A panel discussion featuring top executives from some of the industry’s most influential leaders in the commercial and architectural sectors detailed the progression of the solid state lighting (SSL) industry, where it stands right now, and more importantly predicted the direction and timetable for future growth.
During a recent educational session held at the Hong Kong International Lighting Fair, members of top companies shared their opinions on how far the LED lighting industry has progressed and where it is headed in the not-so-distant future.
Recalling the great strides the lighting industry has made, Fred Bass of Neonlite (brand owner of Megaman) reminded the audience that the first compact fluorescent lamp debuted in 1983 (the SL-18 model). “It weighed [1 pound] and provided 50 lumens per watt. Think of the first mobile phones that were introduced and how big and heavy they were,” he said.
Regarding the fast speed that LED development has taken, he estimated the global market growth from 2011 to 2018 to exceed 30 percent. “The market penetration will be highest in the USA and the EU,” Bass noted. “In regard to output, we are so far ahead of where we were four years ago. By 2018, global adoption should be at 32 percent,” he commented. “Just four years ago, Megaman sold its first LED [lamp]. The product line was 100 percent CFL. By 2013, our line has become 70 percent LED and 30 percent CFL.”
The largest area of growth in 2014 will be mostly in retrofits and modules. “We are in a new era of offering integrated fixtures and serviceable Zhaga-rated fixtures,” Bass said. “Prices have declined rapidly and is expected to continue to [lessen] by 30 percent in 2015 and then decrease 10 to 15 percent in subsequent years. “The industry is rapidly reaching the price points [necessary] for mass adoption in the U.S. and the EU should reach mass affordability in 2015. Years ago, it was predicted that the industry would reach an average price of $15 U.S. by 2018 and we’re already at that point.”
North America is credited with leading the way with its ENERGY STAR® program and its requirement of 90 CRI. “In the EU, it’s 80 CRI, but California has always [taken the lead],” Bass remarked. Currently there is similar energy-saving legislation in effect in France, Japan, and China. “The economy worldwide is improving, even in Greece and Germany. There is improving economies in Asia as well, such as Singapore, Hong Kong, Thailand, and Indonesia,” he said.
“LED is an exciting industry to be in, but there are still some challenges,” noted panelist Dr. Jacob Taron, CEO of TSMC Solid State Lighting in Taiwan.
One of the areas of LED lighting that is slated to be addressed revolves around lifetime claims. According to the panelists, if an LED lamp still works after 50,000 hours, that doesn’t mean necessarily that its output is at an acceptable level — only that it is still offering some level of illumination. Right now the industry accepts a maximum drop in efficiency around 30 percent, Bass noted. “And while the lumens per watt are increasing, it is dangerous to use that measurement as the only yardstick in gauging efficiency,” he concluded. It was pointed out that to the human eye, the perception between 170 lumens and 210 lumens is the same. “The focus should be on lumens where you want them,” he said.
Of concern to the panelists was the idea of “over-engineering” products. “A domestic lifetime of 15,000 hours is good enough,” one stated. Another pointed out that the users’ distrust of early, unregulated products still needs to be overcome. Naturally the most widely accepted retrofits will be the models that most closely replicate the shape, size, look, and feel of the incandescent light they are replacing.
“Integration should be the key,” Taron stated. “It’s about the efficiency of the optics, the drivers, and thermal management. We don’t want the consumer to have mixed feelings about LED lighting [like they do with CFL],” he explained.
As LEDs gain acceptance and quality and lifetimes become more consistent, integrating LEDs into fixtures (ideally with replaceable drivers in case of failure) has become a growing trend. One of the panelists noted that current research predicts close to one-third of the global market will involve integrated fixtures, blurring the lines between LED makers and fixture manufacturers.
“When it comes to suppliers, there will be increased fragmentation with the addition of more players entering the field,” Bass remarked. “It is difficult to predict who will still be here in five years.”
While the panelists point out that the costs of LED chips have been going down in price, that does not mean creating an efficient LED solution is cheap. “Right now packaging costs more than the chips,” Taron revealed. “We have to find an innovative solution to further reduce costs.” TSMC recently debuted its “flip chip” technology and its SSL Phosphor on Die (POD) module technology that does not require additional packaging substrate (the emitter is bonded directly on the printed circuit board).
Regardless of the new methods that are being explored, it seems likely that there will continue to be quite a few emerging technologies on the horizon to evaluate. There is no dispute that LEDs will become the future of commercial and residential lighting going forward. However, agreement on which methods will ultimately win out will still take some time yet.