The impact of the sapphire industry on the LED industry is likely to become bigger in the future because of the recent partnership between GTAT and Apple (Q4-2013) to set up a large sapphire manufacturing plant ($1 billion). The plant, having a rough capacity of 2 times the current qualified sapphire capacity, could totally modify the structure and evolution of the sapphire and LED industries in the next few years.The report presents all recent technological trends of LED Front-End manufacturing, detailing evolutions at substrate, epitaxy, lithography, plasma etching and deposition, PVD and testing levels.INCREASED COMPETITION WILL ACCELERATE NEW LED MOCVD REACTOR DEVELOPMENTLED epitaxy has also been of central interest to the LED Front-End industry that has seen the entry of several new players in the MOCVD reactor market since 2011 / 2012. Even if increased competition has not really affected the market’s top leaders (Aixtron, Veeco and Taiyo Nippon Sanso), it has forced them to accelerate development of the next generation of MOCVD tools to lever market entry barriers. This generation of MOCVD reactors should focus on Cost of Ownership, see the emergence of enhanced designs, with new heating systems, new gas-flow designs, and increased automation (…).Regarding lithography, plasma etching and deposition, PVD and testing, mostly incremental evolutions have occurred (such as improvement of throughput, and ASP decrease…) reflecting a saturation in technological development.The report presents a detailed analysis of LED epitaxy, highlighting main trends at process, technology and equipment levels.FLIP-CHIP TECHNOLOGY AS THE NEW BATTLEGROUNDAs flip chip gradually matures, LED manufacturers are actively developing this technology as it provides several advantages: larger light-emitting area and highest luminosity, better heat dissipation, adjustable dimensions and no wire-bonding.While this design was mostly in the hands of a few big LED manufacturers (such as Cree or Lumileds), in 2013, Taiwanese manufacturers also started to develop it (Epistar, FOREPI and Genesis Photonics mostly).In 2014, flip-chip technology should also make its way into the middle power LED market. Lumileds announced in Q3-2013 that it plans to introduce flip-chip technology into the middle power LED market; as the devices in this market have drawn the most attention from the 2013 general lighting applications market. Indeed, middle power LEDs (following the 2011 / 2012 overcapacity) havebecome mainstream in interior lighting applications.The report presents a detailed analysis of each LED Front-End manufacturing process step with additional highlights on LED chip design, key constituents of LED chip and main light-extraction techniques.FROM TECHNOLOGY-ORIENTED TO COST-ORIENTED MANUFACTURINGLED manufacturing still uses methods and practices that would be considered outdated in most semiconductor industries (e.g., manual wafer handling, with operators moving wafers with tweezers in (not so) clean rooms…). However, emergence of LED “giants” (such as Cree, Osram, Lumileds, Samsung or LG) have facilitated and speed up adoption of manufacturing paradigms from the IC industry to reduce overall manufacturing cost and increase product quality:
As a matter of fact, the gap will widen between Tier-1s and other players, pushing forward for industry consolidation.The report presents recent trends of the LED market, detailing evolution of the industry at market and manufacturing levels.