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LighTimes: DOE Publishes Fifth Edition of SSL Manufacturing Roadmap

09 Oct 2013

LIGHTimes News Staff

October 2, 2013…The fifth edition of the DOE’s SSL Manufacturing Roadmap by Navigant is intended to provide a guide to key manufacturing R&D priorities. The Roadmap is a guide to industry to continue and improve capability, and to establish a strong role for the US. in SSL production. The DOE has reportedly funded $46 million in R&D projects along the SSL value chain. Notable DOE funded projects included: KLA-Tencor’s development of the Candela 8620 inspection system, Veeco Instruments’ development of the MaxBrightTM MOCVD multi-reactor system, and GE Lighting’s development of advanced phosphor deposition methods.

The Roadmap report explains that despite R&D successes, the industry has a long way to go before solid state lighting takes a large portion of the lighting market. In 2012 LED lighting saved about 71 trillion British thermal units (BTUs) of primary energy, according to a recently-released Department of Energy (DOE) report by Navigant. This savings translates to $675 million in cost savings for the end user. The previously released DOE report notes that currently, market penetration is quite modest. Among A-lamps the authors estimate that less than one percent of total units deployed are LED-based lamps. However, Strategies Unlimited reported that sales of LED lighting products increased by 26% from 2011 to 2012.

That previous Navigant report further concluded that the 71 trillion BTU savings represents only a tiny fraction of the total potential energy savings of about 3.9 quadrillion BTU (quads) assuming complete adoption of SSL. While complete adoption may be a long ways off, the potential highlights the importance of developing a robust, high capacity manufacturing capability for SSL. The report predicts that market adoption will likely accelerate as prices continue to fall several tens of percent per year. During this acceleration, unit sales are expected to increase at a much faster rate than revenues. In 2009, the DOE began its SSL manufacturing initiative to assist in the growth of production capability, reduce costs, and improve quality. The goal of this initiative has been and continues to be maximizing energy savings as soon as practical.

Thus far the DOE projects cover much of the value chain of SSL production, including not only process improvements but also manufacturing equipment, materials, testing, and designs for low cost. Further, projects include both the now rapidly expanding LED technology and also the still-nascent OLED lighting approach. The DOE held a series of “round-table” discussions to identify priority tasks appropriate for funding. The discussions of invited experts reviewed the state-of SSL technology development and areas for improvement. The discussions are followed by the annual SSL Manufacturing Workshop, which was held this June in Boston, MA.

The Manufacturing Workshop concluded that LED manufacturing has benefited greatly from the rapid growth in LED-backlit displays. Therefore, there is less of a need for attention on the basic LED chip manufacturing equipment and process. The most important R&D needs are more specific to lighting. The workshop further found that luminaire manufacturing is changing dramatically in response to the new technology, with less emphasis on the lamp-fixture paradigm and increasing emphasis on integrated luminaires to minimize cost and maximize efficacy. The workshop recommended that highly flexible luminaire and module manufacturing will need to be able to accommodate the enormous variety of designs demanded by customers for multiple applications; lines will need to be efficient and cost-effective even with relatively low numbers for any given code. This may call for innovative methods and equipment. Color mixing solutions reportedly have potential, but much basic work remains to make that practical. Phoshor converted blue light, the workhorse for current lighting, still has potential for energy efficiency improvement and cost reduction in that technology.

The DOE notes that OLED technology is not nearly as evolved and advanced as LED lighting in terms of cost, efficiency, and manufacturing scale. According to the Workshop findings, manufacturers of OLEDs in particular need high yield processes and innovative approaches. The workshop recommended that OLED manufacturers improve their material supply of integrated substrates and encapsulation.

The Roadmap concluded that right now the biggest challenge for LED lighting is to expand to accommodate demand; the biggest challenge for OLEDs is to settle on an acceptable, cost-effective manufacturing processes and build demand.