Cree Reports Solid Revenues for Q1 Fiscal 2007, But Profits Down
October 19, 2006...Osram Opto Semiconductors, a San Jose-based wholly owned subsidiary of German company Osram, has announced a new generation of side-emitting MicroSideLEDs. The company contends that the packaged LEDs make batteries last longer, and the LEDs are reportedly ideal for low profile, backlighting applications. The new MicroSideLED is only 0.6 mm tall. The company says that because of advances in thin film technology, the LEDs are about 30 percent brighter than the previous versions of the MicroSideLEDs. Instead of a mere 0.9 cd, the new MicroSideLEDs each produce 1.6 cd, according to the company. LIGHTimes SecondPage members login for more. Guests can view membership details.
October 20, 2006...Chunghwa Picture Tubes (CPT) showcased several new backlight panel technologies at FPD International in Yokohama, Japan, October 18-20, according to an article in Digitimes. The company unveiled its 80,000:1-contrast LED technology, a 47-inch TV panel to be rolled out in the first quarter of 2007, and the company’s first color filter (CF)-less LED backlighting technology. CPT’s 80,000:1-contrast technology apparently utilizes area control to bring the contrast to such a high level, the Digitimes article indicated. However, CPT told Digitimes it has no plans to mass produce the technology because costs for LED backlighting are still high compared to CFL backlighting. LIGHTimes SecondPage members login for more. Guests can view membership details.
October 18, 2006...National Semiconductor introduced a new line of LED drivers for power LEDs at the Light Emitting Diodes Conference in San Diego, California USA. According to the company the drivers are designed to power 1- to 5-watt LEDs in automotive, industrial, and general lighting applications. The company said the LM3402, LM3404 and LM3405 LED drivers offer a wide input voltage range and provides a constant current to regulate the LED brightness and low feedback voltage to minimize power dissipation. LIGHTimes SecondPage members login for more. Guests can view membership details.
October 17, 2006...One of the early companies to produce LED products for in-home, residential lighting, Permlight Products Inc., has appointed a new president and CEO. In a statement to investors, Phil Frey, Permlight’s interim CEO who took over the position from Manuel Lynch, introduced Fernando Lynch, Manuel’s brother, who will take the reins from Frey. According to the company, Fernando Lynch joined as VP of sales in October 2005. Frey said, "After working with Fernando Lynch closely and seeing his responsiveness to both our customers and suppliers, it became apparent that he should be the one to lead this company into the future." He added, "I’m confident you well see his enthusiasm for our product line and more importantly his careful and planned approach to solving problems and expanding our business. He is customer friendly and supplier sensitive. I’m sure you’ll enjoy working with him in his new role as your have in the past."
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October 24, 2006...I recently attended the Intertech/PIRA LEDs 2006 Conference, which was held in San Diego, California October 16-18th. Rather than giving a run down of all the speakers and their presentations, I thought I would highlight a few topics that caught my interest and pose some questions raised by them. For those interested, the complete program is posted on the Intertech web site, www.intertechusa.com.
A very interesting workshop was presented prior to the main conference by the International Finance Corporation (IFC), a division of the World Bank that is tasked with enabling commercial opportunities to improve people’s lives. They have a project to bring SSL to people who have no access to a grid and who rely largely on kerosene based devices for their lighting needs. The genesis of this project was presented 2 years ago by Russell Sturm and has now grown to the point where industry can step up and participate. Russell and colleague Fabio Nehme, assisted by consultants Evan Mills (Lawrence Berkeley National Lab), Arne Jacobson (Humboldt State University), and Katherine Conway (LED Consulting), gave a comprehensive look at this novel opportunity. I certainly cannot cover all their points in the space I have here, but let me hit a couple of the high spots.
There are 1.6 billion people who have no power grid access, and they spend US$38 billion per year on hardware and fuel (lamps, candles, batteries and kerosene). Kerosene is the most inefficient fuel for lighting and has well documented negative health and environmental impacts. However, it has usually been the only available solution. This unfortunate fact of international life has been underscored by David Irvine-Halliday when publicizing his admirable Light Up The World Foundation (www.LUTW.org). While groups such as LUTW solicit charitable contributions and buy and donate solar powered lights (the most recent large benefactor being Shuji Nakamura, ref: Sept. 8th headline news) the IFC group believes a much larger impact can be made through commercial endeavors. After all, most companies are not in business to give away their products or they would soon go out of business. However, all the companies that I have talked to over the last year would welcome an opportunity to do some good and make some money at the same time. The possibility of cooperating with local companies for assembly, distribution, sales and servicing also suggests good job creation. The IFC project targets Kenya and Ghana initially with in-country market research and testing of potential products. If you make LED products and are interested in what could be a multi-billion dollar opportunity, please go to the IFC web site www.ifc.org/led and/or talk to Russell or Fabio
With the maturing of the cellphone market, the LED community has busied itself with trying to figure out the next killer application to keep us growing at our accustomed rapid pace, and this conference was no exception. For my money, one of the better ideas was presented by Mark McClear of Cree. He gave an interesting (and sometimes humorous) account of their attempt to build a competitive street light to replace current HID based products. After realizing that retrofitting the existing head was not the way to go they came up with a completely different looking head that gave the same illumination level and pattern as the HID lamp. His economic analysis showed a 3-year payback even though the LED based head is about double the price of the HID product. Interestingly (and unlike the traffic light switchover), the savings come almost entirely from bulb replacement avoidance, since the energy consumption based on today’s LEDs is similar (although we know that will improve for LEDs). With 60 million streetlights in the USA alone and about 200 million worldwide, this represents a very significant opportunity at aproximately $250 per lamp.
Brightside Technologies’ Richard MacKellar showed their high dynamic range display alongside a regular FPD using the same LCD panel. The difference was obvious and the quality of still and moving images was stunning. They use a large number of white LEDs for backlighting spread across the back of the LCD display. They drive them with special circuits to increase both the contrast ratio and the brightness. Currently the extra components cost too much, but with some volume they believe the cost differential can come down to 50 percent in a couple of years. Since customers pay 50-100 percent extra for high definition(HD) vs. enhanced definition now, this may well be a large volume market for LEDs that have high power and high efficacy. Whether they can buck current suppliers is a big question but all who saw the demo agreed they have a strong selling point.
Lastly I would like to compliment Kevin Dowling of Color Kinetics, who as usual gave a talk that was both informative and entertaining. He mentioned the DOE study on CFL lamps that is well worth a look by anybody wrestling with trying to break into the lighting market by touting the efficiency of LEDs (see www.netl.doe.gov/ssl/publications.html). This study goes a long way toward explaining why CFL lamps are in only 2% of Edison (screw-in) sockets in the USA. He then delved into lighting systems and their design and gave some interesting examples. I thought the last part of his talk was the most compelling when he discussed standards and appealed for more participation by manufacturers at all levels. He is personally involved in several of the standards organizations such as the NGLI, IES, and NEMA. I suggest you contact him through Color Kinetics if you would like to participate and help move this industry forward even more quickly.
A reminder that the opinions here are mine alone and I welcome different outlooks, corrections or discussion. Feel free to contact me directly, Alan Thompson, by direct email at "email@example.com"
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