Bram Dieryckx, Vice President, LED & Image Processing division, at global technology company Barco, looks at the future potential of the LED Market.

In recent years the LED market has undergone a significant transformation, moving into spaces traditionally owned by LCD and rear projection technology. This is due to new innovations opening up opportunities for a broader array of applications, coupled with an increase in global LED manufacturing volume.

These factors have resulted in more affordable solutions, stimulating a growth in demand. Today, however, businesses have reduced their commercial activities as the world joins forces to control the spread of COVID-19. So, the trends observed relate to a time prior to the pandemic and look forward to a future where the economy begins to show signs of recovery.  

LED visual displays have already seen near complete adoption across some industries, for example broadcasting. Television studios use LED solutions for their visual backdrops as the technology offers a greater variety of creative options and delivers higher levels of performance at increasingly competitive prices. LED technology is also often being chosen over LCD solutions for outdoor applications, such as digital signage at travel hubs and billboards used for displaying advertising, because it offers improved levels of brightness, durability and clarity when viewed at a greater distance.

The adoption of LED solutions within the corporate space is moving at a slower pace and will no doubt be further affected by the current global crisis. LCD video walls continue to be the preferred option in lobbies and large conferencing suites as these do not require the higher levels of resolution delivered by LED.

Indeed, this is one of the key growth markets for Barco’s UniSee video wall, and the reason why we have invested so heavily in this groundbreaking visualisation system.

Generally speaking, LCD still dominates this space and will continue to do so for some time, but we are now starting to see LED solutions make inroads for corporate lobbies and large public spaces, due to increased levels of performance and resolution and an extended product life and improved energy efficiency. As costs continue to come down, so this rising trend for LED will continue.

A new pitch

The ability to build more reliable finer pitch LEDs is having a big impact on uptake of the technology. This breakthrough opens up a new range of smaller product application possibilities. Although not yet broadly adopted, microLED technology is beginning to be incorporated into a growing number of handheld and wearable product displays, such as those used on smartphones, tablets and smartwatches.

And as the Internet of Things and the use of smart technology continues to grow so will the application of LED solutions in areas yet to become mainstream.

In recent years, one of the most notable developments that will help to deliver this expansion across broader applications is Chip-On-Board technology, where multiple LED chips are bonded directly to a substrate to form a single module.

The chip takes up less space and can be mounted closely together to deliver a denser light source display. Manufacturers are now exploring ways to make this superior technology commercially viable as it remains cost prohibitive for the majority of commercial applications.

LED installation and maintenance can also be a complex and highly skilled endeavor. This needs to be a key area of focus for the industry going forward: finding ways to simplify the installation and maintenance of LED screens and displays, which can damage the delicate boards and light sources if not undertaken with precision.

One of the unique attributes of Barco’s UniSee LCD video wall is a dedicated mechanical mounting system to simplify installation and automatically calibrate when the panels are replaced. While this is an LCD solution, similar approaches will likely be taken with new LED products which are even more reliant on precise panel configurations to maintain resolution and performance.   

 The LED market is increasingly competitive and fragmented, with a large number of global and regional players focusing their energies on product development. Currently there are more than 400 LED manufacturers, mostly located in China, and this figure is set to grow as adoption of the technology increases. Suppliers, including Barco, accept that LED visual display solutions offer a wealth of benefits but also recongises that prices need to come down to make them universally accessible.

With this in mind, Barco believes one technology must not be prioritised over another. LCD and projector solutions will continue to play an important role for the foreseeable future, and Barco will continue to deliver all three solutions to ensure we can respond to individual customer requirements and match the right visualisation solution to available infrastructure and budgets.

In LED, as with other technologies, Barco continues to expand its offering. We partnered with Chinese LED manufacturer, Unilumin, which enables us to combine our own LED expertise with Unilumin’s large-scale manufacturing capability. The collaboration will deliver a broader, more innovative array of LED market products at more competitive prices in the very near future. 

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