What is the situation in the lighting market today and where do you see the biggest growth potential?
The situation today is that the LED industry is facing a strong price erosion and finds itself in a consolidation phase. As a consequence, the R&D and production of LED based light sources like bulbs and tubes has been moving to Far East.
The European market segments with the biggest growth potential in years to come are commercial, outdoor und automotive lighting as well as some niche markets. All these segments require state-of-the-art technologies – and this is exactly where SSC positions itself with its new competitive Acrich and WICOP technologies.
As a result of the request for new technologies, IP safety becomes more and more important and is a crucial factor for further growth. More and more we see that LED chip producers - tier 1 manufacturers - are approaching module or lamp manufacturers when they use LEDs which are not free-to-operate from the patent point of view. For example, a leading US LED manufacturer went to court against a big US luminary manufacturer last year due to a patent infringement of their Asian LED supplier. We also filed a patent infringement lawsuit against Craig Electronics Inc. in the U.S one year ago. In July 2014, the court finally issued the judgment in favor of Seoul Semiconductor. So, in fact, the companies who invested huge amounts of money in the development of LEDs are now starting to protect themselves by approaching tier 3 manufacturers, for example. I think we will see more companies going to court because of patent infringements.
IP-safety is a key topic for the years to come and a strong IP portfolio is getting more and more important. SSC invests around 10% of the annual revenue into global R&D activities and holds more than 10,000 patents and cross-licenses.
What are the challenges and risks facing the lighting industry?
Low-cost and low-quality LED products harm the reputation of the LED industry in general and result in disappointment on consumer side. The challenge is that traditional lighting companies have to reposition themselves and become a technology leader in specific segments and provide a clear added value to their customers.
What would be the driver of growth in the next year? New technologies to come to the lighting market?
The drivers for growth in the next year is lm/w, $/lm and the quality of light.
New technologies that will establish itself in the market are our Acrich and WICOP technologies. In addition, we also believe in the success of npola in the long run. The key point is that this technology can increase the light output by a factor of 5-10 using the same chip size as for conventional LEDs and still keep the high efficacy. In other words, we could reduce the chip size by a factor of 5-10 and generate the same light output as from conventional LEDs. At the moment there are early adopters for premium niche markets, however SSC’s strategy is to target the high volume market. As the substrate is still expensive, we haven’t launched a product for mass applications yet. The technology shows much better droop behaviour and is ideally applicable for higher currents. Applications for spotlighting, wave-guides or automotive lighting would gain a lot from it. In general, the manufacturing costs will have to come down. The nPola technology is a future trend, especially for high-performance light sources, and that’s why SSC is also doing research in this area.
Tell please a few words about your company. What are your company’s plans for next year?
In addition to focusing on our core technologies Acrich, WICOP and npola, we will put an emphasis on our module business with the goal to support our customers on an engineering level. For this purpose, we have built up so-called small R&D labs in Munich, Shanghai, Tokyo and Atlanta. These labs support application and design - especially for custom-specific product designs. They are equipped with modern measurement, design and layout tools which can be used for Acrich or DC system developments. Originally these labs where driven by the support demand of the Acrich product segment.