Niche applications will help OLED lighting market reach $1.9bn in 2025

Dr Khasha Ghaffarzadeh, IDTechEx



OLED lighting is an emerging solid-state lighting technology. It potentially provides a route into the large and growing global lighting market. It however faces a critical differentiation challenge vis-à-vis incumbents such as inorganic LED lighting. In the new report OLED Lighting Opportunities 2014-2025: Forecasts, Technologies, Players IDTechEx has assessed the technology and markets for OLEDs in the lighting sector. We find that the market will be slow to take off until 2019-20 but will reach $1.9 billion in 2025.

For new entrants, OLED lighting potentially provides a route into the large and growing global lighting market. For existing players, it provides an opportunity to differentiate and stand out in increasingly cost-sensitive, commoditised and technologically-mature inorganic LED market. At the same time, it is a long-term risk that can potentially cannibalize their growing markets around inorganic LEDs once performance and cost parity is approached.

The OLED technology is however still comparatively young and the inorganic versions are ahead in terms of performance, production volume and cost reduction. This has opened a wide performance and cost gap between inorganic and organic versions. This inevitably means that, in the interim before parity is approached, OLED lighting must carve out niche markets based on its unique offerings.

And herein lies the challenge. OLED technology offers surface emission, flexibility, thinness, warm colour distribution and cold emission. These are all strong selling points on their own but they are not always unique.

For example, inorganic LEDs can attain effective surface emission thanks to waveguides, although the performance and cost gap narrows in this case. OLED’s colour emission spectrum resembles natural light closely and may be what customers prefer if the performance/cost gap is narrowed. LEDs however are now also able to closely re-create a similar spectrum by controlling the emission of individual green, blue and red emitters.

OLED displays can offer flexibility and thinness, meaning that new designs are possible and that the panel itself can be thought of as a luminaire. There are technology challenges that have slowed the full commercial launch of flexible versions. However, the pressure building up in the value chain combined with commitments from large players such as Konica Minolta and LG Chem suggests these barriers are nearly resolved. OLED can also create emission at cold surfaces allowing the light sources be in close (touching) proximity to the user.

Customization will be advantageous
We find that OLED manufacturers recognise the need for differentiation. This is why companies like LG Chem and Konica Minolta have announced plans to produce flexible and thin versions. We assess that non-tangible design factors will be the first demand creators for OLED lighting. Here, the ability to create customised designs as much as possible at the manufacturing stage and before the luminaire design stage will be a competitive advantage. This is why our forecasts suggest architectural, hospitality and shop segments will be the first to grow as they prize design parameters the most.

The automotive sector is also promising given the recent announcements by companies like BMW but lifetime and reliability still need to be improved. Residential, office, and outdoor segments to follow later once cost decreases and lifetime is prolonged.