Lighting brightens LED market

March 1, 2009
SANTA CLARA, CA--The mood was buoyant at Strategies in Light, the leading global conference and exhibition covering light-emitting diodes (LEDs) and solid-state lighting, despite predictions that the overall LEDs market could fall by 5% in 2009.

SANTA CLARA, CA--The mood was buoyant at Strategies in Light, the leading global conference and exhibition covering light-emitting diodes (LEDs) and solid-state lighting, despite predictions that the overall LEDs market could fall by 5% in 2009. While some applications for LEDs, such as automotive lighting and mobile phones, have been badly hit by the current recession, the lighting sector is in good health. LEDs continue to penetrate an increasing range of lighting applications, with greater use of white LEDs in areas such as street lighting and even indoor illumination.

Held February 18–20 in Santa Clara, CA, Strategies in Light is hosted by market-research firm Strategies Unlimited (Mountain View, CA) and business-to-business media company PennWell Corporation (Tulsa, OK). There were more than 2000 registrants this year, up by more than 33% over last year. Overall, attendees and exhibitors were optimistic about the potential for growth in the lighting market.

A new parallel session, the LED Lighting track, was particularly well attended, drawing in architects and lighting designers to contribute to the discussion. According to Vrinda Bhandarkar, senior analyst at Strategies Unlimited, “If there is one thing to take away from this track, it’s that LED lighting is about much more than just LEDs. If the LED isn’t designed well into the fixture to properly throw the light, if the drivers aren’t designed to be efficient, and if the thermal properties are not matched to the LED design, the light fixture won’t deliver the efficiency and lifetime promised.&drquo;

The main conference was opened by Robert Steele, director, LED practice, for Strategies Unlimited, who presented his annual high-brightness (HB) LED market review and forecast. Steele said the market for packaged HB-LED devices grew 11% in 2008, but is likely to contract 5% in 2009. If this happens, it will mark the first time the overall market has declined since Strategies Unlimited started to publish data on the HB-LED market in 1999.

The 2009 event was the tenth annual running of Strategies in Light, which is supported by LEDs Magazine (www.ledsmagazine) as the flagship media sponsor. Steele gave a historical perspective on the HB-LED market, which was a mere $820 million in 1999. Between 1999 and 2008, said Steele, the HB-LED market grew by a factor of 6.2, reaching $5.1 billion last year.

Year-on-year growth has varied dramatically: the approximate 50% growth in 2000, 2002, and 2003 was driven by strong demand in the mobile phone market, but in between the market saw virtually zero growth in 2001 as the tech sector went into recession.

Growth rates dropped to below 10% in 2005, but have since risen gradually, and in 2008 the market increased by 11% compared with 2007. However, the fourth quarter of 2008 showed signs of market deterioration, particularly in the automotive lighting and mobile-phone sectors.

Unit sales of LEDs grew by more than 25% in 2008, reaching 48 billion units. Mobile appliances remained the largest application, with 43% of the overall market, compared with 9% for lighting. The mobile appliances sector showed the first positive growth (8.3%) since 2004, because of non-phone products (smartphones, MP3 players, laptop PCs, GPS, digital cameras). Not surprisingly, the highest growth sector was lighting at 39%.

Bleak outlook--except in lighting

Looking forward, said Steele, the “negative economic environment and bleak outlook for many LED end-use sectors indicate a lower market in 2009.&drquo; Visibility is very limited, and conditions could worsen. “Recovery could be delayed beyond 2010,&drquo; said Steele. “The only ‘bright spots’ are backlights for LCD TVs, and of course lighting.&drquo;

Strategies Unlimited expects the penetration of LEDs into the lighting market to continue into 2009, but with a lower growth rate of 17%, compared with the level of 35% that was forecast previously.

In the longer term, there is a positive outlook for the lighting sector, and Steele said that the market will get back on track, following the economic recovery. The prediction that the overall market will decline by 5% in 2009 includes a conservative forecast for growth in LCD TV backlights. This sector is the most uncertain of all LED sectors; when this application is excluded, the remainder of the HB-LED market will shrink by 10% in 2009.

Looking further out, Strategies Unlimited expects growth to resume in 2010, assuming the economy as a whole recovers. Between 2008 and 2013, the compound average annual growth rate is predicted to be 19.3%, with the market reaching $12.4 billion in 2013.

--Tim Whitaker,
Editor,LEDs Magazine

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