The Need for LED Standards

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The Need for LED Standards

By James Amano, Director, SEMI International Standards

Today, artificial lighting consumes about 20 percent of the world’s electricity. This will change as solid-state lighting, enabled by high-brightness light emitting diodes (HB-LEDs), replaces conventional light sources, with impressive economic and environmental savings. Reaching the full potential of HB-LEDs, however, will require the global LED manufacturing supply chain to collaborate on industry standards and technical roadmaps to increase efficiency, reduce costs and spur innovation.

HB LEDs are critical, semiconductor-based technologies for energy efficiency, safety and next generation displays. Improvements in cost per lumen and lighting quality of HB-LEDs are similar to those of Moore’s Law, following Haitz’s Law (every decade $/Lumen = 10X Lower, Lumen/Package = 20X Higher), promising huge opportunities in solid-state lighting, display backlighting and other high-brightness applications. For example, HB-LEDs have the potential to lower lighting expenses by $100 billion between now and 2020 by reducing the amount of electricity used for lighting by 50 percent.

Previous LED market expansions have been driven by automotive and consumer electronic indicators, but the current expansion is based on the push for green technology [LED backlight is also a strong driver]. LEDs are the most efficient lighting source ever, yet are free of the toxic material disposal issues associated with fluorescent lighting. While huge gains have been made in brightness and cost of lumen per watt, the pace of these efficiency improvements is predicted to slow down, so additional cost reductions will require productivity and yield improvements, and standards will play a big role.

Given the potential of the HB-LED market, a SEMI LED Manufacturing Steering Committee was formed earlier this year to investigate opportunities in standards and other areas. Over 30 industry stakeholders from companies such as Veeco, Kulicke & Soffa, Semilab, Brewer Science, and Phillips Lumiled participate, discussing issues such as:

  • Technology Roadmap- Globalizing and elaborating on the DOE Roadmap
  • Development of a Cost of Ownership/Manufacturing Model for time monitoring and supplier targeting
  • SEMI Standards needs assessment
  • Public Policy

LED-related activities are currently limited in scope and spread out over several different SEMI Standards Committees, such as Compound Semiconductor (Epitaxial Wafers, Sapphire Substrates, Polished Monocrystalline Silicon Carbide Wafers), FPD Metrology (Backlight Measurement), and Physical Interfaces and Carriers (automation). To focus industry interest in developing manufacturing standards, however, plans are underway to form a new SEMI Standards Committee dedicated to LEDs. The new committee, to be led by Phillips Lumiled, Veeco, and Semilab, is tentatively scheduled for official approval in late 2010. Initial efforts will focus on areas familiar to SEMI: wafer/substrates, carriers, process automation, and traceability.

Comparing the current state of LED manufacturing to semiconductor manufacturing in 1975 provides some interesting parallels:

1975 Semiconductor

  • Highly proprietary processes, often with customized and modified equipment
  • 2”-3” wafers
  • Throughput; Approximately 50 wafers per hour
  • Yields: Low ~50%
  • Equipment Utilization: ~50%
  • Lack of Standards!

HB-LED Manufacturing Today

  • Highly proprietary processes, often with customized and modified equipment
  • 3” and 4” wafers
  • Throughput; Approximately 50 wafers per hour
  • Optimal Yields: Low
  • Equipment Utilization: Moderate
  • Lack of Standards!

Just as the SEMI Standards Program has contributed to the historic growth of the semiconductor industry, standards are now poised to fuel the growth of the LED market. Chris Moore of Semilab, a member of the SEMI LED Manufacturing Steering Committee, makes it clear: “Good standards help everyone, equipment manufactures and producers alike, to reduce their costs.” He follows that "No matter how the industry goes, it’s clear that properly done standards will play a significant role, from standardizing substrate sizes though carriers and finally automation."

More information on SEMI LED manufacturing initiatives

In addition to Standards development, SEMI supports the development of the LED industry through expositions, industry advocacy, and market statistics.