OLEDs will face stiff competition from classic LEDs, market researchers say

November 28, 2012 // By Christoph Hammerschmidt
Until now, OLED revenue has been driven mainly by display applications, but the industry is now targeting the lighting market based on the technology specificities in terms of design (form factor) and efficiency. In this market however, the OLED technology will encounter a formidable competitor in the established LED technology, finds Yole Developpement. A Yole report published by Global Informations describes the consequences.

LED technology has already paved the way with a revolution in Solid State Lighting (SSL) that has drawn attention away from OLED over the last 10 years. Added to that, the high cost of OLED technology will not make mass market penetration easier and current low efficacy could slow adoption, the market researchers predict.

OLEDs will develop slowly in the lighting market and attract mainly niche applications in specialty and high-end lighting. In these application fields, OLEDs will differentiate through design possibilities. To access traditional market segments such as commercial lighting or office lighting, OLED technology will have to find a spark, as well as combine enough different niche markets to achieve the economies of scale that will decrease costs. In the estimation or the Yole market reseearchers, this should be triggered by 2014 with the use of larger substrates and better process control.

Yole estimates that OLED lighting panels will reach a market size of nearly $2.8M in 2012 and will peak to nearly $1.7B by 2020. Growth will be driven mainly by General Lighting applications, representing more than 70% of the overall OLED lighting business in 2020.

As for any emerging technology, a large variety of materials and OLED structures are used in production or tested. Moreover, alternatives to existing materials are still actively researched in order to improve the light performance, lifetime, and decrease manufacturing costs. Although the uncertainty about the future winning material approach between small-molecule OLED materials and polymer materials remains, polymers continue to struggle to demonstrate the ability to turn their cost and performance potential into an industrial reality.

Rigid glass maintains its exclusivity as a substrate material in OLED lighting panel production. However, progress has been made in the development of techniques, such as roll-to-roll processing, the development of flexible ultra-thin glass and flexible encapsulation solutions, which will enable the progressive penetration of flexible OLED panels into the lighting market.

The wide variety