Opportunities for Sapphire: New Applications & Markets Explained

Rubicon Technology announced the publication of Opportunities for Sapphire, a new white paper that examines markets that leverage the highly versatile material, sapphire.  Based on research from IMS Research, the paper takes an in-depth look at the demand for sapphire in key markets including LED, semiconductor and optical.  You can find the white paper on Rubicon’s new web site at http://rubicontechnology.com/resources/papers, but here’s a look at what you’ll find.

Sapphire has emerged as a versatile material in a range of industries for many varied applications.  Sapphire’s inherent physical attributes for durability, light transmission, chemical inertness and thermal insulation make it desirable for a growing list of applications in a range of markets.  The white paper examines the opportunity for the LED market in general lighting, backlighting and display and uses in industries like automotive.  It also explores sapphire applications for optical-grade sapphire windows, lenses and covers as well as semiconductor applications such as silicon-on-sapphire chips in radio frequency integrated circuits (RFICs) for RF antennas, as digitally tunable capacitors (DTCs) and power amplifiers in smart phones and other consumer devices.

According to white paper author Jamie Fox of IMS Research, high quality sapphire delivers great benefits to LED chip manufacturers gearing up for applications like LED-based general lighting.  “Every LED company we spoke to during the research for this paper purchases sapphire and benefits from the superior yields and quality,” writes Fox.  “Substrate demand in 2012 is estimated at 42 million two-inch equivalent wafers (TIE) and expected to grow to 57 million TIE in 2013 according to market research firm Displaybank.  As the lighting market grows into a more significant segment and larger, thicker wafers are utilized, sapphire demand will accelerate.”

“Opportunities for Sapphire” also discusses the role of sapphire in LED production, the emergence of the market for large diameter sapphire wafers and sapphire demand by application.

LED Sapphire Ingot Demand Forecast

LED Sapphire Demand Graphic WPPR

(source: DisplayBank)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The market has shown growing demand since 2010 with an expansion of the LED/LCD TV market and the growth of applications such as general lighting.

Green line indicates rate of growth per year

Key:  Demand in thousands of millimeters of two-inch equivalent sapphire

Lightfair 2013 – Observations about LEDs from Philadelphia

The LFI Innovation Award went to Philips BoldPlay  for Most Innovative Product of the Year

The Lightfair International trade show and conference was recently held in Philadelphia.  According to the organizers, LIGHTFAIR International (LFI) is the world’s largest annual commercial and architectural lighting trade show and conference.  Sponsored by the Illuminating Engineering Society (IES) and the International Association of Lighting Designers (IALD), the 2012 show had more than 24,000 registered attendees from 73 countries. It is clearly a big deal in the lighting industry.

Here’s a round-up of some analysis of LEDs at the show and a quick look at industry awards from LFI.

The engineers from Groom Energy made their annual trek to Lightfair and included an analysis of their trek in their blog.  This year, they noticed a difference in the quality of light from LEDs on display.  The light the LEDs on display put off was the more familiar, warmer light similar to the light put out by an incandescent. LEDs also got smarter with lighting controls evolved from being add-ons to being embedded. Jon Guerster, the author of the blog, speculates that California’s Title 24 that requires lighting controls may be a driver for all of the new smart lighting controls.  Finally, the Groom Energy team found that LED fixtures no longer looked distinct like LED fixtures, but sported the familiar look of incandescent, HID and fluorescent fixtures from the past. Now, you can’t tell that there are LEDs inside.

The LED analyst team from IMS Research traveled from London to Philadelphia and posted an analysis about the show on their LED blog.  IMS Analyst Jamie Fox noted that the show no longer featured that “Wow” moment.  He said this is due to the relative maturity of LED lighting.  The maturity and evolution of the LED market also led to two key observations from IMS.

According to Fox, there’s no clear winning sector in the American LEDs general lighting market.  Fox and his colleagues were told by LED manufacturers that residential, retail, outdoor, hospitality and others all have a “significant” part of the pie but none of them dominates. This was supported by IMS observations of the product mix on the show floor.  As for LED manufacturers, Fox noted that the “big three” — Nichia, Cree and Lumileds — are leaders in the American LED market and while global LED players like Samsung, Seoul Semiconductor, Osram and others play a role in the US, the “big three” are consistently mentioned as clear leaders in the market.

Finally, Fox noted that industry price decreases versus quality was an issue for many at the show.  According to Fox, “there is a significant worry though, both from my own observations of product, and from show floor conversations, that it is becoming too much of a lowest price fight at the moment, and not enough advancement on quality.”  Fox says low price may not ensure that a customer will be happy with the light quality from an LED bulb that doesn’t compare well to an incandescent bulb.

The LFI Innovation Awards program honored lighting vendors for innovation and design. Here are a few of the top winners:

  • PHILIPS (BoldPlay): Most Innovative Product of the Year—the program’s highest award, recognizing the most innovative new product
  • COOLEDGE LIGHTING (Light Sheet): Design Excellence Award—recognizing outstanding achievement in design
  • DOW CORNING CORPORATION (Dow Corning® Brand Moldable Silicones): Technical Innovation Award—recognizing the most forward-thinking advancement in lighting technology
  • PHILIPS (hue personal wireless lighting): Judges’ Citation Award—special recognition of an innovative product at the judges’ discretion

For Further Reading

Groom Energy, LightFair 2013: LED Lighting Is Warm, Smart and Looks Like What You Know, http://blog.groomenergy.com/2013/04/lightfair-2013-led-lighting-is-warm-smart-and-looks-like-what-you-know/

IMS RESEARCH, LED Blog, LEDs Continue to Evolve At LIGHTFAIR, http://www.ledmarketresearch.com/blog/leds_continue_to_evolve_at_lightfair

Tipping Point 2: Finally, A Sub $10 LED Light Bulb

Cree’s new sub-$10, 40-watt equivalent LED light bulb

This past week, Cree introduced a brand new 40W LED light bulb that will be available at Home Depot for less than $10. The $10 mark is very important.  As we mentioned in the blog before, the $10 mark is the tipping point where many analysts and vendors believe mass adoption will occur.  According to analysts at IMS, “It’s not just the psychological impact (i.e. $9.99 vs. $10.00); it also just happens that this is around the point where the payback arguments make sense.”

Cree agrees. “The Cree LED light bulb was designed to offer consumers a no-compromise lighting experience at a compelling price,” said Chuck Swoboda, Cree chairman and CEO.  “Over the last couple of years we recognized that the consumer is instrumental in the adoption of LED lighting, but we needed to give them a reason to switch. We believe this breakthrough LED bulb will, for the first time, give consumers a reason to upgrade the billions of energy-wasting light bulbs.”

According to Cree, Cree LED bulbs save 84 percent of energy compared to traditional incandescent light bulbs.  They have calculated that consumers can save $61 per year on electric bills by replacing incandescent bulbs with Cree LED bulbs in a home’s five most frequently used light fixtures. Their calculations are based on Cree LED bulb 60W replacements at 9.5 watt, $0.11 per kilowatt-hour, 25,000 hour lifetime and average usage of 6 hours per day.

In addition to the new $10 LED light bulb, Cree will have two other light bulbs available exclusively at The Home Depot. Here are details about all three:

  • $9.97, a “warm white” 40-watt equivalent, with 450 lumens of light for 6W of electricity
  • $12.97, a “warm white” 60-watt equivalent, providing 800 lumens of light for 9.5W of electricity
  • $13.97, a “day light” 60-watt equivalent, with 800 lumens of light at a cost of 9W of electricity

Consumer Reports announced that they’ll be putting Cree’s LED light bulbs through the test. We’ll keep you posted on their testing in Clearlysapphire.com.

Further Reading

Cree, Cree Introduces The Biggest Thing Since the Light Bulb™, http://www.cree.com/news-and-events/cree-news/press-releases/2013/march/bulbs

Consumer Reports, LED prices drop as competition heats up, http://news.consumerreports.org/home/2013/03/led-prices-drop-as-competition-suddenly-heats-up.html

MIT Technology Review, Once-Pricey LED Bulbs to Dip Under $10, http://www.technologyreview.com/view/512236/once-pricey-led-bulbs-to-dip-under-10/

The Verge, Cree’s $13 LED light bulb is the best yet, looks and feels incandescent (hands-on), http://www.theverge.com/2013/3/5/4068174/cree-10-dollar-led-light-bulb-incandescent

Clearlysapphire.com, Tipping Point: Earth Day, 100W Light Bulb Reprieve and Alexander Hamilton, http://blog.clearlysapphire.com/?p=169

IMS Research, DOES LED LIGHTING HAVE A TIPPING POINT?, http://www.ledmarketresearch.com/blog/Does_LED_Lighting_Have_A_Tipping_Point_270