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Uses of invisible LEDs have expanded in scope, creating new opportunities for the whole LED industry. At the same time, an increasing number of UV LED products have become available for curing, printing, exposure and other major applications. Demand for UV LEDs are expected to keep climbing as most countries worldwide have endorsed energy saving policies and ratified the Minamata Convention on Mercury.
“The largest source of revenue for UV LED suppliers in 2016 was the sales of UV-A LEDs,” noted Joanne Wu, research manager of LEDinside. “Because UV-A LEDs are mainly used for curing, some UV LED suppliers have entered the curing module market to further increase their profitability in this business.”
LED companies from South Korea and Japan were the dominant UV LED package suppliers by revenue in 2016. In the ranking, the top five suppliers in order were Nichia, Nitride Semiconductors, Seoul Viosys, LG Innotek and USHIO/Epitex. This year, South Korean LED companies are going to launch new series of UV-C LED products. UV-C LEDs, which have been technologically challenging to manufacture, will contribute greatly to South Korean suppliers’ revenues. Thus, there could be changes to this year’s revenue ranking.
Taiwanese LED companies are also eager to move away from the highly competitive blue LED market and into the UV LED market that has higher growth potential. Lextar, for instance, has released UV LEDs for curing and printing applications. The company is expected to accelerate product development and grow its client base this year. Likewise, LED chip maker High Power Lighting (HPL) and package supplier Epileds have formed a joint venture company Bioraytron that sells branded UV-C LED products. Bioraytron will also roll out new UV-C LED products in the second half of this year, and HPL anticipates that 30% of its annual revenue for 2017 will come from UV LEDs.
Looking at demand by applications, the largest segment of demand for UV-A LEDs comes from curing. Other major applications include printing and exposure. UV printing systems need LED modules that can produce a high level of irradiance, while UV exposure machines require LED modules that can achieve a high level collimated light. In addition, UV LEDs are also being deployed in some special curing applications that have recently emerged in the market.
As for UV-LEDs, recent technological advances in their manufacturing have allowed them to be deployed in more applications. LEDinside expects LED companies will roll out new UV-C products this year. Solutions for consumer appliances, air conditioners, air purifiers and still water purifiers will be first to arrive on the market and take off. UV-C LED products for flowing water purification are expected to enter the market later at a more opportune time.
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