Despite a cost hurdle, demand for light-emitting diodes
(LEDs) is soaring in applications ranging from automotive interiors to architectural
lighting, experts said at the recent Design &
Manufacturing Midwest held in Rosemont, IL.
with LEDs" session at the show said they are ramping up manufacturing of
LED bulbs and associated hardware, while experts flatly predicted that the
semiconductor-based lighting would overtake incandescent bulbs in the next
from now, we could see 50 percent to 60 percent of the lighting go to LED," said
Rick Zarr, a technologist for National Semiconductor, who spoke at the
sessions. "Incandescent will be in the Smithsonian. In some case, it may even
Semiconductor joined Allied Electronics, Avnet, The Bergquist Co.,
Coilcraft, Everlight, International Rectifier, Osram Opto Semiconductors and
STMicroelectronics at the event to demonstrate products and talk about the
future of LEDs.
repeatedly said that adoption has grown, not only in established LED
applications, but in new areas, as well. Osram Opto Semiconductors showed off
an LED-based headlight from an Audi A8 vehicle, and said that LEDs are starting
to dominate in vehicle interiors, as well as for daytime running lamps. "Some
European countries are actually mandating use of LEDs for daytime running
lamps," said Mike Godwin, director of visible LED products for Osram Opto. "And
virtually all new interiors are being done with LEDs." Godwin added that luxury
vehicles are increasingly employing the new technology because designers like
the flexibility it gives them to create headlights of unusual shapes. He cited
the Cadillac Escalade, along with the Audi A8, as examples of that trend.
Avnet Inc. teamed with Everlight Electronics to demonstrate an LED-based
flashlight, and with STMicroelectronics to show off a high-brightness LED light
powered by a solar panel. A STMicro engineer said that the solar-powered LED
could be employed in street lighting or for aircraft collision avoidance
Avnet representatives added that
customers are increasingly asking for LEDs in applications ranging from display
lighting to zone lighting to under-cabinet lighting. The company said that
those requests are a reflection of a larger trend. "Three years ago, about 10
percent to 15 percent of the vendors at Lightfair International were showing
LEDs," said Heather Robertson, technology director for Avnet. "This year, about
80 percent of the vendors were showing LEDs."
As LEDs migrate to high brightness
and higher power, suppliers of thermal management systems said they've also
seen a boost in business. The Bergquist Co., which makes a thermal management
product known as T-Clad, said that the rising adoption of LEDs has changed that
product's fortunes. "It was initially being used in automobiles, motor control
and power applications," said John Borell of The Bergquist Co.
"In the beginning, it was slow going. But now, with LEDs, the demand has risen
and we're reaching the edge of our capacity, so we've begun construction of an
additional manufacturing facility that will triple our output of T-Clad by the
third quarter of 2011."
Suppliers at the session agreed
that the high cost of LEDs is still holding the technology back, but new laws
and better manufacturing are expected to have a major effect over the next few
"Cost is a killer for this
technology," said Zarr of National Semiconductor. "But as we improve the
manufacturing and squeeze the cost out of the electronics that will change."
Unlike industrial robots, which suffered a slight overall slump in 2012, service robots continue to be increasingly in demand. The majority are used for defense, such as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs); and agriculture, such as milking robots.
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