176/277VAC input voltage at 47/63Hz has a dimming range of 5 to 100 percent. It has no visible flicker and supports migration to existing lighting control systems.
ICs, power semiconductors, transformers, rectifiers, filters, thyristors and other passive components are key to the manufacture of LED power supplies, in addition to plastic and metal. These account for about 70 percent of production costs. The first is usually sourced overseas from National Semiconductor, On Semiconductor, TI and STMicroelectronics.
To cater to the requirements of US and EU customers, Ningbo Jiangbei turns to Japan suppliers for most components.
Requiring high-grade types of the last, LED drivers are 50 percent more expensive to make than other switching power supplies. Models using multilayer ceramic capacitors, for instance, are priced 1.5 times greater than versions employing traditional electrolytic variants. The first component has better frequency and performance in high temperatures.
Enterprises project a 5 percent jump in quotes for the rest of the year as the cost of plastic, wire, copper, tin and passive components from Japan and the US remains high.
To offset elevated outlay, some suppliers will raise capacity by 20 to 50 percent.
LED drivers from Hong Kong suppliers come mainly in 1 to 80W versions with 200 to 5,000mA current and one or multiple outlets. These are available in open-frame design and plastic, aluminum or stainless steel housing. The selection includes water-resistant types with an IP67 rating, and 200W and higher variants for street, commercial and decorative lighting. PWM-dimmable kinds with active power factor correction are also on the list. These support current output adjustment through an infrared or RF remote control, 0/1-10V dimmer or DALI lighting control system. RGB LED versions with a user-configurable color arrangement are likewise available.
Units allow 90 to 277VAC input range but can be adjusted to suit various requirements. These have 75 to 85 percent power efficiency, and come with short-circuit, and overcurrent, -temperature and -voltage protection.
Many Hong Kong suppliers obtain key raw materials and components from Japan to meet the specifications of their OEM/ODM clients. Other parts come from mainland China, Taiwan and South Korea.
To ensure product reliability, manufacturers conduct short-circuit, full-load burn-in, overloading, aging and functional testing. MIL-STD-105E level II standard is adopted during inspection.
A maker of adapters and switching power supplies for more than 30 years, Helms-Man Transformers Co. Ltd offers 1 to 60W dimmable and nondimmable LED drivers. Its selection likewise includes wall-mounted variants with fixed and interchangeable AC plugs and low-voltage external controllers.
Ten Pao International Ltd has released an IP67-rated desktop 200W model with up to 93 percent efficiency and 6kV lightning resistance. Aside from LED drivers, the company produces switching power supplies, battery chargers, AC/DC adapters and transformers.
Sintech Optopower Ltd boasts a range of stainless steel-encased models. An EMS provider catering to the Japan market, it handles turnkey projects from R&D, components and material sourcing, to logistical distribution.
There are about 10 suppliers of LED drivers in Hong Kong. Most are longtime EMS providers.
Robust demand is driving Taiwan's power supply makers to direct production toward LED drivers. The line is projected to achieve 10 percent growth in sales this year. Taking advantage of the upturn, companies are rolling out models that suit various applications. They are releasing water-resistant types for outdoor LED displays, streetlamps and architectural lights. Because environment-friendly attributes are emphasized, companies incorporate power factor correction to guarantee energy efficiency. For power management, especially in lighting fixtures, they adopt pulse width modulation. Special PWM signal is used in dimming lighting controls. Products targeted at backlighting emphasize compact designs to match the trend for slim TVs.
Suppliers likewise ensure models comply with CE and RoHS guidelines, and meet country-specific requirements in lighting and power supplies. In North America, these are UL 8750, 1310 and 60950-1. To broaden market, makers are teaming up with light bulb producers. Delta Electronics, for instance, has been a subcontractor of Japan supplier Hitachi since 2010. Companies join government-initiated lighting projects as well. Others offer LED lights and OEM/ODM services to provide one-stop-shop solutions. It is this strategy that secured for AcBel Polytech and Delta orders from the mainland China government for its streetlight undertaking.
Makers expect prices to remain stable in coming months.
Taiwan has more than 200 LED driver suppliers. AcBel Polytech, Darfon, Delta, FSP Group, Lite-On and Phihong are among the key players.
FranMar International Inc.
Model: FLA100 Series
Fuhua Electronic (HK) Co. Ltd
Model: LS Series
Helms-Man Transformers Co. Ltd
Model: HED Series
Li Tone Electronics Co. Ltd
Mean Well Enterprises Co. Ltd
Shenzhen Moso Power Supply Technology Co. Ltd
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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.
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