The LED backlight market has rapidly emerged in the TFT LCD industry and is expected to continue growing for the next five years, according to DisplaySearch's latest Quarterly LED & CCFL Backlight Report. Specifically, DisplaySearch forecasts the penetration rate of LED backlights for LCD TVs to grow from less than 3 percent in 2009 to 40 percent in 2013 and surpass CCFL backlights in 2014 with more than 50 percent penetration rate.
Meanwhile, large-area LED backlight shipments for all applications will grow from 84.9 million units in 2009 to 434.8 million units in 2013, when LED backlights will be used in 54.3 percent of 10 inch plus TFT LCD panels. Thus, LED backlights will become mainstream in the TFT LCD industry.
While LED backlights for LCD TVs are growing rapidly, notebook PCs are the leading application for large-area LED backlight units, and DisplaySearch forecasts that 100 percent of all new notebook models will have LED backlights by 2012. Figure 1 shows the large-area LED backlight penetration in each application.
Figure 1: Large Area LED Backlight Unit Penetration Rate by Application
Source: DisplaySearch Q2'09 Quarterly LED & CCFL Backlight Report
Backlight units for LCD TV are expected to be the next growth opportunity for the LED industry, with leading brands such as Samsung, LG, Sharp and Philips all expected to mass produce LED backlit LCD TVs in 2010. As a result, LED backlight units for TVs will grow to 3.6 million units in 2009 and 15.1 million units in 2010.
Companies like Samsung are focusing on the development of edge-lit LED backlights, which can reduce the bill of materials by 30-40 percent compared to direct-lit models. "Edge-lit LED backlight units for LCD TV are a temporary solution to drive costs down to open market acceptance for 'LED TV' as short-term marketing strategy," noted Luke Yao, DisplaySearch Research Director. "Consumers want a low-cost solution with acceptable picture quality, but aren't always willing to pay a higher premium--making edge-lit LEDs an ideal near-term solution."
For the monitor segment, cost and performance remain bottlenecks for panel manufacturers creating LED backlit monitors. Taiwanese panel makers like AUO and Innolux have been the most aggressive in developing LED monitor panels. Because LED monitor panel sizes (18.5"W, 21.5"W, 23.6"W and 24"W) are also used for TV, DisplaySearch refreshed its forecasted penetration rate for LED monitor backlight units to 21 percent in 2013. Currently panel makers are putting efforts into shrinking the LED backlight premium to $3-5 for 18 inch wide panels. From 2010, we expect that LED backlight monitors will be developed and supported by brand name makers.