LED manufacturing equipment status report

June 21, 2012 — To support the next cycle of LED manufacturing, tools such as MOCVD, plasma etch, lithography, and others must undergo cost efficiency and yield improvements, says Yole Développement. Trends include migrating to larger wafers, silicon substrates, and tools developed specifically for LED fab, rather than retooled from semiconductor manufacturing specs.

The light-emitting diode (LED) market experienced an unprecedented investment cycle in 2010-2011, according to Yole Développement. The LED chip cycle was driven by demand in liquid crystal display (LCD) backlights, anticipation of a general lighting market boom, and generous stimulus subsidies from the Chinese central and local governments. The resulting overcapacity situation will take 12-18 month to absorb.

The next investment cycle, driven by lighting applications, will start in 2013. Expect a more limited cycle due to improvements in fab equipment throughput and yields. To enable massive adoption in general lighting applications, significant technology and manufacturing efficiency improvements are still needed to reduce the cost per lumen of packaged LED.

Figure. LED front end equipment market revenue (MOCVD, lithography, dry etch, PECVD, PVD). SOURCE: Yole June 2012.

LED manufacturing equipment trends

Front-end LED manufacturing typically represents about 50% of the total cost of a packaged LED. LED structures and materials are undergoing performance, manufacturability, and cost improvements.

The metal-organic chemical vapor deposition (MOCVD) equipment market represents a $4.3 billion opportunity in the 2012-2017 period. MOCVD represents the single largest opportunity for front-end cost reduction in LEDs.

Additional equipment — lithography, plasma etch, plasma-enhanced chemical vapor deposition (PECVD), physical vapor deposition (PVD) tools — together represent a $650 million opportunity and will essentially follow a similar trend, with some exceptions. The emergence of LED-dedicated tools has already contributed significantly to cost reduction in lithography, plasma, and PVD processing.

The market for dry etching tools is still growing in 2012 due to increasing adoption for patterned sapphire substrates (PSS).

Most lithography tools will see decreased market as LED makers transition to larger-diameter wafers. The number of wafer starts will see a moderate increase initially but start decreasing in 2015, said Eric Virey, senior analyst, LED, at Yole Développement.

PVD equipment will also experience moderate growth during the next investment cycle.

E-beam evaporators have turned into commodities, with systems available from dozens of vendors at very low cost. But opportunities exist in promoting sputtering for indium tin oxide (ITO) deposition, and sputtering could also gain some traction in metal deposition if the industry adopts large-diameter wafers and moves from batch to single-wafer processing. Sputtering equipment could then offer improved cost of ownership.

Learning from the semiconductor industry

With close to 100 companies involved in front-end LED manufacturing, the industry is too fragmented to generate significant economies of scale. Yole predicts massive consolidation within 3 years (2012-2015), which should speed up process and tools standardization and allow better economy of scale.

LED manufacturing still uses methods that would be considered outdated in most semiconductor industries. Consolidation and emergence of LED “giants” will also facilitate and speed up adoption of manufacturing paradigms coming from the IC industry.

Adoption of silicon substrates for LED manufacturing rapidly move LED epiwafer processing into existing, highly automated and fully depreciated CMOS fabs. This would also give LED makers access to extended “process toolboxes,” which could pave the way for entirely new LED architectures.

Traditional large semiconductor equipment suppliers are mostly absent from the LED manufacturing equipment markets. For MOCVD, the tools are very different than the epitaxy tools used in mainstream semiconductor manufacturing. Designing and building such equipment requires significant and unique expertise that Aixtron, Veeco and Taiyo Nippon Sanso, the leading companies in the sector, have acquired through almost 2 decades.

Other front-end LED manufacturing tools are similar in essence to those used in mainstream semiconductor fabs. However, they often require a full redesign to deliver optimum performance and cost of ownership for LED makers. Smaller companies eager to capture opportunity in this niche market are now offering LED-dedicated tools with cost of ownership (COO) payoffs.

Yole Développement’s new report, “LED Front-End Manufacturing,” is dedicated to the LED manufacturing technology & equipment market, including MOCVD, lithography, dry etching, PECVD and PVD tools.

Companies cited in the report:

ACC Silicon, Accretech, Advanced Dicing Technology, Advanced System Technology (AST), Advatool Semiconductor, Aixtron, ALSI, Altatech (Soitec), AM Technology, AMEC, And Corporation, Applied Materials, APT, Arima, ASM Pacific Technology, ASML, Astri, Aurotek, Autec, Azzurro, Bayer, Beijing Yuji, Bergquist, Bridgelux, Bruker, Canon, Cascade Microtech, China Electronics Technology Group Corporation (CETC), Chroma, Corial, Cree, Crystal Applied Technology (SAS), Crystal Optech, Crystalwise, Dai Nippon Kaken (DNK), Dai Nippon Screen Mfg, Daitron, Delphi Laser, Denka, Disco, Dow Corning, Dow Electronic Materials, Dynatex, Edison Opto, Epiluxy, Epistar, Eplustek, ESI, Eulitha, EV Group (EVG), Evatec, Everlight Electronics, Fittech, Formosa Epitaxy (Forepi), Four N4, Fraunhofer IZM, FSE Corporation (Fulintec), Galaxia, GE, GloAB, Hans Laser, Hansol Technics, Hauman, Heliodel, Hitachi Cable, Huga, Hybond, Iljin Display, IMEC, Intematix, InVacuo, Ismeca, JCT, JPSA, JT Corp, Jusung Engineering, K&S, KLA Tencor, Lattice Power, Laurier, Laytech, LG Innotek, Lightscape, Lightwave Photonic, Litec, Loomis, Luminus Devices, LWB, Maxis Co, Merk/Litec, Mitsubishi, Mitsuboshi Diamond Industrial, Molecular Imprint, Momentive, Monocrystal, MPI, Nanoco, Nanometrics, Nanosys, Nichia, Nihon Gartner, Nikon, NN Crystal, North Microelectronics, Novellus, NTT, Nusil, Obducat, Oerlikon Systems, OP System, Optest, Opto Supply Ltd, Orbotech, Osram, Oxfrod Instrument Plasma Technology, Palomar Technology, Panasonic, Philips Lumileds, Phosphortech, Plasma-Therm, Procrystal, Proway, Puji Optical, QD Vision, QMC, Quatek, Rigidtek, Rose Street Lab, Rubicon, Rudolph, Samco, Samsung, Sanken, Semileds, Seoul Semiconductors, Sharp, Shibuya, Sino American Silicon (SAS), Sino Kristals Optoelectronics, Sino Nitride, Sky Technology, SNTEK, SPTS, Stararc, Sumitomo Chemical, Suss Microtech, Synova, Tainics, Taiyo Nippon Senso, Tamarack, Tecdia, Technology & Science Enabler (TSE), Tekcore, Temescal, TeraXtal, Toyoda Gosei, Transluscent, TSMC, Ultratech, Ulvac, Uni Via Technology, Ushio, Varian, Veeco, Verticle, Wacker, Waferworks, Wellypower, Wentworth Laboratories, Withlight, YCChem, Ying Lyu, Zeon Chemical.

Dr Eric Virey, holds a Ph.D in Optoelectronics from the National Polytechnic Institute of Grenoble. In the last 12 years, he’s held various R&D, engineering, manufacturing and marketing position with Saint-Gobain Crystals.

Tom Pearsall started the European Photonics Industry Consortium (EPIC). Before EPIC, he works among others for Bell Laboratories, Thomson/CSF and Corning. He is a Fellow of the American Physical Society, EPIC, and the IEEE.

Yole Développement provides market research, technology analysis, strategy consulting, media, and finance services. For more information, visit www.yole.fr.

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