Advances in LED technology promise greater energy efficiency and create new supply chain opportunities in lighting and beyond
LED technology remains a bright spot in the electronics supply chain, and distributors focused on delivering lighting solutions are reaping big benefits from new projects. Future Electronics’ recent completion of a street lighting retrofit in Israel is a case in point.
The distributor partnered with supplier Bright LED to retrofit new street luminaires in Carmel Center, a busy area in the country’s northern city of Haifa. The project marked Haifa’s first step in converting to LED technology to save money and increase the efficiency of its more than 30,000 street lights. Some of those street lights were converted to LEDs in the Carmel Center project, which tested the feasibility of moving the city’s entire network to LEDs; now Bright LED and the city are in talks to move on to phase two.
Haifa officials say LED lighting fits perfectly with the city’s desire to “go green” while reducing electricity and maintenance costs. As municipalities around the world set similar goals, supply chain companies are betting on lighting as a key business driver in the year ahead. Future Electronics formed its Future Lighting Solutions group more than 10 years ago to capitalize on the growing popularity of LED technology and hasn’t looked back, says executive vice president Lindsley Ruth.
“We continue to invest significantly in the lighting business,” Ruth says, pointing to customers’ increasing focus on energy efficiency in all aspects of their operations. “Now, energy efficiency is the focus. People are adopting [new] technology faster because of energy efficiency and the total cost perspective.”
Lighting the way
LEDs performed well in the semiconductor market as 2012 came to a close, and most industry watchers expect to see continued strong demand in the category—in lighting as well as in other applications. A December report from industry analyst and market research firm IHS iSuppli pointed to the LED segment as a pillar of strength in an otherwise weak semiconductor market. The global semiconductor market was set to shrink 2% last year, IHS said, with a tentative rebound set for late in the first quarter of 2013.
“The one segment that seemed to have remained untouched this year was the robust light-emitting diode (LED) market, thanks to the LED lighting boom that has taken hold in many parts of the world,” IHS principal analyst Robbie Galoso said in mid-December.
Indeed, third-quarter LED sales for lighting manufacturer Philips grew more than 50% and represented nearly a quarter of the firm’s total lighting sales as of last fall. Other LED lamp makers reported strong sales through the end of the year as well, with Cree, for one, posting 17% growth in its 2013 fiscal first quarter ended September 23.
But lighting isn’t the only category in which LEDs are making headlines. Manufacturers were showcasing a range of new applications at the 2013 International CES in Las Vegas earlier this month, adding more fuel to the LED fire. Advances in high-brightness LEDs are yielding new applications, particularly in home-based entertainment systems and appliances.
LED maker Luminus Devices offered a glimpse at the newest advances in projection displays, for instance, providing a look at consumer LED projectors with features that rival the latest flat-panel TVs, with one key exception: the projectors can easily move around the house and turn any room into a 100-inch+ home theater, says Stephane Bellosguardo, director of global product marketing, display business group at Luminus.
“We have aggressively continued our R&D, product innovation, and advanced performance-based developments. These allow our customers to develop new product strategies around solid-state light sources and enable new and exciting consumer electronic appliances, not only in traditional business and education markets, but now in the much larger consumer markets,” Bellosguardo says.
Luminus also showcased products that integrate the first-ever round LED chip, which allows more creativity and flexibility in a range of applications requiring high brightness and strong center beam power, including flashlights, entertainment, and fiber-coupled lighting.