LED panel makers are matching diverse requirements in the lighting, display and backlighting applications.
Suppliers of LED panels in China are enhancing selections to take advantage of rising demand amid growing adoption in the lighting, display and backlighting sectors. They are boosting the development of high-brightness and full-color variants, which are anticipated to gain steam in the years ahead.
Makers will integrate SMD diodes instead of DIP in upcoming models to improve intensity, stability and reliability. Using the LED type will also widen the viewing angle, reduce the size of the finished product and extend the average MTBF by five years or longer.
Companies are aiming for a pixel pitch smaller than the current 4mm, with some pushing for 3mm, to achieve better images and more vivid colors, especially in RGB units. Inhibitive costs, however, continue to limit the last to upscale portable electronics, including mobile phones and digital cameras. Elevated power consumption is also a contributing factor. As such, manufacturers are lowering both attributes to expand reach in the backlighting market. At present, white variants are the mainstream choice, a trend that is expected to hold in the next five years.
R&D efforts will maximize available technologies such as AlGaInP, TS AlGaAs and InGaN LEDs. The diodes can deliver red, yellow, green and blue colors and have a luminous efficacy of 100 lm/W or higher. These can be sourced locally, including from foreign players based in the country.
Makers will likewise continue providing customization services, which remain a key product development endeavor. For most, it accounts for half of business, with potential for future expansion as buyer requirements keep evolving. At Shenzhen So-Decision Technology Co. Ltd, the current 20 percent share may rise this year.
Large operations, in particular, are active in the pursuit of breakthroughs and securing IPRs for them. Jiangsu Wenrun Optoelectronic Co. Ltd, for example, holds about 30 technology patents, employing them in national and provincial projects to guarantee recognition at home and abroad. A major local supplier of LEDs and related products, it has served in four provincial R&D institutions. These are the Provincial Program Center, Provincial Engineering & Technology Center, Provincial Enterprise Technology Center and Provincial Science & Technology Public Service Center. The company likewise cooperates with universities such as the Huazhong University of Science and Technology to develop new products.
Overall, makers are building core competence to strengthen China’s position in the industry. The country’s LED panel sector will continue expanding amid recovering demand. The rate of increase in value is 25 percent since late 2009 after slowing to 10 to 15 percent earlier that year due to the financial crisis. Manufacturers forecast the trend will persist in one or two more years. China is projected to account for 40 percentof the world’s total LED panel volume by end-2011, according to QingDao News.
The category’s climbing share in the local LED display industry is driving production. At present, panels represent 30 percent of overall revenue. Lighting and display remain the component’s two major applications, covering indoor and outdoor advertising, decoration and residential illumination. These are expected to keep raising panel demand by more than 20 or even 30 percent this year and in 2012.
Suppliers are also looking to benefit from increasing adoption in the backlighting sector, thanks to the trend for environmental protection and energy conservation. Compared with dominant CCFL rivals, LED panels have a lower profile and power consumption, higher brightness and more vivid color. As a result, these are broadly adopted in the notebook and desktop PC, portable DVD player, small- and medium-screen TV, GPS and industrial segments.
Globally, the category’s share in the backlighting application is in an upturn. From 3 percent in 2009, it jumped to 10 percent the following year, according to DisplaySearch. The estimated worldwide shipments of LED-backlit TVs surpassed 20 million units in 2010, and are anticipated to exceed 50 million by 2012. In large panels for notebook PCs, penetration is expected to reach 90 percent during the same period based on statistics from iSuppli, with deliveries reaching 17.4 million units.
In addition, makers are leveraging interest in locally made LED panels generated by extensive use in recent world events held in China to boost international standing. These included the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, the World Expo 2010 in Shanghai and the 16th Asian Games in Guangzhou, Guangdong province. The 2011 World Universiade to be held in Guangdong’s Shenzhen will be another showcase occasion.
Suppliers also continue to capitalize on opportunities presented by the economic downturn. They credit it for encouraging overseas buyers to source the component from China, which in turn is spurring domestic R&D to ensure high quality and performance, and enhance service delivery.
At present, more than 80 percent of makers ship their products abroad, with volume ranging from 20 to 80 percent of output. Others, including locally based foreign operations, allocate their entire yield for international trade.
The majority of these exporters are confident global demand will continue to surge, with annual increases exceeding 25 percent until 2015. They believe the 2014 FIFA World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics will draw attention to the line further.
Demand from Europe and the US has gradually recovered since late 2009, while requirements from emerging markets such as South Asia rose significantly last year. Shanghai Xingang Semiconductor Device Fty said shipments to its new destination, Turkey, have been increasing by more than 25 percent annually. The maker, which exports 50 percent of products, anticipates overseas business to keep improving, especially for LED panels for backlighting. It is extending reach to South Asia and the Middle East in the future.
The mainstream selection in China consists of dot-matrix, alphanumeric and segment types in single-, dual- and full-color models. Units that are mainly for displays are also included. These have a pixel pitch of 4 to 20mm per diode in DIP or SMD configuration. Variants for backlighting come in sizes of 1.1 to 9in and target mobile phones, MP3/MP4 players, digital cameras and GPS devices. Versions larger than 10in are for laptops and TVs.
Across the different types, products boast water and dust resistance, and stability and reliability attributes that suit indoor and outdoor applications. All releases comply with RoHS guidelines.
Makers turn to local suppliers for materials and components except for LEDs and LED chips. The majority can produce the diodes in-house, enabling them to control quality better. Jiangsu Wenrun, for example, has a $44 million factory in Anhui province that also turns out LEDs. Called Anhui Wenrun, the new facility realized total sales of $8.8 million when it began the first phase of mass production in 2009. It is expected to achieve $147 million in the next five years.
For chips, companies source mostly from Taiwan and the US to ensure quality, while locally made versions are adopted in low-end and midrange LED panels. This will change, however, with further localization of manufacture and technological advancements. Mainland China chipmakers and research institutes achieved breakthroughs in the last two years. These include white diodes with silicon and sapphire substrates, which have a luminous efficacy of 90 to 96 lm/W and 90 to 100 lm/W, respectively. There are even versions of the latter type reaching 110 lm/W.
Mass production of high-power chip variants is under way at Bright High Technology in cooperation with Tsinghua University. The company plans to invest $51 million to churn out 189,000 epitaxial substrates and 472.5 million 1W high-power LED chips this year. It will spend an additional $73 million for the second phase to expand annual capacity to 567,000 and 1.4 billion units by end-2012. In the years ahead, more homegrown enterprises are expected to follow.
So far, the supply of materials and components has been stable. With a developing local upstream chain, costs are expected to continue dropping and prices to take a similar trend. This year, the projected downward adjustment is 5 to 10 percent.
LED panels from Taiwan suppliers are mainly for display applications, including TVs, computer monitors and outdoor/indoor installations. Large types for the first two dominate output. Units for electronics devices of various sizes are also produced.
Makers continue to align R&D efforts with the environmental protection trend. They emphasize low power consumption and long life span, in addition to slimming and lightweight attributes.
Many are taking advantage of the increasing penetration of the technology. In mainland China’s sizable TV market alone, the rate is expected to reach 34 percent this year, according to Digitimes.
To boost competitiveness, companies in the island are focusing on bringing down costs to close the gap with dominant CCFL variants. At present, LED panels are more expensive by only 1.2 times.
Reducing the use of diodes in light plates and integrating processes vertically to cover LCD module production are some of the strategies makers are implementing. Others continue to build ties with diode suppliers to negotiate costs.
The projected end of the worldwide supply shortage of high-brightness LEDs this year is also a factor for the sector’s buoyancy. This is because major vendors Aixtron and Veeco have raised shipment target of MOCVD systems, which are key to the manufacture of upscale diodes.
Taiwan’s LED panel segment comprises mostly companies from the TFT-LCD line. These include AU Optronics Corp., Chimei Innolux and Chunghwa Picture Tubes.
Lighting applications drive Hong Kong’s LED panel line, targeting industrial, institutional, office and commercial uses. Selections cover mainly pendant, ceiling and wall-mount types. SMD LEDs, mostly 3528 versions, are used.
The range comes in pure, daylight and warm white, and assorted colors, and in 6 to 72W models. Size options are diverse, consisting of 300x300, 300x600, 600x600, 600x1,200 and 300x1,200mm. Units for billboards, ATMs and other special needs are in irregular dimensions such as 140x460mm or smaller. Makers include a light guide for uniform illumination, aluminum or steel frame, and PMMA or PC cover.
Pendant designs emphasize slimness, use stainless steel wires and have the length of a power cable. The thickness ranges from 8 to 18mm.
Infrared remote controls and dimmers are offered as an option. For lighting effects, RGB LEDs can be utilized combined with a DMX512 controller.
Pro-An LED Lighting Fty offers variants employing a professional circuit design, with each LED working separately. It uses Cree LED chips in cool and warm white, red, yellow, blue and green. The company specializes in diode-based lighting products.
The category is also among Lena Optotech Ltd’s selection, which includes LED bulbs, tubes, down- and rope lights, wall washers and light strips. The maker has engineers from Taiwan in its R&D department, and a consultant from Australia.
Advanced Optronic Devices (HongKong) Ltd supplies LED panel grid lights in recessed, surface-mounted and pendant versions. These come with an external driver and optional dimmer. The company’s product range comprises more than 160 models of diode-based lighting products, including spot-, street, tunnel and garden lights, and tubes.
Hong Kong has a rising number of suppliers of LED lighting products, but only about 15 offer LED panel lights. This is because the market is relatively small. At present, contractors for large government and private sector projects make up the majority of the category’s user base.
AU Optronics Corp.
Model: 65-inch Full HD
Lena Optotech Ltd
Pro-An LED Lighting Fty
Ningbo Rayco Light Electric Technology Co. Ltd
Shenzhen So-Decision Technology Co. Ltd
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