Sapphire Industry Watch – June 5

  • LTP Takes Interactive Architectural LED Lighting to New Heights for Barratt London – LEDs Magazine: Lighting Technology Projects has completed work on another energy-efficient architectural LED lighting scheme. The Tower, which is the centerpiece of Barratt London’s new regeneration project, is a 27-story residential building which overlooks West London’s ‘Golden Mile’. The installment is comprised of 53 horizontal rows going up the ‘spine’ or the building, each containing six LED lights that are programmed to operate fully automatically.
  • Lower-Cost LEDs Offer Some Competition to Compact Fluorescent Lights – The New York Times: LEDs have long been more expensive than CFLs, but with costs beginning to level and consumer demand is starting to shift, experts say that demand for compact fluorescents will continue to dwindle, while demand will continue to rise for LEDs.
  •  Strategies Unlimited Reports Global Packaged LED Market to Reach $22B by 2019 – LEDs Magazine: Strategies Unlimited recently released a report investigating the global packaged LED market. The total packaged LED market grew 7.6 percent in 2014 to reach overall revenue of $15.6 billion. Lighting made up 34 percent of total revenue, which is almost the same as display backlighting and mobile applications combined, and is expected to reach 45 percent of total revenue by 2019.
  • Materials Innovations Help LEDs Turn On – Photonics Spectra: Innovations in sapphire manufacturing is helping cut cost and boosting performance for LEDs. While there are other suitable substrate choices for LEDs, the majority of LEDs today are using sapphire. Rubicon Technology’s CEO, Bill Weissman discusses how the industry shift towards large diameter wafers minimizes edge loss and how patterning of substrates is increasing light extraction.

Substrate Update: It’s All About Patterning & Large Diameter Wafers

yole_developpement_logoMarket research firm Yole Developpement recently published a new report on front-end manufacturing trends for LEDs. Their latest report gives us some very good news about the sapphire market. Semiconductor Today reported on Yole’s analysis. Here are some big take-aways:

  • There is increased demand for larger-diameter sapphire wafers, with big players (such as LG, Sharp or Osram) moving to 6” wafers and Taiwanese players moving to 4” wafers.
  • LED chip makers demand more patterned sapphire substrates (PSS). PSS are now mainstream in the market with an 87% share as of Q1 2014.
  • While some companies (such as Soraa and Toshiba) have begun mass production of gallium nitride-on-silicon (GaN-on-Si) and GaN-on-GaN LEDs, market penetration of these alternative substrates will depend on future improvements in terms of performance and cost.  Without these improvements, alternative substrates will not be able to fully compete with sapphire-based LEDs.

What does this mean for sapphire makers? LED chip manufacturers are looking to gain production efficiencies, lower costs, and increase performance for their LEDs.  As the adoption for LED lighting increases, they need to make more and better performing LEDs. Large diameter sapphire wafers enable more throughput for each run of the MOCVD reactor, making better use of the reactor “real estate” and decreasing the cost per unit of area processed. Depending on the type of MOCVD reactor used, LED chip manufacturers using six-inch wafer platforms may achieve up to 48% greater usable area per reactor run as compared to two-inch wafers.

What does PSS offer? First, PSS helps improve epitaxial growth by promoting growth of the GaN in parallel to the substrate surface. This helps reduce the number of dislocations, called the dislocation density, which can degrade performance of an LED.  Secondly, patterning can help extract as much as 30 percent more light from an LED.  This is particularly advantageous for high brightness LEDs (HB LEDs) that are used in LED lighting applications.

LED chip manufacturers have been buying smaller 2-inch and 4-inch PSS from outside suppliers for years.  The next step in the evolution in the market is the migration to large diameter PSS. Already a pioneer in the development of large diameter sapphire substrates, Rubicon Technology has developed capabilities for large diameter PSS making it possible to manufacture 6-inch and even 8-inch PSS. Rubicon is already gaining traction in the PSS market.  The company recently reported in their Q1 2014 earnings call that they received their first order for PSS and have samples out to more than a dozen LED chip manufacturers.

For more information about the report from Yole, visit http://www.i-micronews.com/reports/LED-Front-End-Manufacturing-Trends-report/14/433

For Further Reading

Semiconductor Today, Substrates shaping trends in LED front-end manufacturing, http://www.semiconductor-today.com/news_items/2014/APR/YOLE_300414.shtml

Clearlysapphire.com, Larger Wafers, Larger Yield – The Numbers Behind Large Diameter Sapphire Wafers and Yield, http://blog.clearlysapphire.com/?p=435

Clearlysapphire.com, Large Diameter Patterned Sapphire Substrates Explained, http://blog.clearlysapphire.com/?p=582

Clearlysapphire.com, Sapphire Substrates for LED: The Big Move Toward 6″ Has Already Started, http://blog.clearlysapphire.com/?p=37