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OLED Lighting: Ready for Takeoff

(November 2010) posted on Tue Oct 19, 2010

The increasing viability of OLED as a source of light has led to an increasing number of commercial companies expressing confidence in this new solid-state lighting technology.

By Novaled AG

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OLED lighting requires a fresh start and should be approached with a think luminaire mindset from the beginning. The surface nature of OLED lighting paves the way for the creation of many new functional and design options (Figure 2). Tight integration of the end-application needs with the technological capability of the OLED is essential in a way never before considered for lighting.

OLED lighting will reinvigorate the use of lighting in existing applications and extend the reach of lighting into new areas. Specific demands for thin, high-quality, area light are already evident in automotive and medical markets, and a desire for embedded large area lighting exists. OLED lighting also can prove to be a transforming lighting technology with the power to open up a whole new market for decorative and low-maintenance lighting in the construction industry.

Positioning of OLED lighting
Given the industrial and economic challenges, the OLED lighting industry will have to focus on adding value for prospective customers beyond just illumination. OLED lighting is being pitched as a totally new form of lighting. A focus on cheap lighting goes against the uniqueness of OLED as a lighting technology. Settling for cost-per-thousand-lumens ($/klm) targets is contradictory. For example, design lighting is not merely concerned with $/klm but is required to deliver other forms of tangible and intangible added value to give expression to the wishes of potential owners. A $/klm focus will not be satisfying to a design-driven worldwide market.

Lighting users optimizing purely for $/klm will naturally continue to use FL or sodium-discharge lamps today and watch LED developments. Those users interested in the cheapest unit price may be best advised to stick with incandescent bulbs for the foreseeable future and watch CFL and LED developments. LED-based panels could be appropriate for illuminated surfaces, but they come with a plastic appearance in the off-state. Prospective lighting users interested in a thin, uniform, illuminating surface with a mirror or transparent off-state should consider engaging with OLED lighting technology.

From a product viewpoint, the appropriate cost level is not $/klm at lamp level; rather, one should compare at luminaire level. For example, a standard commercial offer consists of metal housing, reflector, grid, ballast, and FL lamps. An LED-based luminaire comprises LED packaged parts, optical-waveguide sheet, mechanical holder, thermal solution, and management electronics.


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