Lighting Japan 2014: OLED and Its Many Forms

OLED and Its Many Forms

The general conception for OLED applications has been: pretty fancy designs. In the past OLEDs have been mostly used in luxury luminaires, with hefty price tags that only a few can afford. However, manufacturers are looking beyond the niche market of designer made luminaires to more general markets at Lighting Japan 2014, a lighting exhibition event that runs through Jan. 15-17 at Tokyo Big Sight.

OLEDs for personalized office lighting

Acuity Brands Lighting is positioning itself in the commercial lighting market, and has future plans of entering the residential lighting market, said Min-hao Liu, Director of OLED Lighting Design Center, Acuity Brands Lighting during “Promising Applications for OLED Lighting” seminar at the exhibition. “In the past most of the company’s lighting products were customized,” said Liu. “But we are considering entering the general lighting market in a few years.”

Min-hao Liu, Director of OLED Lighting Design Center, Acuity Brands Lighting
Min-hao Liu, Director of OLED Lighting Design Center, Acuity Brands Lighting at Lighting Japan 2014 “Promising Applications for OLED Lighting” Seminar on the first day of the show. (LEDinside)

Liu presented a prototype lighting designs for office lighting, including an individualized interactive cubicle lighting, Lumen Being, that gives lighting resembling a vertical luminous cocoon. The lighting can move up and down and tilt accordingly. But don’t get too excited. The mass production of the OLED luminaire will not be anytime soon, and will still need a few years. OLED is ideal for personalized lighting because it creates fewer disturbances to surroundings compared to LED, said Liu. Although, interactive lighting remains a relatively novel technology, there is still a potential market for this type of lighting.

“Interactive lighting is new everywhere, demonstrate that and the market will follow,” said Liu. “Why a luminaire that moves? (We) see movement as a way to communicate to signal…and to add value to lighting to make it more than light and see.” Liu noted Acuity Design Lighting is trying to create a new paradigm of making luminaires interactive, intelligent and beautiful.

General OLED Lighting Market

Philips Lumiblade has shown its ambition in the general lighting market, and demonstrated its OLED advantages during the same seminar. “We plan to become the number one in OLED industry with focus in lighting,” said Wolfgang Gorgen, Program Manger Strategy, Business Center OLED Lighting, Philips Technology. The company’s technology R&D is being driven by a focus of surpassing LEDs. Philips Lumiblade’s second generation OLED module GL350 Typ2 has achieved similar efficiency and lumen output as LED bulbs of 45 lm/W, and has a target of surpassing LEDs 90 lm/W. In terms of lumen flux, under high currents the GL350 can reach about 600 lumens, similar to that of an LED bulb. The company also claimed launching the world’s first OLED mass production line in 2013 to mass produce OLED panels in efforts to bring down costs. A pilot OLED production line was established earlier in 2007.

Wolfgang Gorgen, Program Manger Strategy, Business Center OLED Lighting, Philips Technology
Wolfgang Gorgen, Program Manger Strategy, Business Center OLED Lighting, Philips Technology at Lighting Japan 2014. (LEDinside)

 Although, the company showed clear intent of venturing into the general lighting market, whether technological wise or prepping its production capacity in advance, most of the examples Gorgen presented were still decorative lighting applications with an emphasis on OLED aesthetic design concepts, including the 1,680 Philips Lumiblade GL26 tiles installed in the the Kuala Lumpur VIP club in 2013.

 Kuala Lumpur VIP club OLED panel installations .(LEDinside/Philips Lighting)

Gorgen also admitted there is still room for technological improvements, and it will still take another two to three years before OLED prices can be affordable enough to win over consumers. An observation similar to LEDinside analysts, that OLED technology will not be widespread till 2016-2017 because of costs involved.

SYNQROA Thinks Out of the Box

 Thinking beyond luminaire and general lighting designs, Synqroa, a new Japanese OLED player in the market presented a portfolio of products that came quite as a surprise. The joint presentation delivered by the company’s Vice President of Development Mitsuhiro Koyama and Vice President of Marketing Jun Shimada delved into some uncommon applications.

The company’s main market focus is in medical lighting. Unlike LEDs that have hazardous blue lights or CFLs that emit harmful UV rays, OLEDs have no affect on human health, said Koyama. In addition, the lights are shadowless and have the features of transparency which makes it an ideal for surgery light applications. The company is already employing OLED technology in circadian lighting applications in hospitals and for hospital lighting. The medical lighting market remains relatively price competitive, but the company believes by selling at US$ 30-50 per panels with a CRI 90, it still retains a competitive edge.

Another market the company is vying after is the beauty industry, with the marriage of OLEDs with mirrors in cosmetic products. Solutions ranged from personal compact powder cases to department store and hair salon applications. The company reasoned OLED luminance is very close to natural light and sunlight at 3,000 cd/m, which portrays skin tone and hair color more authentically. The lighting is ideal for beauty industry applications, and for matching hair dye colors in beauty parlors. The lights also have cooler temperatures, which is ideal for close up applications including fake eyelash implants.

Other market applications mentioned included fish tank lighting, where 3,000 kelvin OLED panels can help tropical fish change their colors; OLED reading lights targeting well-funded Asian and Middle East airlines; and medical cabinet and bathroom applications. For airline applications, the fact that OLED has no glare and creates minimal disturbance was once again emphasized.

Chan de Ring OLED chandelier follows Synqora company design concept of concealing lighting sources. The high-end chandelier will cost US$ 10,000 after mass production this year. (LEDinside/Synqora)

The company also has plans of mass producing its high-end OLED chandeliers Chan de Ring this year. The chandelier first launched at last year’s Lighting Japan will cost US$10,000 per unit, and has begun receiving orders in 2013. Another interesting chandelier mentioned included “Please of Middle East Asia”, a crystal OLED chandelier that the company hoped would catch the eye of a Middle East King or sultan. The company has shown a very strong interest in the Middle East market during the seminar, and said they are targeting this particular sector.

Judging from its widespread portfolio, Synqroa is incorporating OLED technology into daily lives, while seeking entry into highly profitable lighting sectors. Although, the company believes there is a market for medical and beauty industry, it still needs support from the Japanese government.

Overall, similar to moving designer clothing from the runway to the average household wardrobe, manufacturers are trying to get OLED off the "exclusively designer made" label. Manufacturers shared similar outlooks that OLEDs greatest strength is its aesthetic form and design, which makes it visually appealing. Prices and technological difficulties still remain a concern for manufacturers, but some are trying to overcome this tech barrier by seeking out profitable niche markets. 

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