War on LED standards developing, CSAS Striving, ISA TCS Not Delivering, Zhaga Booming

Despite the rapid growth and shining new applications, the field of standards developing in LED industry remains unclaimed, standards developing organizations from traditional lighting would not like to give up, and new organizations inside this industry have been fighting for every inch.


Deliveries not recognized

As the largest application market, China does not want to lose the influence on rules making in global LED industry even though the fact is they have been losing it as we speak. China’s leading LED industrial organization China SSL Alliance (CSA) pulled together its own Standardization committee, CSAS, last September, and started developing standards ever since.


After two months of establishment, five standards approved by CSAS in November, they are:

“Street lights and tunnel lights with self-cooling separated control device LED module ”;

“External constant current control device interface requirements for indoor LED lighting”;

“LED public lighting intelligent system interface application layer communication protocol”;

 “General specifications of LED lighting products testing and measurement and,

 “LED accelerated lumen depreciation testing methods


However, these deliveries have not received recognition, China’s MITT issued “Light Industry Standard ProjectSchedule” in April, in which SSL was listed under this category, which indicates its intention to declare all SSL standards developing should be under this category, and more importantly, under MITT’s lead and authority.


Five standards are also proposed to develop under this schedule:

 “LED Bulb Performance Requirements’;

“The CRI of White LED Light Source”;

 “Surface—emitting LED Lamp Technical Requirements”;

”LED Lamp Measurement Methods” and

 “LED Lights-Accelerated lifespan evaluationmethod


So we can see that there are two overlapping and conflicted topics of standards between CSA and MITT, and the earlier standards developed by CSAS was not recognized by MITT.


International LED standardization war: Zhaga vs. ISA TCS



As one of the fastest developing industry, the LED industry worldwide does realize they have to be better united and make rules instead of just making and selling stuff. Both Zhaga and ISA were founded in 2010, but with different focus. Zhaga was formed clearly focusing on standards developing and interchangeability, more specifically; ISA seems to be more comprehensively aimed and there is no description of its vision, this may somehow explained why it’s so lost, because they never had the idea of involving standardization until after one whole year of its establishment, the Technical Committee on Standardization (TCS) was established, not only lose the head start to Zhaga, but also missing the vision all along.


Zhaga has 278 members with at least more than 1 million US dollars revenue per year, has published 8 Books, certified 101 products, concluded agreements with 7 testing centers.


ISA TCS has held 2 meetings and decided 4 four focused topics to work on during the 2 years since its establishment.


Although the CSAS vs. MITT situation inside China is basically different from the Zhaga vs.ISA TCS situation globally, we can see surprisingly resemblance as one has been delivering results and making progress quickly, and the other has been claiming turf but no actual actions or deliveries.


Industry promotion vs. Government promotion

According China’s SAC (Standardization Administration of China), 48 LED related standards would be developed or modified, among which only 8 compulsory standards, which are still under governmental agencies’ authority to develop. However, some recommending or voluntary standards making opportunities have been granted to NGOs like CSAS. And judging from the facts, industry promotion like CSAS does show efficiency and delivery, which is good for the healthy development of this new emerging industry.


While globally, Zhaga’s success also proves the advantages and achievements of industry promotion. The confusing fact is that ISA TCS is also claiming to be an industry based non-governmental organization, while somehow it does not produce actual results like other non-governmental organizations in this industry, but just declaring turfs, which makes people can’t help thinking it’s so government style. The only problem is, it does not have government’s authority to make or deny other organizations’ standards developing activities. Maybe they should realize that in global context, authority has to be earned, by actions and deliveries, that’s also the essence of standardization, you cannot just requesting others should follow whatever you think is standard, you have to earn recognition and respect.

LED policy makers became cautious too, China’s local government abolished the ambitious LED Industry Development Plan

Despite the frequent policy making moves on the national level, China’s local government Shenzhen recently abolished the ambitious LED Industry Development Plan published in 2009, while the myth of LED was still on. However, the cold winter hit the rising industry like all of the sudden since 2012; no one would think the policy makers would respond so quickly and straightforward like many other directly stake holding players in this industry.


The risk of taking point

It’s reported that Shenzhen’s LED industry development plan was the first of its kind and long before MOST and NDRC released their overall industry development plans in 2012 and 2013. And on the industry side, Shenzhen was also taking point then. But there are always risks of taking point, you may be an example of success, and you may be an example of failure too.


No one wants to repeat the tragedy of Solar PV

Whether it’s the policy or the market, or both, the Solar PV industry ended up in the tragedy no one wants to repeat in this super big manufacturing and application country. Many have been thinking about if the LED industry will end up the same and obviously some has decided to take actions first.


Mission impossible? From 3% to 30% in 2 years

China’s MOST set an ambitious target of 30% market share of LED in general illumination by 2015, while NDRC was a little bit conservative and set the target as 20%. However, the reality is that number was 1% in 2011, and 3% in 2012. Thus it seems this industry needs to pull a rabbit out of the hat or they are going have to hire Tom Cruise to make it happen.


Be rational with passion

It is easier and persuasive to be passionate about a promising industry when it is in the stage of going up and making a lot of profits. But this cannot go on forever, real problems requires real solutions. How to ensure product reliability, how to lower down price for household customers, how to  standardization products to ensure quality, how to make customized policy measures, how to increase market share, there are the real questions that need to be answered before making new promises.  

With Suntech’s downfall, what will policy makers and other emerging new tech rethink?

Back to 2008, when Suntech’s stock price reached $90 per share, it marked the peak of the solar PV empire, and the boss of which was the richest man before that in 2006 and received the award of “50 people who could have saved the world” by Guardian in 2007. Ironically, the Guardian proved to be a successful fortune teller on the boss’s destiny by using the tense of “could have”, which means they might save the world but eventually they did not, and in the boss’s situation, he could not even save himself or the solar PV company he created.  

The statistics showed that the top 10 Chinese solar PV companies in New York Stockexchange are all losing money, Suntech’s bankruptcy may as well marked the coming bankruptcy of China’s whole solar PV industry.  

Solar PV industry was once the rising star and favorite of policy makers and investors, it enjoys the glorious halo of clean technology (despite the controversial issue of pollution), solutions to energy shortage and climate change mitigation, it also claimed to be highly profitable and at the beginning stages it did show high returns which made companies like Suntech a huge success.  

But it would seem now to all of us, the profits it showed was merely the joint efforts of the strong policy support, the massive capital involvement and people’s wishful thinking and imagination. Now when the policy makers cut the blood transfusion, the investors became cautious and people lost passion, the industry dropped dead overnight.  

There were rumors the policy makers may rethink its role in directing the development of the emerging new industries, as many blamed the overpush of policy for the overcapacity of solar PV industry and thus the craziness and downfall of the industry. Well, it might not be the good news even if the policy makers of emerging new industries decided to back off and let the market function on its own, as there have been all failed precedents when policy makers in other sectors decided to do so, such as education, medical care etc. in China. And the solar PV industry may ended up a failed case, this would never stop the policy makers’ involvement. First of all, the new emerging industry normally would never have a chance to develop without policy support; secondly, the emerging new industry will always be the tempting field for policy makers as they would make history if succeeded. So the question is only to rethink how to involve and maybe a new favorite to choose.

 When it comes to the new favorite of emerging new industry, the LED industry stands out as it shares many similarities to the “deceased” solar PV industry. It’s technology innovation based, with promising clean and energy saving prospects, enjoys policy makers’ strong support at the beginning, became a favorite of policy makers and investor at first, and facing overcapacity problems soon after the beginner’s luck runs out. And the LED industry is smarter to aim for the big customers like government and large business who have abundant buying capacity. But this does not solve the overcapacity issue and the overall sustainable development ability of the industry itself. The industry has been suffering loss in 2012 and the listed companies have been busy claiming they did not commit forgery facing accusation by angry investors. The industry has somehow begun to realize there are bigger problems to worry and no more easy money to make. The downfall of the solar PV industry may serve a good warning example for the yet breathing LED industry to have a clear mind to solve their problems seriously.

NDRC released Guidance Catalogue of key products and services in Strategic Emerging Industries, LED and OLED listed in the High efficiency lighting products and system catalogue.

There are 7 major industries in the Guidance Catalogue, energy conservation and environment protection industry is listed as the first one. High efficiency lighting products and system is listed under one of the three sub catalogues: the high efficiency energy conservation industry, along with 10 other technologies.


The content of the High efficiency lighting products and system includes many latest technologies and new applications of LED and OLED, as well as SSL testing and standardization system.


Fluorescent lamps gains new legitimacy hope to continue staying in business as MITT issues China’s roadmap to gradually reduce the mercury content of fluorescent lamps

On February 18th, the second day of office hour after China’s Lunar New Year holidays, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MITT) took the leading role and published China’s roadmap to gradually reduce the mercury content of fluorescent lamps, the targets including:


  • By the end of 2013, try to phase out the liquid mercury production method of CFLs;


  • By the end of 2014, try to fully phase out the liquid mercury production method of CFLs, the mercury emission reduce 50% compared to year 2010;


  • By 2015, the average mercury level of single fluorescent lamp reduce about 80% compared to 80%, and the mercury level of more than half of all fluorescent lamps lower than 1 mg.


Fluorescent lamps, especially the CFLs, has been the major alternate lighting sources to replace the traditional incandescent light bulbs, with the strong government support, social green and energy conservation campaign, the popular of “energy saving lamps” and the low price of the product itself, fluorescent lamps has been quite successful in both commercial and household application, until the rise of LEDs.


With the shining high tech promises and new applications areas, LEDs soon became the new darling of governmental support, investors and media. But it’s a young industry and another fatal flaw is the unacceptable price, which causes people’s doubt of its reliability and affordability, thus poses as the major obstacles of massive applications and market share takeover. While Fluorescent lamps also have its own fatal flaw: the use of mercury, the merits of energy saving are offset by the environmental adverse impacts of mercury leaks.


Normally, under the situation of both have flaws, the key seems to be who can fix the problems faster and better, as the mercury issue is the major flaw of Fluorescent lamps, it is understandable that the MITT is so specific and focused on this particular issue. The message is simple: once the Fluorescent lamps fixed the mercury problem, there should be no major flaws, even though the new shining functions may be absent as well, but at least it can consolidate its market share in lighting for a longer time.


For LEDs, maybe it’s time to think about the price and reliability issue and fix them quickly if they want to be a successful alternate solution.



China finished 54 of the 100 EE standards promotion project, including 2 alliance level LED standards proposed by CSA.

China’s NDRC and State Committee for Standardization jointly launched the 100 Energy Efficiency standards promotion project in 2012, to modify and update a total of 100 major energy efficiency standards.


By the end of 2012, 54 national standards has been completed, including 2 alliance level LED standards proposed by China Solid State Lighting Alliance(CSA), a Beijing based industry alliance.

China’s NDRC released Solid State Lighting Energy Conservation Industry Plan, LED market share reach 20%, annual growth rate 30%, and industry value reach 450 billion yuan in 2015

As predicted in the Policy chapter of the Global Solid State Lighting Outlook1, China’s NDRC was going to issue a specific and comprehensive 12th FYP for SSL industry. After more than 3 months’ delay, it’s finally released.


The Plan sets many ambitious targets:


In market share side, the Plan says by 2015, the incandescent lighting bulbs above 60W for general lighting will be totally phased out and the market share of which will be reduced to less than 10%. The LED functional lighting products will have a market share more than 20%.


For the industry, the Plan says the annual growth rate will be 30%, and reach 450 billion yuan in 2015, among which the LED lighting products reach 180 billion yuan.


Standardization and certification system are also mentioned in the key targets paragraph, LED chip domestic production rate reach more than 80%, and testing equipment domestic production rate reach more than 70%. And to establish world leading R&D, testing platform and certification system.


Promotion priorities

The promotion tasks are prioritized, the first products are commercial lighting products and systems, and second level is outdoor public lighting products and systems, the third level is household level lighting products and the fourth level are the innovative application in automobile, agriculture and medical.


Environmental impacts and recycling

The ecological assessment of LED lighting products and the recycling issue of waste LED lighting products are also mentioned in the industry service supporting system.



Standardization system

The standardization system includes four components:


LED lighting standardization system research, establish the standardization system framework focusing on equipment, material, components, module, luminaire, lamp, lighting application, and energy efficiency.


LED lighting products testing and assessment, including Product failure mechanisms, life-span testing and reliability evaluation.


LED lighting testing platform and testing equipment development.


LED Lighting energy conservation certification.


LED industry facing pain: Profits down, bonus cut, owners flee, investors cautious

What’s your feeling if you found out after a year’s hard working, overtime, and contribution, yet you didn’t receive the bonus you expected, not even the bottom line of your expectation? Well, it’s the end of the year, the time that the management always hates, as they have to work their ass off to make up excuses to the employees that there are tons of reasons their bonus have to be cut. Anyway, they don’t really have to worry that much this year,because the poor situation the whole LED industry were facing provided the perfect excuses, look, everyone is suffering, so you should accept the suffering as well.

However, what’s the point to frustrate the loyal and working employees? To save a little money in their own pocket? Will the management that stingy? Maybe, but one thing is obvious : they are not happy, and the main reason would be the loss of money or failure of reaching the profits expected, they are not happy and their expectations were not met, which gave them the psychological legitimacy to make others unhappy and disappointed, the typical pain passing along manner.

If stingy is not the only reason, it means the management needs the money to be spent elsewhere, to gain more profits, and to any channel, any personnel that can ensure this. The investors have been becoming more and more cautious, thus no more easy money came in, when they have to lay hands from their own pocket, sure it’s not going to be spent on employee benefits first. This time the passionate propaganda won’t work any more, doing business means make money, if making money bacame a problem , it means this business is having problems, which is absolutely normal, things will go wrong if you ever did it wrong. For the past year the world has witnessed a lot disturbing news : small company owners flees away; big companies cutting non- essential expenses and personnel, middle sized companies began to search all channels instead of ignoring those who once they didn’t care when they have enough big orders.

Facing the downturn of solar industry, LED industry once were ambitious to believe they will make a difference, now we are going to ask, will you?

Nick Holonyak

Nick Holonyak, Jr. (born November 3, 1928, in Zeigler, Illinois) invented the first practically useful visible LED in 1962 while working as a consulting scientist at a General Electric Company laboratory in Syracuse, New York and has been called “the father of the light-emitting diode”. He is a John Bardeen Endowed Chair in Electrical and Computer Engineering and Physics and Professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign where he has been since 1963.


SEMI HB-LED Standards Committee delivered its first standard, SEMI HB1: Specifications for Sapphire Wafers Intended for Use for Manufacturing High Brightness-Light Emitting Diode Devices

The SEMI HB-LED Standards Committee has approved its first standard, SEMI HB1: Specifications for Sapphire Wafers Intended for Use for Manufacturing High Brightness-Light Emitting Diode Devices.

Developed by the HB-LED Wafer Task Force, SEMI HB1 defines and specifies the physical geometry of 150 mm diameter sapphire wafers used in HB-LED manufacturing. HB1 covers dimensional, wafer preparation, and crystallographic orientation characteristics, as well as the appropriate measurement methods. The document was approved by the HB-LED Committee during the North America Fall 2012 meetings, recently completed procedural review and will be published in January 2013.

Sapphire wafers are widely used in producing HB-LED devices for multiple applications such as LCD backlights, signage and solid-state lighting.  Improving manufacturing efficiency and reducing cost are critical to enabling high-volume manufacturing, and 150 mm sapphire wafers represent a key inflection point. Five categories of of single-crystal single-side polished sapphire wafers are covered in HB1, including:

  • Flatted 100 mm diameter, 650 μm thick, polished c-axis sapphire wafers,
  • Flatted 150 mm diameter, 1,000 μm thick, polished c-axis sapphire wafers,
  • Flatted 150 mm diameter, 1,300 μm thick, polished c-axis sapphire wafers,
  • Notched 150 mm diameter, 1,000 μm thick, polished c-axis sapphire wafers, and
  • Notched 150 mm diameter, 1,300 μm thick, polished c-axis sapphire wafers

As critical semiconductor technologies for energy efficiency, safety and next generation displays, HB-LEDs promise huge opportunities in solid state lighting, display backlighting and other high-brightness applications. Improvements in cost per lumen and lighting quality of high-brightness light emitting diodes (HB-LEDs) parallel those of Moore’s Law, but reaching the full potential of LEDs requires the global LED manufacturing supply chain to collaborate on industry standards to eliminate unnecessary costs, and better enable equipment and process innovation.

With this in mind, key industry stakeholders created the SEMI HB-LED Standards Committee in late 2010. The Committee and Task Forces are comprised of industry leaders in HB-LED devices, sapphire wafers, MOCVD wafer processing, and key equipment and materials suppliers to the LED industry. Since formation, the HB-LED Committee has initiated Task Forces on wafers, carriers, assembly and automation. Committee co-chairs are: Iain Black (Philips Lumileds), Chris Moore (Semilab), David Reid (Silian), and Bill Quinn (WEQ).

Author: James Amano and Paul Trio, SEMI