Organic light emitting diode (OLED) technology holds a lot of promise for mobile devices which are only going to proliferate in both the business and consumer markets. OLED, which is used for displays, uses very little power, can be applied to flexible substrates such as plastic, doesn’t wash out in bright sunlight and needs no backlighting. One of the limits to its widespread adoption however, are the materials used to manufactured OLEDs. The displays can be made using a type of ink-jet technology, but the materials used still have a few shortcomings, according to Yole Développement (Yole).
“OLED technology has a potential for innovative lightweight, very thin, even flexible and transparent lighting sources,” explains Pars Mukish, business unit manager, LED/OLED and sapphire activities at Yole. However the situation is not quite that simple: the multiplicity of OLED technologies makes the selection difficult and many challenges including high manufacturing costs, a non-structured supply chain… must be overcome.”
For a long time, OLEDs have been living in the shadow of the LED revolution and today, the OLED market is just 100 times smaller than the established LED sector. Under its new report entitled OLED for lighting – Technology, industry and market trends, Yole anticipates a $1.5 billion OLED market by 2021. According to Yole’s analysts, the future of OLED lighting is still uncertain. The added-value of OLED technologies have to be demonstrated towards the end-users.
OLED revenues are mainly driven by display applications especially by smartphones. But the OLED industry has also been trying to target lighting applications for several years, based on the technology specifics in terms of design or form factor and efficiency.
On this new battleground, OLEDs are competing with LED technology, which has already paved the way with a revolution in solid state lighting drawing attention away from OLED over the last 10 years. Added to that, the high cost of OLED technology is not making market penetration easier, current low efficacy is slowing adoption and the advantages claimed by OLED lighting companies are not necessarily perceived by the customers. OLEDs will therefore have to find niche or “spark” markets to develop production scale momentum and create a marketing window allowing them to demonstrate the advantages and possibilities of the technology to customers.
“Automotive lighting could represent one of the first “spark” markets for OLED lighting technology”, said Dr. Milan Rosina, senior technology & market analyst at Yole. “Indeed, with the recent integration of LED technology, lighting has evolved from a basic, functional feature to a distinctive feature with a high value potential in automotive.” OLEDs have a real potential to differentiate themselves from LEDs and offer new added value. The following developments confirm the market evolution:
- In January 2013, the German-based company HELLA, through the OLED project called “So-Light”, has collaborated with Fraunhofer FEP to develop an OLED rear lamp prototype. Mid-2014, the OLED project So-Light successfully concluded. •
- In March 2014, Hella proposed rear lamps with mixed technologies bent and curved OLED. This project was a collaboration between Hella, LG Display and the car manufacturer BMW. The BMW M4 GTS, commercialized in 2016, is the first commercial car to adopt OLED technology in rear lamps. “It is now a question of understanding what level of interest the technology will generate from automotive OEMs/Tier-1s,” said Dr. Rosina.
To access traditional general lighting segments including commercial lighting and office lighting applications, OLED technology will have to combine enough different niche or “spark” markets to achieve the economies of scale that will allow for a decrease in cost. In this field, several niche lighting applications are being investigated by the OLED lighting industry: medical lighting and embedded lighting among them. “At Yole, we estimate that OLED lighting panels have reached a market size of nearly $30 million in 2015,” said Pierrick Boulay, technology & market analyst at Yole. “The OLED market will grow to nearly $1.5 billion by 2021,” he added. Although more difficult to access, general lighting markets could drive this growth, provided that:
- Enough niche markets are identified to create a minimum production scale, and allow for further price reduction in OLED lighting panels/systems.
- Advantages of OLEDs, as claimed by OLED lighting companies, are demonstrated to customers.
Yole’s report is available on i-micronews.com, LED reports section.