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LED market outstripped lasers in 2010

02 Mar 2011

Latest update from Strategies Unlimited confirms that the fast-growing LED sector has left the market for lasers trailing in its wake.

The global market for high-brightness LEDs will soon be worth double that for lasers, according to an analyst company that tracks both of these key photonics markets.

California-based Strategies Unlimited said at its Strategies in Light event last week that the packaged HB-LED market grew 93% in 2010, to reach $10.8 billion.

In January, the same company had reported that the market for lasers also had a strong 2010, showing 27% year-on-year growth to about $6.4 billion.

Figures from rival analyst IMS Research back up the market research: IMS said in January that it thought the HB-LED market would have grown to $10.2 billion in 2010, up from its own estimate of $6.1 billion in 2009.

It marks the first time that the HB-LED sector has completely outstripped the laser market. In 2009, the two markets were valued by Strategies Unlimited at about $5.6 million $5 million, respectively.

While the laser market rebounded extremely well from the 2009 downturn, the reason that it has since been eclipsed by the growth in HB-LEDs is the demand for high-brightness chips now widely used in television backlights.

According to Ella Shum, who presented Strategies Unlimited’s market analysis in Santa Clara on February 23, that has led to a shake-up in its ranking of the leading HB-LED suppliers – pushing Samsung LED up into second position behind only the long-term market leader Nichia.

The TV backlight boom has undoubtedly benefited the key Korean producers – Samsung, LG Innotek and Seoul Semiconductor – the most. But 2010 was a strong year for the entire industry, benefiting different companies in different ways:

“Several paths led to this impressive growth," reported Shum. “Samsung LED, Seoul Semiconductor, and LG Innotek rode the boom in the LCD TV and monitor backlight market. Osram rode the rise of the Chinese HB-LED market, especially in the automobile sector.”

“[Philips] Lumileds’ success in high-power backlight products, cell phone flash, and architectural lighting contributed to much of its success. Cree’s dedicated focus on lighting ensured its continued strong position in the solid-state lighting revolution.”

Lighting to power next step change
And while backlights will continue to grow for a couple more years until TVs and monitor requirements are saturated, it is the lighting market that will provide the next major step-change in the LED sector. Strategies Unlimited measured the lighting portion of the HB-LED pie to be worth $890 million in 2010, up about 37% on the figure of $648 million in 2009.

For lighting, the real growth is yet to come – Shum predicts a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 39% for this sub-sector of the wider packaged HB-LED market between now and 2015. If proved correct, that would translate to a general lighting market worth about $4.6 billion to LED makers in five years’ time.

“Solid-state lighting will become the key market driver in 2014 because of the worldwide focus on energy efficiency and the phase-out of incandescent bulbs,” remarked the analyst company.

As Strategies Unlimited suggests, Cree is at the forefront of the LED lighting sub-sector, having focused on this application predominantly for the past few years, and largely eschewing the shorter-term opportunities in backlighting. Among lighting companies, it is particularly well regarded for the high efficacy of its devices, and these are being exploited in Cree’s own launch of new modules and LED-based replacements for traditional light bulbs.

In the last month alone, the Durham, North Carolina, company has demonstrated a 60 W-equivalent, and released both a high-color rendering index (CRI) replacement for recessed downlights and the XLamp MT-G package for replacing MR16 halogen bulbs.

The prototype 60 W “bulb” is dimmable and produces a warm-white color-correlated temperature of 2700 K, similar to conventional incandescent equivalents. Cree says that it delivers more than 800 lumens and consumes less than 10 W.

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