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The Road Leads Up for the LED Backlight Unit Market

Photonics Spectra
Oct 2008
Caren B. Les, caren.les@laurin.com

By 2012, the large-format LED backlight unit (BLU) market is expected to reach 182 million units – up from 18 million in 2008 – and to account for 27 percent of the overall backlight unit market, up from its 3.8 percent share projected for 2008. The units provide the light sources for LCD televisions, monitors and laptop computers. The figures are presented in the “LED BLU Industry Trends” report published in July 2008 by Displaybank Co. Ltd. of Bundang, South Korea.

BW_LEDblu_display_BIG.jpg

LED backlight units are emerging as a good fit for modern slim-style televisions.


It is predicted that in LCD televisions, the backlight units, which currently use mainly cold cathode fluorescent lamps, will use LEDs more extensively. Both LED and the cold cathode fluorescent lamp backlight units are experiencing rapid and similar price decline rates because, according to Jae Shin, marketing/business development manager at Displaybank USA, LCD televisions are continually falling in price. For example, a 40-in. LCD television with a cold cathode fluorescent lamp backlight unit costs $100 this year, down from a $140 price tag last year – an annual price decline rate of 30 percent. Falling television prices mean set makers want backlight unit prices dropped to a certain level.

The report notes that Tokyo-based Sony Corp.’s 2004 success at mass-producing television sets with RGB LED backlights allowed full-scale application of LEDs in large-format units. Sony and Samsung Electronics of Seoul, South Korea, continue to promote LED-based LCD televisions in 2008, and other television makers such as Sharp Corp. in Osaka, Japan, are expected to contribute to the lineup in 2009.

What type of LEDs will win the LCD backlight market? White LEDs are expected to lead for the second half of this year, with RGB LEDs possibly coming to the market forefront soon afterward. RGB LEDs, which provide better picture quality than white LEDs, currently have obstacles such as heat emission and cost to overcome, but they could eventually penetrate the mainstream market if all technological problems are solved, according to Shin.

BW_LEDBLU.jpg

The large-format LED backlight unit market (BLU) forecast is shown for 2008 through 2012, based on millions of units. Courtesy of Displaybank.


In 2010, the LCD television market is expected to reach 138 million units, taking up 64 percent of the overall television market, according to Displaybank. Facing rapid market growth and strong competition, LED-based LCD television makers are working to differentiate their products.

For example, they’re taking advantage of the consumer perception that LED-based LCD televisions are environmentally friendly. LEDs are known for their low energy consumption and anhydrous characteristics and, while the competing cold cathode fluorescent lamp technology also is eco-friendly, the use of LEDs in lighting and cars has made the devices more well-known to consumers.

Consumers want slim, light and stylish televisions, which is good for the LED backlight unit industry because the units are emerging as a good fit for these products.

Cellular phones, which have made up a large portion of the LED market, are experiencing slower growth. Consequently, LED manufacturers are looking for new applications, and many are turning to the LED LCD market. LED makers see promise in the industry, including the organometallic chemical vapor deposition market. For example, CMO, a thin-film transistor-LCD panel manufacturer based in Taiwan, has invested in the LED industry, and other companies also are beginning to invest.


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