LED business news: Lynk Labs, Thomas Research, Ledzworld, EcoSense, Once, and Rubicon

Nov. 13, 2013
An AC-LED partnership between Lynk Labs and Thomas Research Products; funding announcements from Ledzworld, EcoSense, and Once Innovations; and new large-diameter patterned sapphire substrates from Rubicon top the recent SSL news space.

Thomas Research and Lynk Labs announced a partnership that will yield cobranded AC-LED products including chip-on-board (COB) LEDs and modules, and perhaps discrete AC-driver products. Rubicon is now making patterned sapphire substrates available to LED manufacturers in large diameters. Several LED and solid-state lighting (SSL) companies have announced new investment financing including Ledzworld, EcoSense, and Once Innovations.

Strategic partnership

The partnership announcement between Lynk Labs and Thomas Research Products is a bit tough to decipher although the duo defined it as a strategic relationship. Lynk Labs is a manufacturer of LED light engines using AC-driver technology, while Thomas manufactures modular AC-DC drivers for luminaires. Both do sell to luminaire makers, although there is little synergy between the existing product lines of each company.

Lynk Labs, however, said that Thomas can help Lynk reach a broader audience with AC-LED technology just as the SSL industry is increasingly receptive to the AC technology. "Not only is AC LED now an established market segment, but one seeing rapid and substantial growth," said Chick Huber, Lynk Labs vice president of business development. "We’re excited that this new partnership brings TRP's manufacturing strength and broad distribution reach to our AC-LED offering."

The announcement did specifically mention COB LEDs — an increasingly popular technology for SSL manufacturers that allows development of a lamp or luminaire using a single source. Presumably, you could integrate the AC-driver technology, which is much simpler than an AC-DC driver, directly on the COB substrate. But the partners didn't provide any such detail.

We'd suspect that the partnership might ultimately make Lynk's AC-driver intellectual property (IP) available in some form, an IC or a module, independent of the LED light engine. That's a growing trend with Texas Instruments most recently announcing an AC driver IC. Such a product would be a natural addition to the Thomas portfolio. But Lynk CEO Mike Miskin would not confirm any such plans.

Miskin did comment on the growing popularity of AC-driver technology and its evolution in the SSL space, saying it's quickly becoming a mainstream technology. "AC-LED circuits can be looked at like an enabling IP," sadi Miskin. "Like phosphor-enabled white light, AC-LED circuits enable AC-LED products up the food chain from the circuit level [including] chips, COBs, packages, drive methods, systems, and end product. Lynk has created IP vertically in all these areas."

New LED and SSL funding

We have had a bit of a rush of new funding announcements. Ledzworld, an LED manufacturer located in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, announced $5 million in new funding from its existing private shareholders. The company also announced the appointment of Ken Chakravarti as CEO.

"This new round of funding will enable us to meet the rapidly growing demand for our industry-leading products from an ever-expanding customer base across the globe and build up the necessary scale to remain competitive in this fast evolving market," said Chakravarti. "With this latest capital commitment, our shareholders have signaled their readiness to support the company in reaching the next level and have given Ledzworld the means to determine its own strategic path towards that point. This path could include forging partnerships with industry players to even more firmly secure our leading position in the premium segment of the LED lighting market."

EcoSense Lighting, an SSL manufacture based in New York, NY, announced a $15 million funding round led by Flagship Ventures and Bain Capital Ventures. "We are impressed with the contributions EcoSense is making to the evolving LED market," said Ed Kania, managing partner and chairman of Flagship Ventures. "EcoSense has a strong leadership team and a compelling strategy. We are eager to support their aggressive growth efforts."

Once Innovations announced a $5.3 million funding round led by New Fashion Pork, the Ag Ventures Alliance, and Lateral Capital. A couple of those names aren't as well known in the high-tech financing world but speak to the broad applicability of LED lighting and the mission of Once. The Plymouth, Minnesota company specializes in lighting that can increase production in a scenario such as pig farming, enhancing the environment for the stock.

"The Once team is working on the frontiers of science, in areas never researched before," said Zdenko Grajcar, CEO of Once. "We are working on new concepts and technologies which significantly depart from mainstream, orthodox theories. We are discovering new, essential roles animal-specific lighting plays in every animal's life. We are discovering that lighting can not only impact, but it can actually direct animal growth and development. We are developing technologies which can help a growing world produce more food at lower costs."

LED manufacturing

In closing we will move to the LED manufacturing space. Many LED manufacturers have moved to patterned sapphire substrates (PSS) in LED manufacturing because the patterning enhances light extraction. The largest LED manufacturers have developed their own substrate technology. But Rubicon is a commercial supplier of substrates and now will offer larger 6- and 8-in. PSS wafers to large and small LED makers.

"As LED-based general lighting gains worldwide adoption, large-diameter patterned sapphire substrates will become necessary to meet the demands of the rapidly growing lighting market," said Raja Parvez, president and CEO of Rubicon Technology. "Rubicon has developed an unmatched technology platform that is vertically integrated from raw material through crystal growth, large-diameter polished wafers, and now custom PSS in 4-, 6-, and 8-in. diameters. Our vertical integration enables Rubicon to produce progressively larger sapphire products while providing customers with exceptional quality, cost control, reliability, and consistency."