In 2008, UV LED was still considered an emerging technology and industry, trying to make its way into promising applications such as UV curing and counterfeit detection. Then, the LED industry only had eyes for the booming display applications, and was preparing for the rise of general lighting, considered to be the killer application for visible LEDs.
But the reality was quite different! Asian players have entered and created overcapacity and strong price pressure, which has transformed what could have been a ‘blue ocean’ market into a bloodbath. That had a direct impact on the UV LED industry, which has at the same time seen many market entrants. From around 10 players in 2008, there are now over 65 players in 2018. Since 2010, several visible LED players have turned to UV LEDs, seeking new growth drivers and higher profit margins.
The UVA LED market was the first to witness this industrial evolution, experiencing strong price reductions that have further accelerated the technology’s penetration. But rapidly the dream has turned into a nightmare. After several years of double-digit growth, UV curing application revenues, which represent more than 80% of the UV LED market, have started to decline due to commoditization and a highly competitive environment. In the short-to-mid term, only players that can innovate will be able to maintain a profitable business in this area.
The UVB/UVC LED market (with smaller wavelengths at 280–315nm and 100–280nm respectively) has been less negatively impacted by the flood of new entrants. With UVB/UVC LED technology being much more difficult to access than UVA LED, barriers to entry are much higher. Additionally, UVB/UVC LEDs still suffer from low performance, so entry of new players has helped boost device development.