This post was written by Keith Dawson for UBM Tech’s community Web site All LED Lighting, sponsored by Philips Lumileds. It is archived here for informational purposes only because the All LED Lighting site may go dark at any time. This material is Copyright 2013-2015 by UBM Americas.


Monday Roundup: Big Sapphire

This week: Tridonic is refocusing on LEDs, Mercedes's Active Multibeam LED headlights, and the 12-inch sapphire nobody is using.

Who needs 12" sapphire wafers?
Digitimes recently mentioned that the Russian sapphire substrate supplier Monocrystal was showing 12-inch (300mm) wafers at the LED Lighting Taiwan 2013 show. While Monocrystal mentions attending this show on its website, it does not mention 12" wafers.

Monocrystal's 10-inch sapphire substrate vs. a 2-inch. (Photo: Monocrystal)

The sapphire producer Rubicon had announced the ability to produce wafers this large in January 2011. By June of that year, Micro News was mentioning that Monocrystal as well as Rubicon had shown 12-inch wafers. (Monocrystal's site notes that the company had achieved 8-inch wafers in August 2008, and 10-inch in 2010.)

Is anyone manufacturing LEDs on wafers this large? Not as far as I have been able to find out. (If you know different, please tell us in the comments.) This December 2011 piece by Rubicon's CEO quotes projections by industry analyst Yole that manufacturing on 6-inch wafers will become dominant, pulling ahead of the total of 2-, 3-, and 4-inch substrates, in 2014 or 2015. At that time Yole did not track or project substrates larger than 6 inches.

The advantage of scaling up the substrate size is that you get more usable dies and less wastage around the edge of the wafer. You can get 4 to 5 times as many LED chips from a 12-inch wafer as from a 6-inch (which has 1/4 the area). Whether this incrementally larger yield is cost-effective given the necessarily higher price of a 12-inch wafer is the question.

Tridonic going all-in on LEDs
The Austrian lighting manufacturer's business has been anchored by transformers and ballasts for fluorescent lighting. The company announced that it will be exiting its magnetics businesses by the end of 2013. Almost 19 percent of Tridonic's revenue now comes from LED-focused products such as drivers; they will be looking to grow this aggressively.

Mercedes announces Active Multibeam LED headlights
The new lamps, which will debut later this year, feature multiple LEDs (Mercedes didn't say how many) that are individually controlled 100 times per second to project the lighting pattern most appropriate to the conditions. The press release did not say so, but it is almost certain that these headlights will not be available on cars sold in the US. Current National Highway Traffic Safety Administration regulations require a manual control to switch between high and low beams.

Streetlight watch
Last week we surveyed a few cities in various stages of switching over to LED street lighting. Here is a quick list of a few more of the straws in the wind, very soon to become a hurricane, of LED conversions:

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