LED business news: Philips financials, Xicato module, Aixtron, EpiLEDs, CRS

Philips has reported second quarter sales growth of 3%, but much better results for LED and lighting, while Xicato has a new version of its remote-phosphor modules that render colors in a superior fashion. EpiLEDs buys new MOCVD reactors from Aixtron and CRS announces Energy Star products.

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Royal Philips Electronics (Philips) announced its second quarter 2013 financial results, marking five quarters of growth and news that LEDs and solid-state lighting (SSL) continue to outpace the company's overall performance. Remote-phosphor specialist Xicato has announced a new LED module that it says delivers a richer color gamut and documents that claim using the Gamut Area Index (GAI) metric that was developed by the Lighting Research center (LRC) at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Aixtron announced that it received an order for two Crius II-L MOCVD reactors from EpiLEDs, while CRS Electronics announced the first Energy Star qualifications for the QuantumLED family of retrofit lamps.

Philips CEO Frans van Houten acknowledged that the company faced a challenging economic environment in delivering 3% revenue growth to EUR 5.7B (billion) over the same quarter in 2012. Philips doesn't break out the details of Philips Lighting's performance, a division that includes LED maker Lumileds. But van Houten said that while comparable sales in lighting were up 2%, LED-based sales increased 28%. Moreover, LED sales now account for 25% of the sales for the lighting division.

Xicato color rendering

Xicato announced a new Vibrant Series of LED modules based on remote-phosphor technology that the company said offers superior color rendering. Essentially, the technology is available across the existing line of the company's XSM round modular light engines as an upgrade to the previously announced Artist series that made news at the end of 2011, reaching a CRI rating of 95.

Like the Artist Series, the Vibrant products target applications such as high-end retail where small improvements in color rendering can increases sales. Xicato hasn't said how it achieved the upgrade specifically, but has rated the modules with a GAI of 111.

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The LRC developed GAI as a complement to CRI for measuring how lighting products perform especially when making colors appear rich and possibly over-saturated — a potentially positive result for retail uses, albeit one that is penalized by the CRI rating just as much as a source that results in an under-saturated appearance. Indeed, the 3000K modules have a CRI rating that's only specified as greater than 80.

"This is the only LED light that we have evaluated that brings out the brilliance and texture of objects, and does so without casting a cool or uncomfortable feeling to the room," said Werner Jost, managing director at Optelma France. The company is developing products that use the Vibrant Series.

Aixtron MOCVD sales

In the manufacturing equipment area, Taiwan-based EpiLEDs will buy two additional Crius II-L MOCVD systems from Aixtron. "We want a smooth ramp-up of production based on existing, proven technology," said MingSen Hsu, president at EpiLEDs. "The Crius II-L meets our requirements for high throughput enabled by semi-automated loading and best cost of ownership in class. Further, the system is already fully qualified for production of EpiLEDs' high-end LED power chips."

EpiLEDs has primarily participated in the backlight and indicator segments of the LED market, although Hsu's statement would hint that the company is looking to produce LEDs for lighting products. Still, the 2-inch wafers used by the reactors would place the company at a disadvantage relative to the leading manufacturers of lighting-class LEDs that have largely moved to bigger wafers.

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CRS Electronics lamps

In the LED-based lamp area, CRS Electronics announced that it has received the first in what it expects to be a series of Energy Star certifications for retrofit lamps that will be sold under the QuantumLED brand. Energy Star certification is often a de facto requirement for products to be covered by utility energy-efficiency rebates and other incentives.

"We are excited that the new QuantumLED lighting portfolio is in the process of achieving the Energy Star certification milestone," said Travis Jones, CRS Electronics president & CEO. "Once completed, it will offer the highest lumen output, efficacies, and color temperature ranges on the market. It will also feature 2200K color temperatures as a standard option throughout the entire product line."

CRS said that the Energy Star lamps will be available from electrical distributors beginning in September. The company is currently evaluating additional distributors to carry the lamps across North America.

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