Light and Building 2018: MLS Expands Offerings to Bolster Its Presence in Europe and the US

Over the past few years, MLS has been attracting more and more global attention. Not only did the LED packaging company top the industry in China, the scale of its electronic manufacturing service (EMS) business ramped up at a speed its competitors failed to catch up. In 2017, the establishment of Global Value Lighting with Lighting Science and the acquisition of LEDVANCE from Osram evinced the ambition of MLS for a vertical integration to approach end markets.

In 2018, the growth of the Chinese lighting behemoth continues. At Light and Building 2018, LEDinside interviewed Lawrence Lin, Executive General Manager of MLS, and learnt how the company gears itself up for the lighting trends in 2018.

Lawrence Lin, Executive General Manager of MLS, second from left, with the MLS OEM team (Image: LEDinside)

New Driver and Control Business for Smart Lighting

Lin acknowledged that lighting is transforming. The public and the private sectors are collaborating to turn light into a smart and clean resource. The US attempts to phase out halogen lamps by 2020, while the European Parliament in November 2017 issued an EU legislation aligning the Minamata Convention to ban the use of mercury-containing T8 tubes. The replacement of traditional lighting with LED lighting is also mandatory for rendering smart lighting in the era of IoT.

Smart lighting just took off. Due to the inelastic demand, its deployment in the commercial and industrial sectors grows much faster than that in the residential sector. However, Lin pointed out that, even if smart lighting now seems interesting yet unnecessary to the end-consumers, it will slowly become standard equipment as fixtures will be used as bases or nodes to link devices together and the light as a carrier of signals. Because of this reason, governments and enterprises are trying to raise the public’s awareness of smart lighting.

Many companies have already entered the smart lighting market, and so has MLS. Apart from positioning itself as a provider of high quality light sources, the company also starts manufacturing electronics components such as drivers and controls for smart lighting, revealed Lin. The new driver and control business is expected to first produce standard modules to meet the company’s own demand as the short-term goal, and then to eventually diversify the portfolio with new modules tailored for smart lighting after two to three years. For that future expansion, more investments and task forces will be planned for the new business, said Lin.

On the other hand, LEDVANCE, with its global reach and long development history of lighting products, will be in charge of downstream activities including product marketing and distribution.

The ambition of MLS is obvious. By self-producing drivers, MLS can have better cost control over as many products in a lighting system as possible. Now with the new business, the company aims to build an ecosystem in which lighting manufacturers use drivers or other components from MLS yet still can design their own products for differentiation.

Filament Manufacturing to See a 50% Growth 

At Light and Building 2018, MLS focuses on the promotion of its manufacturing service of LED lights and parts such as glass LED tubes, SMD LED bulbs, light housing, and LED filaments.

(Image: LEDinside)

In terms of the EMS business, as one of the largest LED manufacturer, MLS has teamed up with retail chains in both the States and Europe to expand it share in those countries. In particular, the manufacturing of LED filaments has seen the most growth.

In 2017, the sales of its LED filament business rocketed by over 100%. The majority of the LED filaments were distributed to the US and Europe as there saw the strongest demand, while a portion were consumed in Asia, said Lin. The demand from the European market goes up steadily, whereas it is less likely to see it escalate in 2018 due to the fact that a strong LED filament manufacturing ecosystem has already long existed in the market that emphasizes design and light quality more than other regions. Because of their aesthetic appearances and the warm light they emit, LED filament are widely used in decorative lighting products such as chandeliers.

(Image: LEDinside)

By contrast, the demand from the US market surged. The US announced to terminate the use of halogen lamps by 2020, compared with the EU’s goal to phase it out by 2018. Unlike Europe, the segment of LED filament in the US lighting market just started to grow, suggesting a higher chance for MLS to earn a larger share. In that regard, Lin projected that the sales of LED filaments in the US is possibly to witness a noticeable hike in 2018.

Likewise, the sales in Asia is anticipated to go up, just not as much as those in the two regions mentioned above, considering different user habits and preferences. Instead, the demand for glass LED tubes in the lighting market in Asia is relatively strong, most notably the demand from emerging market. Therefore, the main products to be marketed in this region in 2018 will be those in high demand.

“We expect a 50% growth in our EMS business in accordance with our business guidance for 2018, especially the LED filament manufacturing unit. We have developed solid connections with our overseas clients which will also be strengthened this year in hope to increase our penetration in Europe and the US,” Lin shared with LEDinside.

Lead the Upgrade in the Fine-Pitch LED Display Market

(Image: LEDinside)

As for the LED component segment, MLS will also make a big push in 2018. Apart from general lighting, MLS also supplies LEDs for a variety of advanced applications, such as fine-pitch LED display.

Fine-pitch LED display, particularly in China, has currently been developing rapidly. After a few waves of advancements, the average pitch size has been reduced from 4mm (p4.0) to 2.5mm (p2.5) and the mainstream LED packages used for those displays have also been shifted to SMD 2121 LEDs. Seeing the new demand for RGB LED generated by this application, MLS tapped into this field and successfully became one of the major LED suppliers, collaborating with established LED display makers such as Leyard.

In 2018, MLS plans to lead a trend to further downsize the average pitch size of fine-pitch LED displays by introducing to the market LED packages such as SMD 1919 LED and 1515 LED. “We aim to assist our clients to downsize the pitch size of their products to 2mm (p2.0) or even below with the employment of smaller and finer LEDs,” Lin expressed. “We will also try to maintain the cost of our LEDs at a competitive level to broaden their adoption in the market. With this upgrade, we believe the industry is able to manufacturing LED displays providing end-consumers with better image quality and viewing experience. And that will push up the demand even further.”

In addition, MLS also begins to develop high-margin applications, including IR LED, UV LED, and LEDs for automotive applications. However, as the development is still at its incipient stage, preliminary results are projected to be launched in 2020 at the earliest, concluded Lin.

[Editor's Note: A revision was made at 05:06 am, March 22nd 2018.]

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