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Electronics Production | May 25, 2010

LEDs may open new market for EMS companies

Colored LEDs seem to be nearly everywhere, but the market for white lights is opening up huge new markets. One of the largest may be street lights, which will create an opening for EMS companies that can address this high volume, high reliability market.
“If EMS companies get in early, they will have a lot of opportunities,” said Ed Smith, president of Avnet Electronics Marketing Americas. “High brightness LEDs have not caught on as quickly as many people thought.”

White LEDs seem to be on the verge of catching on. The U.S. Dept. of Energy recently created the DOE Municipal Solid-State Street Lighting Consortium to help in the transition to LEDs. DOE researchers estimates that with over 34 million street lights in use across the country, promoting the use of LED technology has the potential to save communities more than $750 million a year in energy savings alone.

Similar projects are occurring worldwide. Germany’s Ministry of Research and the Electrical and Electronic Industry association teamed up to create Towns in a New Light contest that is giving two million Euros to 10 teams that have the best ideas for LED outdoor lighting.

China also has an aggressive program to promote the proliferation of LED street lights. A number of Chinese manufacturers are gearing up to meet this demand, and IPC China has started a committee that’s planning to develop a standard for the metal-backed circuit boards that are typically used in street lights.

“There’s a stunning amount of interest in metal-backed printed circuit boards. Aluminum-backed boards provide a good way to get heat away from LEDs, primarily in street lights,” said David Bergman, IPC vice president for international relations. In March, nearly three dozen companies showed up for a standards meeting, and another 15 signed up for the committee, he added.

Though China’s high volume manufacturers see large market potential, there’s also an opportunity for companies that provide high reliability products for harsh markets.

Another important factor is that there will be a solid demand for regional suppliers who can fulfill local governments’ desire to buy domestically. Another factor is that few companies currently have all the skills necessary to provide high efficiency lamp systems.

“There are very few people who have the ability to design systems; they need lens technologies and heat dissipation technologies,” Smith said during a presentation at IPC Apex Expo. And while metal backing addresses the high heat associated with solid state lighting, it’s not the end all.

“Designers need to find novel ways to cool these modules,” Smith said.

Developers and manufacturers have the opportunity to maintain nice margins. Though LEDs are often touted as a cost-saving product, that’s based on their low operating costs. Power consumption is low and the long lifetimes of solid state lamps reduce maintenance cost. “The actual lights and fixtures can be 10 times the price of alternative solutions,” Smith said.

Companies that develop expertise with LEDs should be able to tap into areas beyond street lights. It’s likely that over the long term, solid state lighting will dominate shipments in many segments of the lighting world. There’s already a solid market for outdoor lighting on buildings.

The programmability of LEDs makes it possible to change moods with different lighting levels. Adding multicolor LEDs to the mix provides an inexpensive way to alter the appearance of a building.
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Source: IPC
Author: Terry Costlow

Image source: Assel

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