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Green laser market to reach $500m by 2016

16 Apr 2010

Green lasers for pico-projection applications will drive market growth.

The green laser diode market will reach a value of $500m by 2016 according to market analyst Yole Développement of France. In its report entitled Green Lasers for Projection Devices, Yole provides a complete analysis of the projector applications for green laser diodes and looks at the progress being made by laser manufacturers in terms of both direct emission in the green and using nonlinear crystals to access the green via frequency doubling.

The report also includes dollar and unit values on the 2009–2016 timescale for green laser diode devices and a study of the related gallium nitride market.

"The green laser market today is highly segmented in numerous niche applications from medical to military applications and laser shows," says Yole. "Those applications can work with existing solid-state lasers or the more recent combinations of semiconductor lasers with nonlinear crystals performing second harmonic generation."

Only frequency-doubled laser diodes are available today. "Corning, OSRAM and QD Laser having each their proprietary solution to green light generation," explains Philippe Roussel, project manager at Yole Développement. "However, given the complex package of these lasers, it seems difficult to reach a reasonable target price. Moreover, these components seem to suffer from a shortage situation."

According to Yole, Sumitomo SEI, KAAI (UCSB) and OSRAM are the most advanced players when it comes to direct-emission green laser diodes. If performance meets the minimum requirements for optical power, wall-plug efficiency and lifetime, products could be available in limited quantities as soon as the middle of 2011. The battle for a direct-emission green source will also take place at the substrate level where non-polar and semi-polar gallium nitride crystals play a very positive role in green wavelength emission.

In the emerging markets of pico-projectors, head-mounted displays and head-up displays, the ideal light-emitting device is a laser thanks to its ability to deliver highly saturated colours in the widest possible gamut. Additional advantageous properties are focus-free operation and an improved wall-plug efficiency that would allow battery operation. "The first LED-based pico-projectors hit the market in 2009 but have been slow to take off. No more than 300,000 units have been sold," says Yole. "The poor brightness (10 lumen) for a relative high price might be a reason for this. In the same year, some impressive progress has been published on the capability to shift blue laser diodes towards the green. A direct-emission semiconductor laser should be available in the coming years (2011–2012) to serve the projection display applications."

According to Yole, the green laser diode market size will reach around $500m by 2016, which will represent more than 45 million devices. The analyst provides the following breakdown:

Stand-alone projectors: this market will really take off in 2010 with a sales volume of around 0.5–1 million units. During this first phase, most of the sales will be LED-based but the analyst forecasts 10–20% will be laser-based by 2011 and that this ratio will grow to 50–75% by 2016. Yole also envisions a natural move from standalone to embedded devices as the technology becomes more compatible with size and cost constraints.

Mobile phones: this market will start late in 2010 with high-end devices. Laser-based systems will be slowly implemented along with cost reduction. Yole stays very conservative saying that LEDs will strongly dominate at least until 2016. Because of the small size requirement, a direct-emission green laser will be highly recommended.

Media players: these are the perfect locations for embedded pico-projectors. There are fewer cost constraints and size issues compared with mobile phones. Yole predicts that the boom should occur by 2012, with 2.6–5 million units equipped with projection functionality. Frequency-doubled green lasers should dominate initially until direct emission is price and performance compatible.

Camera and camcorder: "We forecast a slow market penetration for laser-based technologies as the battery lifetime and cost can become critical parameters. LED technology should dominate in these applications," says Regis Hamelin, Yole Développement's market and technology analyst.

Laptop: Yole states that this is the most unclear segment because it is hard to accurately predict the behaviour of consumers: will they go for an all-in-one solution (PC plus projector) with an embedded projection device that will probably be less efficient than desktop projectors? Yole Développement remains very conservative on this application.

Berkeley Nucleonics CorporationIridian Spectral TechnologiesHÜBNER PhotonicsSPECTROGON ABABTechECOPTIKMad City Labs, Inc.
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