Editor's Note: The combination of LCD tech and LED backlighting create a relatively rugged, very colorful, and extremely thin display.The combination of performance and manufacturing maturity inherent make it almost impossible for any competitive technologies to find a decent foothold.

(DisplaySearch) AUSTIN, TEXAS —Light emitting diodes (LEDs) have been a hot topic in the TFT LCD market due to their rapid adoption in notebook PC displays and the high potential in LCD TV panels. In 2012, 34 billion LEDs will be used in TFT LCD backlights, in sizes ranging from 1” to more than 70”, up more than 300% from 8 billion in 2008, according to the new DisplaySearch report Display LEDs: Lighting Up the Display World.

A total of 70.8 billion LEDs were shipped in 2008 (see Table 1). There are two categories of LEDs used in display applications; active outdoor displays, which used 11 billion LEDs or 15% of the total in 2008, and LCD backlights, which consumed 8 billion or 11% of the total. Within LCD backlight applications, five key types are adopting LEDs: small/medium, notebook PC, desktop monitors, industrial applications, and most notably TV.

Table 1: LED Demand by Application (Millions of Units)
Application 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012
Backlight for 127 532 3503 6,230 8,193 8,873
Notebook PC
Backlight for 0 5 145 585 1,032 1,789
Desktop Monitor
Backlight for 16 150 1,461 4,890 10,525 15,102
Backlight for 4 189 475 701 879 1,114
Large Others
(includes Industrial)
Backlight for 6,662 7,253 6,046 6,768 7,059 7,244
Sub-total for 6,809 8,129 11,630 19,174 27,688 34,122
Active Outdoor 8,755 10,947 11,584 12,941 16,809 24,481
Signal 1,512 2,125 2,582 2,925 3,302 4,991
Automotive 3,665 4,587 5,371 6,213 7,582 10,681
Illumination 3,606 4,755 6,148 7,919 10,679 14,882
Others 44,314 40,245 38,491 46,716 51,504 77,854
Total 68,662 70,788 75,806 95,887 117,564 167,011
Source: DisplaySearch Display LEDs: Lighting Up the Display World

With the fast growth in LED outdoor displays and backlights, DisplaySearch forecasts that display LEDs, including 24 billion for active outdoor display and 34 billion for LCD backlights, will have a 34.7% share of the global 167 billion unit LED market in 2012, making display LEDs the largest market segment. Low-current LEDs will be the mainstream type used in large-area LCD backlights, due to cost, thermal management and luminance efficiency requirements. High-power LEDs, with a driving current higher than 350 mA (more than 1W), are not well-suited for LCD backlights due to thermal issues, and will mainly be used in general lighting applications that require high brightness.

Shipments of LED backlights for large-size (10”+) TFT LCDs will exceed 368 million in 2012, an amazing 25 times 2008 shipments. For LCD backlights, side-view LEDs enable slim design, and dominate small/medium LCD backlights. Large-size (10”+) LCD backlights typically use top-view LEDs, and with the increased penetration of LED backlights in notebook PCs and increasingly TVs, top-view LED shipments will pass side-view in 2010.

The penetration rate of LED backlights in notebook PCs will reach 52% in 2009, and DisplaySearch forecasts penetration will grow rapidly to 81% in 2010. In LCD TV, the penetration rate will ramp up from 3% with 3.6 million units in 2009 to 10% with 15 million units in 2010. Leading LCD TV brands including Samsung, Philips, Sharp, Sony, Toshiba, Vizio and LG are planning increased use of LED backlights starting in the second half of 2009. A driving factor is the change in LED backlight structure from direct to edge light type, which reduces the cost premium over CCFL backlights. Finally, LED backlights in desktop monitors are expected to reach 31 million units in 2012.

Eyeing the growing LED needs for their panels, nearly all panel makers are participating in the LED business through new LED companies or investments in existing manufacturers. DisplaySearch analysis indicates that Nichia and Toyota Gosei will continue to dominate the market for blue and white LEDs for LCD backlights over the next three years, due to their strong patent portfolios and customer relationships. However, Samsung LED, Stanley, Citizen, Showa Denko, Seoul Semiconductor and OSRAM are targeting growth in LED backlights for LCD TVs. Finally, Taiwanese makers like Lite-On, Chi-Mei Lighting, Lighthouse and Everlight are entering the backlight market with low cost structures.

The DisplaySearch Display LEDs: Lighting Up the Display World report also reveals that LED revenues for outdoor displays will reach $1 billion in 2009 and are expected to grow to $1.5 billion in 2012. The use of LED outdoor displays in the 2008 Beijing Olympics provided international visibility, and such events will be a driving force for growth in LED outdoor displays in the coming years.

“LEDs will create new growth for the TFT LCD industry due to characteristics such as lowering power consumption, meeting green requirements, adding dimming capability, improving color performance and enabling slim and light form factors for LCD panels and applications,” noted Yoshio Tamura, Vice President of DisplaySearch and the component research team leader. “On the other hand, TFT LCDs also provide new vigor to the LED industry, as they open up broader applications requiring higher quality and more advanced technology.”

Tamura concluded, “The interaction between the LCD and LED industries can be viewed as a key development in electronics in the coming decades.”

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