Sapphire Industry Watch – January 16

  • Gilbert couple creates anti-collision device for motorcycles – East Valley Tribune: Designed to increase the visibility of motorcyclists on the road, Lightning Strike is an anti-collision system that flashes LED lights when the rider presses a button on his or her handle bar. The goal is to alert drivers that there is a motorcycle present. Along with the Lightning Strike, the company also offers the Flash Back which rapid-blasts light when the rider applies the brakes. Behind the business venture is a retired couple from Arizona who hope their products will decrease the number of vehicle collisions.
  • Ten Lighting Trends to Watch in 2015 – Novus Light: According to the IHS technology research team, 2015 could bring improved margins for major global lighting companies as well as lower product prices for consumers. Greater implementations of Li-Fi pilot projects, growth of the Chinese LED industry and larger city-wide smart street lighting installations are just a few of the predictions expected to happen within the lighting and LED industry in the coming year.
  • LED lighting market in Japan to grow at 17.73% CAGR to 2019 – Semiconductor Today: Technavio’s report forecasts growth in the LED lighting market in Japan at a CAGR of 17.73 percent  over the next four years. The LED lighting market is defined in the report by three application segments- automotive LED lighting, LED backlighting and general LED lighting- and the anticipated growth of the market is primarily attributed to the declining average selling price of LED light bulbs.
  • Empire State Building honors Ohio State title win – FanSided: The Empire State Building honored the Ohio State Buckeyes’ National Championship win over the Oregon Ducks by lighting up the top of the tower with the university’s colors, scarlet and gray. Made possible by LEDs, it is customary for the Empire State Building to light up in various colors to represent different events, holidays or causes.

Industry Watch — Sapphire at CES 2015

CES 2015 has come and gone and, as usual, we are left with an overwhelming amount of new and exciting products to sift through.

Don’t worry though! If you’re interested in all things sapphire-related coming out of the show, we have you covered.

Here are the biggest sapphire related unveilings from CES 2015:

  • CES2015: Hands On With Huawei’s Ascend P7 – Android Headlines: While Apple may have failed to incorporate sapphire into its new iPhone, Chinese smartphone manufacturer Huawei has had no problem incorporating the material. During CES, Huawei showcased a variety of smartphones in its booth, including phones from its Premium “P” series. This included the new, Huawei Ascend P7, which features a 5 inch display and an optional sapphire faceplate. 
  • Garmin’s fēnix 3 Multisport GPS Watch Keeps Its Active Side Secret – Gizmodo: Garmin’s popular fēnix adventure watch is receiving a facelift this year to make the rugged timepiece look more polished. The third-generation watch is still fully capable with GPS and pre-set modes for various outdoor activities like swimming or skiing, but is now sleeker with a high-contrast color display and a scratch-resistant sapphire face. 
  • Wellograph, the first sapphire crystal wellness watch, gets a new look, more color choices – AppAdvice: The team that developed the Wellograph wellness watch announced an OS update, new color choices and straps at CES. The Wellograph, which is best known for being the first wellness watch to incorporate sapphire into its display, now offers a new OS which will provide users with features such as sleep tracking and body readiness testing. Along with the new features, the watch is now available in pink gold and white pearl.
  • Sony’s Life Space UX makes the smart home look good – Mashable: One of the most buzzworthy terms at CES over the past few years has been the Internet of Things. With beautifully designed devices and appliances, Sony’s Life Space UX gives just a peek at what the smart home of the future will look like. The highlight of the collection is the Symphonic Light, which combines an LED light with a clear glass covering that doubles as a speaker. The LED bulb, which uses sapphire substrates, makes this light not only attractive, but energy-efficient as well. The Symphonic Light streams music from a smartphone or other connected device, and multiple lights can be connected to fill a room with sound.Sony

Sapphire Demystified

A look at Rubicon Technology's sapphire

A look at Rubicon Technology’s sapphire

There has been so much hype and misinformation about sapphire lately, particularly surrounding sapphire covers or faceplates for smartphones, that we thought we’d review some basic info about commercial sapphire.

  • “Sapphire glass”

There really isn’t any such thing as sapphire “glass.” Sapphire is not a kind of glass; it’s a very hard monocrystalline material. The proper way to reference the clear layer of stuff that may soon cover the screen of your smart phone is as a “sapphire cover” or “sapphire faceplate.” Glass is made of silica or sand, and sapphire is made from aluminum oxide. The two materials have very different physical properties. So, glass isn’t really the right descriptor.

  • Sapphire is unbreakable.

Well, no. That’s not really accurate. A thin piece of sapphire can shatter, similarly to glass or a piece of gorilla glass. Sapphire is the second hardest material on Earth (after the diamond). As such, a thin slice of sapphire will shatter. What is sapphire good at? Sapphire is scratch resistant. That’s one of the main reasons why smartphone vendors are interested in sapphire for applications in lenses and fingerprint scanners.

  • Sapphire is blue.
Sapphires come in a range of colors.

Sapphires come in a range of colors. The purest sapphires are clear.

Yes and No. Sapphire, also called corundum, comes in a range of colors. The purest form of sapphire is clear.  Sapphire is a crystal made from Aluminum Oxide (Al2O3). Natural sapphire forms over thousands of years in the earth, but comes in different colors due to impurities such as minerals or other conditions (like humidity or radiation). Rubies are made of aluminum oxide and are actually sapphires. They are red because the crystal contains impurities in the form of the mineral chromium, making the crystal red. Sapphire gemstones get their blue hue from iron and titanium. Yellow sapphires get their color from a combination of iron and radiation (interesting).  The commercial sapphire that’s now being used in consumer electronics is very pure, so it’s colorless.

  • Sapphire in LEDs and smart phones is from blue sapphire gemstones.

No. The sapphire that is used in LEDs and smartphones is grown in a commercial setting using one of few processes – the Verneuil Method, Kyropoulous Method, Heat Exchanger Method, Czochralski Method and Edge-Defined Film-Fed Growth Method. Each method has its differences, but they produce a single crystal of clear sapphire that is fabricated (cut and polished) into a sapphire substrate used in an LED or into a lens or faceplate for optical uses like smart phones.

 

New Applications for Sapphire: Medical (Part 2 of 3)

rod of asclepiusNew industries are finding man-made sapphire a desirable material. The field of medicine is looking at sapphire for its optical transmission range, durability and chemical inertness for bio-compatibility.

Sapphire’s optical properties and durability offer advantages for specific medical laser applications in dermatology, ophthalmology and dentistry. Sapphire is widely used in surgical systems for its laser transmission, high resistance to heat and non-thrombogenic properties (meaning it doesn’t promote clotting).  It is used as a laser window for endoscope lenses, laser hair removal systems and blood cell counters.  In addition, sapphire products are used for surgical tools, implants, braces.  Sapphire microscalpels are transparent blades that make it easier to visualize and illuminate capillary vessels, nerves, cutting zones and cutting depth compared with traditional metal alternatives.

One area that has potential for sapphire is in artificial joint replacements.  Many joint replacements include metal, ceramic, metal-polymer and ceramic polymer endoprosthesis. This is an area that may develop friction and wear over time causing the joint to fail.  Endoprostheses made of metal and ceramics may interact with the body and also degrade from friction over time.  For example, metal-on-metal artificial hips have a lifetime of 15 to 30 years, but have been known to fail earlier.  Sapphire is attractive for endoprostheses for its bio-compatibility since it is chemically inert and won’t react with the body as well as its low friction coefficient, hardness and durability

For Further Reading

The New York Times, The High Cost of Failing Artificial Hips, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/28/business/the-high-cost-of-failing-artificial-hips.html?pagewanted=all

IMS Research/Rubicon Technology, White Paper: Opportunities for Sapphire, Jamie Fox, http://rubicontechnology.com/resources/papers,

Sapphire: Material, Manufacturing, Applications, by E. R. Dobrovinskaya, Leonid A. Lytvynov, V. V. Pishchik. Springer Sciences Business Media, ISBN: 978-1441946737.

How Do They Do It? From Sapphire to LED Infographic

You’ve heard a lot about LEDs, but did you know that a tiny piece of sapphire – the pure, colorless industrial variety, not the blue gemstone – is in more than 80% of LEDs? Sapphire is the foundation for the LED chip, just as silicon is for a computer chip.  Rubicon Technology has put together an infographic that describes the sapphire manufacturing process and where sapphire is found in an LED. The bottom of the infographic features examples of products that feature LEDs for lighting. Click on the infographic below to see it larger.

Infographic for Post

 

 

 

 

 

Link to: http://www.rubicontechnology.com/sites/default/files/From%20Sapphire%20to%20LED%20Infographic.pdf

Top 9 Things You Didn’t Know about LEDs

Philips Luxeon LED

Philips Luxeon LED

Recently, the Department of Energy published a list of the Top 8 Things You Didn’t Know about LEDs. We’d like to share the list, and add one more for our Clearlysapphire blog post this week.

9.  Sapphire is the base material for more than 80% of LEDs, just like silicon is the base material for computer chips.

8. A light-emitting diode, or LED, is a type of solid-state lighting that uses a semiconductor to convert electricity into light. Today’s LED bulbs can be six-seven times more energy efficient than conventional incandescent lights and cut energy use by more than 80 percent.

7. Good-quality LED bulbs can have a useful life of 25,000 hours or more — meaning they can last more than 25 times longer than traditional light bulbs. That is a life of more than three years if run 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

6. Unlike incandescent bulbs — which release 90 percent of their energy as heat — LEDs use energy far more efficiently with little wasted heat.

5. From traffic lights and vehicle brake lights to TVs and display cases, LEDs are used in a wide range of applications because of their unique characteristics, which include compact size, ease of maintenance, resistance to breakage, and the ability to focus the light in a single direction instead of having it go every which way.

4. LEDs contain no mercury, and a recent Energy Department study determined that LEDs have a much smaller environmental impact than incandescent bulbs. They also have an edge over compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) that’s expected to grow over the next few years as LED technology continues its steady improvement.

3. Since the Energy Department started funding solid-state lighting R&D in 2000, these projects have received 58 patents. Some of the most successful projects include developing new ways to use materials, extract more light, and solve the underlying technical challenges. Most recently, the Energy Department announced five new projects that will focus on cutting costs by improving manufacturing equipment and processes.

2. The first visible-spectrum LED was invented by Nick Holonyak, Jr., while working for GE in 1962. Since then, the technology has rapidly advanced and costs have dropped tremendously, making LEDs a viable lighting solution. Between 2011 and 2012, global sales of LED replacement bulbs increased by 22 percent while the cost of a 60-watt equivalent LED bulb fell by nearly 40 percent. By 2030, it’s estimated that LEDs will account for 75 percent of all lighting sales.

1. In 2012, about 49 million LEDs were installed in the U.S. — saving about $675 million in annual energy costs. Switching entirely to LED lights over the next two decades could save the U.S. $250 billion in energy costs, reduce electricity consumption for lighting by nearly 50 percent and avoid 1,800 million metric tons of carbon emissions.

For Further Reading

Department of Energy, Top 8 Things You Didn’t Know about LEDs, http://energy.gov/articles/top-8-things-you-didn-t-know-about-leds

Commercial Sapphire Spotlight – Vertical Integration in Sapphire

Rubicon Family of Sapphire Boules

Last month, Compound Semiconductor Magazine featured a contributed article about Vertical Integration in sapphire production by Raja M. Parvez, President and CEO of Rubicon Technology.  Rubicon has adopted vertical integration to set itself apart from other sapphire companies.  The article details Rubicon’s approach.

Vertical integration isn’t a new concept. It has been around since the 1800s when US Steel tycoon Andrew Carnegie introduced the vertical integration by owning virtually every part of the steel-making value chain from iron ore through steel mills to physically building the railroads.  Later, in the 1920s, Ford Motor Company decided to make the steel for their cars, popularizing the concept further.

According to Rubicon’s president and CEO Raja Parvez, vertical integration holds the key to Rubicon’s cost structure and reliable supply of high-quality products.  This integrated approach influences every step in the growth of sapphire crystals and their processing into wafers. The company’s end-to-end manufacturing capability, with strong intellectual property at each step of the manufacturing process, produces an advantageous cost structure and provides better control of product quality and delivery schedules. Vertical integration is also central to the company’s ability to grow larger and larger sapphire and be the first to market with large-diameter sapphire wafers for the LED and SoS/RFIC markets.  To date, Rubicon has shipped more than 400,000 6-inch wafers.

To read the full article, visit:   http://content.yudu.com/A2360p/CompSemMar13/resources/index.htm?referrerUrl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.compoundsemiconductor.net%2Fcsc%2Fmagazine.php

Barriers to Entry 2: Yole Developpement Talks Sapphire, New Market Entrants Unlikely to Match Yields of Industry Leaders

In Part 2 in our Barriers to Entry posts (Part 1 is here), we’re focusing on a recent report from the industry experts at Yole Developpement.  Yole analysts have been keeping a keen eye on worldwide capacity for sapphire crystal growth.  According to Yole’s Eric Virey, more than 50 companies have announced their intention to enter the sapphire growth market, with more than 40 located in China.  While the capacity plans announced by all of the new companies collectively would add up to triple world demand, Yole believes it is “a situation unlikely to actually materialize.”

Why?  These new market players have little or no prior experience in sapphire crystal growth and wafer manufacturing.  And, while there are some “turn-key” solutions to lower the barrier to entry, “reaching and sustaining high quality and high yields in sapphire crystal growth still requires significant expertise.”  Indeed the learning curve is steep to reach yield levels on par with established Tier 1 manufacturers.

Yole’s report also said that margins in 2010 were favorable to new entrants allowing them to achieve comfortable margins “despite low yields and sub-par technology.”  However, with 2 inch pricing at historic lows, Yole calculates that they will lose money at the current market prices while “established vendors with higher yields, large volumes, and a more favorable product mix, including large-diameter wafers, can achieve production cost <$5 that will allow them to maintain positive margins and weather the storm.”

For Further Reading: Yole Developpement web site

 

LEDs Break into Fashion and Wearable Tech

ABC's Modern Family featured LED wedding fashions this season.

Who says we can’t all dress like stars?  The Hollywood kind AND the light up kind in the sky.  While Katy Perry, Lady Gaga and other stars have been dressing with custom-made LED-studded gowns and costumes, designers are finally beginning to integrate wearable LEDs into ready-to-wear fashion.  Anne Eisenberg recently wrote an article in The New York Times about how designers are beginning to offer LEDs integrated into t-shirts, coats, handbags and jewelry.

Using conductive thread, sensors, batteries and small microprocessors, designers are bringing light to their designs.  According to Eisenberg, the German fashion label Moon Berlin recently opened an online shop that sells chiffon dresses and accessories like brooches with white LEDs.  The label plans on selling men’s dinner jackets with LEDs soon.  That’s sure to brighten up a prom like a recent episode of Modern Family where everyone in a wedding was dressed in LED-studded wedding attire.

While they may look cool, the wearable LEDs integrated with tiny computers may bring new functionality to clothing. Eisenberg mentioned that a tech company, Adafruit, is now working on wearable computers based on their Flora platform.  Using a Flora kit, you can make a handbag that includes a special GPS senor linked to an LED display.  This will eliminate the need to take out your cell phone or GPS device for directions.  The company is also offering apps for iPads, iPhones and Android devices that can link up to t-shirts that include LEDs that would glow red for poor air quality and with a Bluetooth connection tweet the information to other joggers.

For Further Reading:

The New York Times, Which Way to the Ball I’ll Ask My Gown, http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/26/business/wearable-electronics-are-making-a-statement-novelties.html

Moon Berlin, http://moon-berlin.com/

Modern Family, http://abc.go.com/shows/modern-family/episode-detail/little-bo-bleep/916288

Earnings Season — Canaccord Genuity says sapphire market shows signs of stabilizing

It is earnings season and LED and sapphire related companies continue to struggle due to the slow economic recovery and oversupply of sapphire. One financial analyst sees light at the end of the tunnel.  In observation of Rubicon Technology (Nasdaq: RBCN) earnings last week, Canaccord Genuity’s Jed Dorsheimer found some positive signs for Rubicon and the sapphire industry.

According to Dorsheimer, “the sapphire industry is actually showing signs of stabilizing. While we do not expect much in the way of price increases again, we note that Rubicon is one of the low-cost providers in the industry. With this in mind, we feel that when the industry turns and inventory is worked down the increasing utilization should return a good amount of leverage and income to the model.”

Rubicon is already showing signs of recovery of the sapphire market with orders for two through four inch cores increasing in the first quarter.  “We have continued to maintain high utilization of our crystal growth facilities throughout this slowdown because we are confident that demand will be strong in the second half of 2012,” commented Raja Parvez, Rubicon CEO and president, in the company’s earnings news release.

For Further Reading:  Large Diameter Sapphire Supports LED Market Growth