Consumer products fuel Taiwanese photonics industry

The Photonics Industry & Technology Development Association (PIDA), a government-backed research organization in Taiwan, forecasts sales for the photonics industry will boom this year, not only in Taiwan but globally.

TAIPEI, TAIWAN - The Photonics Industry & Technology Development Association (PIDA), a government-backed research organization in Taiwan, forecasts sales for the photonics industry will boom this year, not only in Taiwan but globally. The organization estimates a 15% rise in Taiwan’s photonics sector in 2005, bringing industry output to NT$1 trillion (US$32.8 billion), while globally the sector is anticipated to improve by 10% to US$212 billion.

Both figures, while strong, represent a slowdown from the gains posted in 2004. Last year, the world industry increased 13%, to US$194 billon, while the Taiwan industry gained 37%, to NT$881 billion (US$28.4 billion), from 2003. PIDA says that consumer electronics will replace information-technology products, such as personal computers (PCs), as the major applications for photonics components. Energy-saving products, such as solar cells, will also propel the industry ahead.

The organization forecasts optoelectronics demand to rise above US$20 billion worldwide this year, with optical storage media, image sensors and light-emitting components, such as LEDs, driving growth. Solar cells are also forecast to be in high demand as soaring oil prices push people to find alternative energy sources.

The optical input/output device sector posted only a moderate 4% increase, to US$41.3 billion last year as markets for copy machines, fax machines, laser printers, image scanners and bar-code scanners matures, though demand for digital cameras remains robust. PIDA expects the world market to grow at the same pace this year.

Optical storage sales slipped 3%, to US$43.3 billion last year as producers cut prices and transited to new products. Storage device sales amounted to about US$36.3 billion, while storage-disc demand totaled about US$7 billion. PIDA expects recordable DVD and next-generation DVD media to give the optical storage segment a boost this year.

The fiber-optics communications market grew by about 13% to US$25.4 billion last year, PIDA says. The organization notes that the industry is still gaining momentum after a three-year lull ending in early 2003. Demand for fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) devices is expected to be a key factor in the segment’s growth this year.

Last year, the optical components market increased 16%, to US$8.1 billion, while the laser-application market reached about US$2 billion, on par with the year earlier. PIDA attributes the growth in this market to surging demand for digital cameras and camera-equipped mobile phones.

Reflecting global market trends, Taiwan’s optoelectronic component, flat-panel display and optical component segments were the star performers in the photonics industry last year. Taiwan’s flat-panel display sector had total revenue of NT$556.9 billion (US$17.9 billion) last year, surging 60% from the year earlier and representing 64% of the island’s photonics industry. PIDA forecasts the segment to rise 30% this year to NT$669 billion (US$21.5 billion).

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