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LED makers in Korea branch out into new markets

Falling prices for LEDs used in mobile phones has resulted in a shift in emphasis to next-generation products.

In search of new gold mine, domestic LED makers, including Seoul Semiconductor, Lumimicro and Daejin DMP, are branching out into next-generation LED markets such as light sources for automobiles, LCD backlight units and commercial lighting systems.


The moves have come as a result of falling prices for blue and white LEDs used in mobile phones. These prices have fallen to a level threatening minimum profit margins, as a result of aggressive marketing drives of rival companies in Taiwan and China.


"Now we can expect little from the market for blue and white LEDs used for mobile handsets," said Jeong Won-yeong, executive director at Lumimicro. "Exploration of new application markets including those for white LEDs with brightness higher than 1W seems to be the only breakthrough."


Industry observers anticipate that LEDs will be adopted in backlight units of LCD panels earlier than expected, and demand for LEDs used for automotive gauge boards and brake lights will surge by more than 50% annually. Demand for LEDs for commercial systems such as signboards and neon signs also increases fast.


Boosted by such growing demand for next-generation products, these LED manufacturers are gearing up to supply new high-brightness products that can be adopted for a variety of applications.


Seoul Semiconductor has developed a high-power LED, "Z-Power LED" and an LED lamp used for lighting of households by connecting directly to an AC power source. The company began supplying Z-Power LEDs to an automobile maker last year, and it plans to commercialize consumer LED lamps in the near future.


Having developed a 1W power LED chip measuring 1x1 mm, Lumimicro is giving a big push into the automobile and consumer markets.


Daejin DMP also recently unveiled a new LED lamp, "XLEDs", that can be used as a consumer lighting system without a converter.


"Competition is anticipated to be heated in the market for LEDs used for vehicles and commercial lighting systems between home-grown LED manufacturers and multinationals such as Lumileds Lighting, Osram, Nichia and Agilent Technologies," said an industry observer.

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