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Price drop sees long-predicted mass-market LED adoption

It's been a very long time arriving, but both buyers and exhibitors at the Spring Edition of the 2014 HKTDC Hong Kong International Lighting Fair finally seem convinced that LED has truly come of age – at least in terms of price point.

Photo: Ultra-safe lights from Wuxi Hua Zhao Hong.
Ultra-safe lights from Wuxi Hua Zhao Hong.

LED and outdoor lighting stole the show at the spring edition of the Hong Kong International Lighting Fair, though there was a wide range of other related products, including technical and outdoor lighting, chandeliers and green lighting also garnering considerable buyer attention. Overall, the fair was deemed a clear success, with 1,061 exhibitors and nearly 19,000 buyers in attendance.

One of the standout areas among the major exhibition categories was street lighting, now an area of worldwide concern due to pressures to reduce electricity usage for financial and environmental reasons.

Joyce Zhu, a member of the management team at the Lighting Tech Group Co Ltd, said this was global concern had given her company high hopes for its proprietary solar LED street lighting.

She said: "Although we sell our products all over the world, from Europe to the United States, our solar range is incredibly popular on the Arabian Peninsula, India, Kenya and Dubai. These countries have a great deal of sunshine and the possible reduction in electricity costs is therefore substantial."

According to Zhu, as older lighting systems fail or require upgrades, governments in these countries are deciding to replace them with LED solar systems. She said: "We have been producing LED lighting for a number of years, but it is only in the last six months that the market has seen the kind of growth that has long been predicted. We are very confident this will grow even further in the 2014-15 period."

She said that, initially, most governments and most members of the public did not understand the new technology, but that it has now gained worldwide acceptance. To date, this has not happened on the Chinese mainland to any great extent.

Expanding on the state of the mainland market, she said: "There are many factories in Shenzhen that produce LED lighting, but this is sold abroad. In China itself, LED is mainly purchased by big companies, shopping malls and government building offices."

This growing trend toward adopting LED lighting has been clearly identified in the past, but seems not to have resulted in high sales. The situation is now changing, at least according to Fujian Morstar New-Energy Tec Llc, a Chinese company focussing on the US market.

According to the company, there is now greater demand for LED products in the US, a market where high-pressure sodium and mercury were traditionally popular. The company also attends the Las Vegas lighting fair, where the fittings are commonly in imperial rather than metric sizes, with the event obviously more focussed on US buyers. For them, the Hong Kong show was more squarely aimed at Europe, the Middle East and Asia.

Photos: LED’s leading lights: Xiamen Candour (left) and Sogood Optoelectronic.
LED's leading lights: Xiamen Candour (left) and Sogood Optoelectronic.

With these markets very much in mind, many exhibitors took advantage of the occasion to launch new and innovative products. The Wuxi Hua Zhao Hong Optoelectronic Technology Co Ltd, in particular, made a big impression with its "Explosion Proof Lights".

Based in Jiangsu province, Wuxi Hua Zhao Hong designed and patented its ultra-safe lights three years ago, with its system now considered to be the market leader. Its lighting is said to be suitable for use whenever and wherever standard lighting is considered too dangerous, such as in highly flammable environments.

The company's IP67 model ranges from 80W to 400W and has a variable angle beam of 25, 60 and 90 degrees. The lens protects the LED light and the power box at the rear of the unit, making it less likely to explode.

According to Sean Zhang, a Senior Manager with the company, the Russian and Chinese mining industries are particularly heavy users of the new lighting technology. He said: "The demand for safety lighting is very high, but the product must be produced to incredibly high specifications and reliable standards.

"Our specialist lighting is used in chemical factories, gasoline stations and the oil and gas industries. It is incredibly important to have the correct lighting for mining and other industries dealing with fine powders and dust, as well as in the food industries and labs, where hygiene is a critical factor.

"We are currently researching the use of lighting for ocean fishing.  We continually strive to create new standards and hope to lead the field in terms of safety."

One company concentrating on the indoor commercial lighting market was the Chinese company Shenzhen Sogood Optoelectronic Industry Co Ltd, which is targetting mainly European and US government contractors and commercial companies. According to the company, LED lighting was previously considered too expensive, but increased demand has led to a halving of costs.

Jacky Lee, General Manager of SKW's JIB Electronic Technology Co Ltd, said: "The price of LED lighting has come down a lot in the last three years. The price used to be too expensive. Although people were starting to appreciate the idea of reduced energy use, they were not willing to purchase LED lighting."

The China-based electronics company is ultimately owned by a German holding company and only started producing LED lighting three years ago. It now believes the market has strong prospects, though it currently only works for the Chinese government.

Lee said: "We specialise in manufacturing high-quality outside lighting that is guaranteed for five to eight years, which we both install and maintain. The Chinese government is aiming to replace all outside lighting with LEDs by 2016."

Lee said the future of the lighting industry lies in specialisation, and this requires a commitment to innovation, design and quality. He believes that there is now a danger that the mass production of LED bulbs means the market will become flooded.

One company that has already specialised is Xiamen Candour Co Ltd, trading under the name C&D Lighting. It currently focuses on the Japanese, European, Russian and US markets and it has been working on a new generation of dimmable LED lights for six months. It now hopes itself as a market leader in the innovative domestic lighting sector. With this in mind, it already has a substantial number of patents to its name.

One of its new products on show, which, apparently, had only been in production for two weeks, was a Bluetooth light bulb, which also plays music. Another creative idea the company is working on is LED bulbs that have warm tones in the evening and "colder" blue-tinged bulbs for daytime use, changeable at the flick of a switch.

One of the advantages of C&D's products is that the bulbs can be screwed in to existing fittings, whilst switches and circuits do not have to be altered or replaced.

C&D has more than 10 years' experience in the lighting industry, with the company now keen to expand. Addressing its future plans, one of its senior management team said: "We aim to sell our innovative ideas globally and are always considering the next generation of products. Now we have produced a musical light bulb, we are looking at a bulb that will also change colour depending on the sort of music played."

The general sentiment among exhibitors was that LED lighting is an unstoppable force and, now that prices have fallen, they are set to become truly competitive and a genuine mass-market product. No doubt, musically-synchronised or not, they will be a staple of the lighting industry long into the future.

Photo: LED lighting from the Fujian Morstar New-Energy Tec Llc.
LED lighting from the Fujian Morstar New-Energy Tec Llc.

The spring edition of the Hong Kong International Lighting Fair was held at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre from 6-9 April.

Becky Gaunt, Special Correspondent, Hong Kong

Content provided by Picture: HKTDC Research
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