Cheryl Diuguid, VP of GT Advanced Technologies: The New Outlook of LED Sapphire Market

Over the recent years, the global LED capacity has been expanding rapidly, which is attributed to the booming growth of LED backlight and LED lighting market triggered by the capacity expansions of LED upstream and downstream players. LED sapphire substrate industry is the upstream sector most relevant to the LED chip industry, as sapphire substrate is one of the most important materials of LED chips. The development and directions of related equipment makers are also closely followed by the market.

LEDinside conducted an exclusive interview with Cheryl Diuguid, Vice President and General Manager, Sapphire Equipment and Materials Business, GT Advanced Technologies Inc. (former GT Solar), in which she gave insights into the LED sapphire material and equipment market.

Cheryl Diuguid, Vice President and General Manager, Sapphire Equipment and Materials Business, GT Advanced Technologies Inc.

Diguid, who possesses abundant experiences in chemical and technology industries, is currently in charge of the sapphire equipment and materials business of GT Advanced Technologies, with the emphasis placed on the Asian market. In regard to strengthen the company’s position in the sapphire equipment market, GT Advanced Technologies acquired Crystal Systems, a major sapphire materials and equipment supplier. Prior to the acquisition, Crystal Systems has supplied the LED industry with sapphire products, including sapphire materials and furnace, for more than 40 years. The company is not only a material supplier but also an equipment maker.

Sapphire materials

Advanced Sapphire Furnace

GT Advanced Technologies, whose sapphire equipment targets at mid and large scale manufacturers, established a plant in Salem, Massachusetts for the purpose of largely increasing capacity and enhancing quality. The expansion plan starting from fall, 2010 with a cost of US$ 2.7 million can triple the plant’s capacity. The goal is to supply the industry with high-quality sapphire materials with great capacities and reasonable prices.

Furthermore, Diuguid also provided a concrete proof to demonstrate the solid quality of GT Advanced Technologies’ materials. Recently, the company released a case study, which was conducted by a third-party institution, entitled “Yields Matter: The Impact of Sapphire Material Quality on the LED Wafering Process.” The study suggests that sapphire material quality has a direct impact on LED wafer yields. Due to the fact that it is a blind study, its credibility is pretty high. Key wafering parameters including wafer geometry (surface roughness or Ra, total thickness variation or TTV, warp and bow) and the rate of wafer rejections are evaluated in the study.

Also, the study indicates that with the ASF method GT Advanced Technologies institutes, the company’s products outperform in terms of average RA, TTV, Warp and Bow compared to those of its competitors which adopts KY or HEM method. The high quality of products goes to show the superiority of GT Advanced Technologies’ materials and equipment. With respects to ASF method of sapphire manufacture, GT Advanced Technologies’ rate of wafer rejections averages about 2.4%, lower than those of competitors (6% and 6.9%).

In addition, Diuguid compared the company’s new sapphire equipment ASF 100 with the old model ASF 85; the former has higher capacity as well as better sapphire purity and quality. She mentioned that ASF series equipment fulfills the manufacturers’ needs for upgrade and capacity expansion, and gives them more flexibility in terms of capacity adjustment. With the new OHT technology, crystal twinning and low angle grain boundary issues can be solved.

Diuguid also predicted that in LED sapphire price will continue to drop in 2012, which means the manufacturers can acquire materials and substrates with lower prices. It is expected to greatly help the expansion of the LED lighting market and LED penetrating rate.

She also stressed that the design of GT’s sapphire substrate caters to manufacturers with large capacities, which can result in a bigger economy scale. Moreover, the company has many technology support teams and training centers located around Asia to provide Asian clients with equipment operating training and help them optimize their manufacturing processes.

延伸閱讀:GT AT的藍寶石設備介紹影片


By Lowy Chang

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