Year in Review
What's on the Horizon?
Not Just the 'Big Three'
It's the beginning of a new year, and like any other we like to look back on the year past and look forward to see what's cooking for the year ahead. For OLED lighting, this is of especial importance: the industry saw its first commercial products, albeit extremely expensive ones, in 2009, which begs the question, will 2010 be the year for "affordable" OLED lighting-ones you and I could possibly purchase?
The answer to this question appears to be "no." While companies have achieved significant strides in OLED performance, materials costs as well as the high cost of manufacturing (low volumes) still leave OLEDs with a high price tag. This is not to say that there's nothing to look forward to this year. On the contrary, as we discuss below, we expect to see more "products," ones being commissioned by designers and luminaire companies, as well as museums and the like. This on-slot (onslaught) of products will bring OLED lighting to the forefront of public attention, possibly giving the attention needed to push up demand and thus justify the construction of large-scale manufacturing lines for OLED lighting. This will hopefully bring down the price, making 2011 the first year for a "more affordable" OLED lighting product.
Last year was supposed to see the commercial takeoff of OLED televisions. But instead, OLED lighting seems to have taken the front seat for OLED producers. The opportunities for OLED displays have not proved as great as OLED advocates, (trade groups and industry promoters) had once hoped and this is the reason some of them have turned to lighting applications. Lighting seems to present opportunities that are both simpler technically than displays and where the entrenched technologies (light bulbs, fluorescent tubes) sometimes seem easier to push aside than the entrenched technology in displays, LCD. A further benefit for lighting: there is often significant government funding for R&D in this space. OLED lighting has received substantial public sector support in both Europe and the U.S. One additional appeal of OLED lighting is that it is extremely simple compared to a display; that is, a lamp can be as simple as one large pixel while an FPD has many thousands of pixels and may well need an active matrix backplane.
So instead of large OLED televisions, the big news for OLEDs in 2009 was the introduction of the first OLED lighting products. In particular, Osram, through the well-known lighting designer Ingo Maurer, introduced the world's first "functional table light" based on its OLED technology. This availability, of course, was not in the stores, but rather at lighting trade shows and those OLED lighting products that became available did so in very small quantities. However, it was enough to give some clarity on what has been achieved and what still needs to be achieved in the OLED market.
Successful technology revolutions often begin with high-priced or novelty products; fiber optics is another example. So the market evolution patterns we see emerging in the OLED lighting market are quite encouraging on those grounds alone. In addition, the fact remains that a year to 18 months ago it was impossible to point to an OLED lighting product that could actually be purchased at any price. Today they are expensive but available.
The Big Three lighting companies-General Electric (GE), Osram, and Philips-appear to be setting the stage for OLED lighting, indicating the level of acceptable performance and introducing lighting panels with that performance for designers to get a feel for.
Late in November 2009, Osram announced the development of its Orbeos OLED panel-the company's first OLED product on the market. Orbeos, which is priced at EU250 ($358), can be switched on and off without delay, is continuously dimmable, and unlike LEDs its heat management is simple. Its brightness level is typically 1,000cd/m² with power input of less than a watt. In ideal operating conditions it has a lifespan of around 5,000 hours. The company claims that after demonstrating what it considers to be high performance (efficiency and lifetime), it is now shifting its focus from technical development to "process management and reliability for future products." This type of statement leaves NanoMarkets to believe that 5,000 hours is an acceptable lifetime for an OLED lighting product. As well, it also indicates that the first "real" products will be in the form of small tiles, instead of one large sheet.
Osram does not expect to have a volume OLED lighting product until 2016. The company plans to transition into this high volume starting in 2012 by selling to the design community; here, the target customer will value some unique quality of the product, such as transparency.
Philips started selling its OLED-based lighting wafers under the name Lumiblade, but has been quiet on the OLED front since that time. When releasing the Lumiblade product, Philips announced that it would start shipping commercial products in 2010. The company did not respond to NanoMarkets inquiry but we expect to see something from Philips at the upcoming lighting fairs.
General Electric (GE) previously announced that it would begin volume production of flexible OLED-based lighting panels in 2010. (GE's roll-to-roll manufacturing process for OLEDs was much discussed at industry conferences during 2008.) GE's most recent announcement in OLED lighting was in December 2009 with its agreement to work with Power Paper, an Infinity Group portfolio company, to jointly develop self-powered OLED lighting devices. The collaboration, which will run for 12 months, will combine Power Paper's thin-film batteries with GE's OLED technology. The goal of the project is to develop "a first generation of self-powered OLED lighting products and identify next generation technologies with enhanced capabilities."
In addition to the big three lighting firms, there are many other companies involved to a high degree in OLED lighting. Certain materials suppliers and OLED suppliers are also likely to play a major role in shaping the performance of the first generation of OLED lighting products. Specifically, Merck, Novaled, LG Electronics (through its acquisition of Kodak's OLED business in December 2009), Sumation, Universal Display Corp. (UDC), DuPont and Dow Corning will play a major role. The giants of the printing industry such as Avery Dennison, Toppan Printing and Dai Nippon Printing may also lend a hand, given their expertise in functional printing technology.
We also expect to see new companies coming on the scene this year. One such company, Visionox, which spun out of technology of Tsinghua University, entered the industry several years ago but didn't really hit the radar until last year. At the China International Exhibition and Forum on Semiconductor Lighting held in Shenzhen in October 2009, the company demonstrated its OLED lighting product for decorative illumination-marking Visionox's transformation of OLED lighting technology into production. Visionox says that these products are currently available only in small volume but that in "coming years" the company plans to enter the general lighting and other lighting markets.
NanoMarkets expects more companies like Visionox to appear in 2010; these companies will most likely demonstrate a technology on a small scale before being acquired by one of the larger companies in the industry.
To re-cap, NanoMarkets expects 2010 to be the year of more OLED lighting products, as well as moves by some of the larger companies to start transitioning into high-volume manufacture. This transition will mainly be a focus on manufacturing as opposed to actual construction of high-volume lines. We expect the big three lighting companies to demonstrate new products, i.e. new ways of incorporating OLEDs into lighting products, at the upcoming lighting fairs.
Source: OLED Lighting: What to Look Forward to in 2010
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