07 Mar 2011
Company ranked among the top-three LED manufacturers worldwide will expand capacity by moving from 4-inch to 6-inch wafer production.
Leading LED manufacturer Osram Opto Semiconductors is to expand its white LED manufacturing capacity significantly, by moving from a 4-inch to a 6-inch platform for indium gallium nitride (InGaN) chip production.
The move comes after a huge increase in the market for high-brightness LEDs last year, and similar moves that are in progress at rivals Philips Lumileds and Cree. The sapphire producer Rubicon Technology, which specializes in large-area material for LED production, has also reported very strong interest in the 6-inch format.
Because LEDs are produced on near-circular wafers, the number that can be manufactured on any individual wafer increases with the square of its radius. So more than twice as many LEDs can be made on a 6-inch wafer, compared with 4-inch. Migrating to larger wafers also reduces the impact of so-called “edge effects”, where the material deposited close to the edge of the wafer tends to show inferior characteristics and can negatively impact wafer yields.
“These measures are expected to almost double the chip production capacity for white LEDs by the end of 2012,” said the subsidiary of lighting giant Osram. “By expanding our capacities for high-performance InGaN chips, we are consistently consolidating our market position,” added Aldo Kamper, who took over as CEO of the chip-making subsidiary late last year. “The LED market harbors great growth potential in many different fields of application and we intend to continue harnessing this.”
The move will demand a change in all parts of the manufacturing process, so the expansion at Osram Opto’s epitaxial wafer facility in Regensburg, Germany, will be mirrored at its chip production site in Penang, Malaysia. The Penang site is already expanding in response to booming market demand, and as the total manufacturing area of the site is increased to around 25,000 m2 by 2012, an additional 400 jobs will be created, Osram Opto said.
In an interview with optics.org in December 2010, Kamper said that around one-fifth of Osram’s revenues were already generated through sales of LED-based products.
That proportion should increase rapidly as general solid-state lighting applications begin to kick in; something that the move to 6-inch production will also help to enable by streamlining chip production and lowering overall manufacturing costs.
The wafer conversion process at Regensburg will start as early as summer 2011, Osram Opto announced. Meanwhile, Philips Lumileds is aiming to have completely converted to a 6-inch platform by the end of this year, the company told optics.org last month.
Osram Opto added that its capacity expansion will primarily affect InGaN chips employing thin-film and UX:3 technology.
According to multiple studies, the market for packaged high-brightness LEDs nearly doubled in value in 2010, to more than $10 billion. That increase was driven largely by the uptake of LED backlights in TVs, but general lighting applications, one of the key targets for Osram Opto, also grew strongly.
According to the latest market report on the sector from Strategies Unlimited, the proportion of the HB-LED market attributable to general lighting applications jumped by nearly 40% in 2010 to reach just short of $900 million.
That rate of growth is expected to be maintained over the next few years, with 2012 identified as a key year, in which the cost of LED-based lighting will approach that of conventional technologies. To achieve that cost parity, chip production on a 6-inch platform has been identified as a key requirement.
Osram Opto is now ranked as the third-largest HB-LED producer by sales revenue, behind market leader Nichia and Samsung LED.