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HB-LED driver integrated circuits: High rise

Photonics Spectra
Oct 2010
Caren B. Les, caren.les@photonics.com

UPPER LAKE, Calif. – The global consumption value of high-brightness (HB) LED driver integrated circuits in selected lighting applications is expected to rise to $3.88 billion in 2016, up from $891.62 million in 2009, with an average annual growth rate of 23.4 percent, according to a report published in July by ElectroniCast Consultants titled HB-LED Driver Integrated Circuits Global Market Forecast and Analysis (2009-2016).

The company projects growth of nearly 60 percent per year from 2009 to 2016 in the worldwide consumption value of the circuits for use in television and computer monitor backlighting (predominantly LCD-based). The consumption rate was relatively immature in 2009, according to the company. It also projects that the LED-based LCD television marketplace in parts of Europe, the US and Japan will become saturated faster and embrace organic LED-based televisions and monitors sooner than in other regions. It forecasts that China likely will stay with the LED-based LCD solution for an expanded time.


The global consumption value of high-brightness LED driver integrated circuits used in selected lighting applications is forecast to grow at an average annual rate of 23.4 percent to $3.88 billion in 2016, according to ElectroniCast Consultants. Source: ElectroniCast.


There also is an increase in the consumption of LEDs in vehicles, testing, streetlights, and the medical and science fields, and in solid-state lighting, general lighting and in other applications, according to the report.

The company notes that the LED market, despite device innovations, still faces challenges in performance/price limitation and in gaining widespread acceptance from consumers.

The packaged LED driver integrated circuit (chip) is the main focus of the report. Excluded are the first two product levels of the circuit “food chain,” the wafer and the bare die, and the fourth level, the circuit mounted on the printed circuit board with external/discrete components.

LED drivers control the amount of current and voltage supplied to light – the dimmer control seems to be a main differentiator versus other lighting solutions, according to Stephen Montgomery, president of international business at ElectroniCast. “The LED driver printed circuit boards, which house the integrated circuits, are continually being pushed to provide higher efficiency. The ability to add more functions per chip is paramount within the industry.”

“ ‘Peak efficiency’ is an important driver in the market,” he said, adding that “providing LED driver integrated circuits with a higher percentage of peak efficiency will help meet the increasing demand for overall low-energy consumption.” He said that this development also will lead to longer LED lifetime performance (less maintenance/lower consumer costs compared with other lighting solutions), eventually leading to smaller/ lighter end-use products, which are just a few of the market drivers for LEDs.

In terms of current issues regarding the technology, Montgomery noted that there is an interest in multiple functions (integration) to allow for more “real estate” or “footprint” on the printed circuit board. The trend is for the integration of all or most applications per integrated circuit, instead of having several individual chips.

“Increasingly, LED driver integrated circuits will need to handle more LEDs per chip. This is especially true in display applications, for example, that require larger and larger “strings” of more and more LEDs per integrated circuit,” Montgomery said. He noted that, in April, National Semiconductor Corp. announced an LED driver with dynamic headroom control and multiple outputs for high-power applications such as streetlights and other solid-state lighting products. The device (LM3464 LED driver IC) accurately and efficiently drives up to four strings of LEDs, according to the company.

Within the vehicle application category, exterior lighting likely will be the fastest growth area for the circuits from 2009 to 2016, specifically in headlamps, he said. The other exterior uses, such as brake lights and signals, also will continue to increase; however, the headlamp application is relatively new and, thus, the growth rate higher, he added.vMontgomery said it is important to note that the vehicle category is broad and includes, for example, the forecast for enormous growth in the use of night-vision goggle-compatible LED lighting for the exterior of military ships.

Within the testing, medical and science fields, several high-growth areas for the circuits – including the sensor applications – use LED light sources in automotives (e.g., inside the engine), in factory/product inspections and in LED-induced fluorescence diagnostics, he said.

The majority of the circuits are manufactured in China and this year will end up in LED-based products worldwide – about 50 percent in Asia, 30 percent in America and 20 percent in Europe, he said.


GLOSSARY
backlighting
The forming of a clear silhouette of an object by placing a light source behind it. Used in machine vision when surface features of an object are not important.
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