Taiwan Makers Emphasize Thermal Substrates Targeted at High-power LED Lighting

Taiwan continues to dominate the global production of ceramic thermal substrates, accounting for more than 70 percent of total shipments and supplying to Cree, Lumileds, Osram, Philips and Edison Opto. Makers in the island will remain focused on this type amid wide adoption in high-power LED lighting applications. It boasts greater heat conductivity than other thermal substrates such as metal-core PCB or MCPCB.

This emphasis on ceramic kinds also takes advantage of the fast-growing LED industry in the island. The latter’s production value in 2010 hit $5.6 billion, according to the Photonics Industry & Technology Development Association. The figure will reach $7.7 billion by year-end and $13.8 billion by 2013, registering an annual growth rate of 35 percent.

Automotive and solar equipment, LED TVs, and 3G and 4G mobile phones are the other major applications of ceramic thermal substances.

Thermal substrates can also be categorized as PCB, flexible PCB or MCPCB. The last is popular in LED and automotive fields. Among the major suppliers in Taiwan are Iteq, Taiflex, Polytronics, Gia Tzoong and Chin-Poon.

Ceramic substrates are either thick- or thin-film. The first is mainly utilized in automotive and military equipment, and the latter is for high-power LEDs and rules output. In terms of composition, the two major kinds are AlN and alumina or Al₂O₃. Although the last currently dominates supply, AlN is gradually growing in number as it offers better heat dissipation. Companies are also setting their sights on high-temperature co-fired ceramic with direct plated copper, which has a similar coefficient of thermal expansion to LED chips. This type provides good heat conductivity and stability under elevated temperatures. For the packaging, eutectic and wire bonding, flip chip and COB are the common methods used.

Viking Tech Corp. is among the manufacturers in Taiwan that have released metallized ceramic substrates such as Al₂O₃. The company said this variety delivers high heat conductivity, low resistance, and good thermal expansion and reliability. Alumina also boasts elevated power output and better refractive index matching and light uniformity. In addition, it can be easily packaged with Zener diodes and ICs. The surface finish can be gold, silver, copper, nickel or palladium. At Viking, some models have a silver coating and thermal conductivity of 17W/m•K.

There are currently 20 to 30 suppliers of thermal substrates in the island, most of which are publicly listed. New players from the PCB and CCL industries have entered the line, but their number will remain low due to the high capital and technology threshold. Viking, TA-I Technology Co. Ltd, Leatec, HolyStone, Tong Hsing and Polytronics are among the major players.

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