LED backlights for TVs coming faster than anticipated

June 1, 2006
NORWALK, CT-Conventional wisdom sees LED-based backlights not making significant inroads into large screen LCD-TVs until 2009 or so.
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NORWALK, CT-Conventional wisdom sees LED-based backlights not making significant inroads into large screen LCD-TVs until 2009 or so. But based on in-depth analyses done by Insight Media, it now looks as though LED backlights will be adopted much faster than previously thought.

Insight Media analysts say there are several factors driving this conclusion. First, development of high-brightness LEDs is occurring even faster than earlier aggressive forecasts, and these developments promise brighter, more compact LEDs. This will, in turn, enable the use of edge-illuminated backlight methods, even for large area LCD-TVs. Many developers are focused on direct LED backlights, which Insight Media believes won’t become price-performance competitive any time soon. Edge-illuminated backlights require fewer LEDs and, if forecasts for performance improvements hold true, they will become cost competitive with CCFL sooner rather than later.

A third factor is the ground swell of backlight innovation currently underway to replace films and other light management structures. The combination of these three factors is now likely to lead to cost-competitive LED backlight units by 2007 in 32” LCD-TVs, with larger sizes competitive in the following years. Couple this with the possibility of a company making a strategic decision to convert to LED backlights, and the factors are all in place to enable a rapid transition away from CCFL to LED-based backlight units beginning in 2008.

Intelligent backlights, particularly dimmable versions, will also make faster in-roads than commonly expected. Additionally, industry growth and technology changes will create headaches for CCFL BLU makers. We think CCFL shortages are likely to develop in 2007 because CCFL makers will be reluctant to invest in capacity that won’t be needed after the transition to LEDs.

Figure 1 shows the backlight unit forecast for the 40-44” segment by backlight technology through 2010, with the expected penetration of LEDs into the market. While CCFL will continue to be an important and substantial backlight technology, the bulk of the growth after 2009 will be in LED-based backlights.

Details of this and many other conclusions are included in Insight Media’s 2006 LCD-TV Backlight Report: Opportunity Analysis of CCFL and Alternative Technologies. The report is co-authored by Peter Jamieson, a 35-year 3M veteran with extensive experience in LCD materials and projection systems. Matthew Brennesholtz, the author of the reference text book, “Projection Displays”, provided additional analysis on the LED backlight opportunity. These and other Insight Media analysts will be at the Projection Summit (June 5-6, 2006, Orlando, FL) to discuss conclusions of the report.

About the Author

Chris Chinnock

Chris Chinnock is president and owner of Insight Media in Norwalk, CT. He is a 30-year display industry veteran with experiences in displays, broadcast, cinema, ProAV, and consumer electronics.

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