Booming Sapphire Substrate Demands Could Lead to Supply Shortage

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Apple’s recent interest in sapphire substrate has got the industry talking as to what future Apple product will use the material. Long since used in LED lighting applications and handheld devices, sapphire substrate will soon be the spotlight in the industry once Apple’s Arizona factory is up and running. 

LED lighting market demands have been growing strongly, especially for products including LED bulbs, tubes, and MR16 which continue to drive LED industry development. Leading LED chip manufacturers such as Seoul Viosys, Epistar, San’an Optoelectronics, and HC SemiTek have sped up production capacity expansion. Moreover, manufacturers have increased the number of 4 inch MOCVD units, boosting 4 inch sapphire substrate production from 40 percent in 2013 up to 43 percent in 2014. 

Handheld devices remain the largest driver for non LED market demands. Apart from Apple introducing sapphire substrate into iPhone lens protectors and home button key, LG has also included the material into the lens protector for their new LG G2. Other mobile device manufacturers are likely to follow suit. Non LED market application proportion is expected to reach 36 percent in 2014. LEDinside estimates that handheld device application demands will reach 31 percent. 

Growing LED backlight demands and other factors have led to a global PSS supply shortage. Industry insiders believe that this new wave of sapphire substrate demands will expand into the upstream sector, and affect products such as sapphire ingot. 

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