Although OLED technology could be worth $1.5 billion by 2021, representing a larger share of the lighting market, the future of OLEDs remains uncertain, according to market research by Yole Développement (Yole). In order for the technology to reach its full potential, many challenges – including high manufacturing costs and a non-structured supply chain – must be overcome, the research found, and the added-value of OLEDs have to be demonstrated towards the end-users.
The report, entitled ‘OLED for lighting – technology, industry and market trends’ found that OLED revenues are mainly driven by display applications, especially by smart phones. However, OLEDs are competing with LED technology, which has already paved the way with a revolution in solid-state lighting, which has drawn attention away from OLEDs over the last 10 years. The high cost of OLED technology, current low efficiency, and advantages claimed by OLED lighting companies that are not necessarily perceived by customers, were also listed as barriers for market penetration and user adoption.
OLEDs will therefore have to find niche or ‘spark’ markets to develop production scale momentum and create a marketing window allowing them to demonstrate the advantages and possibilities of the technology to customers.
‘Automotive lighting could represent one of the first “spark” markets for OLED lighting technology,' said Dr Milan Rosina, senior technology and market analyst at Yole. ‘With the recent integration of LED technology, lighting has evolved from a basic, functional feature to a distinctive feature with a high value potential in automotive.’
The report pointed to a recent project between German company Hella, LG Display, and BMW, which resulted in the development of rear vehicle lights with curved OLEDs. The BMW M4 GTS, released in 2016, is the first commercial car to adopt OLED technology in rear lamps.
‘It is now a question of understanding what level of interest the technology will generate from automotive OEMs/Tier-1s,’ commented Rosina.
To access traditional general lighting segments, including commercial lighting and office lighting, OLED technology will have to combine enough different niche markets to achieve the economies of scale that will allow for a decrease in cost. In addition, advantages of OLEDs, as claimed by lighting companies, should be demonstrated to customers.
According to the market research, several niche lighting applications are being investigated by the OLED lighting industry, including medical lighting and embedded lighting.
‘At Yole, we estimate that OLED lighting panels have reached a market size of nearly $30 million in 2015,’ said Pierrick Boulay, technology and market analyst at Yole.
Yole’s report presents all OLED lighting applications and associated market metrics for the period 2013-2021, providing details about drivers and challenges, the status of OLED integration, and volume and market size per application.