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LED Front-End Manufacturing

This publication has been discontinued on April 11, 2014.

MOCVD, lithography, plasma etching, PECVD & PVD tools to experience turbulent investment cycles in the coming years


The packaged LED market still presents significant opportunities for growth in the next 5 years, but is expected to saturate in value by the end of the decade. Driven by MOCVD reactors, the equipment market experienced an unprecedented investment cycle in 2010-2011. The cycle was driven by demand in LCD backlight displays, anticipation of the general lighting market and generous subsidies offered by the Chinese central and local governments in a bid to stimulate the domestic chip production and create world leading chip companies. This has resulted in a significant overcapacity situation that will take 12-18 months to absorb. The next investment cycle driven by lighting applications will start in 2013 and will be more limited in value than the previous cycle due to improvements in equipment throughput and yields. The MOCVD equipment market represents a US$4.3 billion opportunity in the 2012-2017 period.

Together, lithography, plasma etching, PECVD and PVD tools represent a US$650 million opportunity and will essentially follow a similar trend with some exceptions.

The market for dry etching tools is still growing in 2012 due to increasing adoption for PSS (Patterned Sapphire Substrate). The market for most lithography tools will however decrease as the industry transitions to larger diameter substrates and the number of wafer starts initially increases moderately but starts decreasing in 2015. PVD equipment will also experience moderate growth during the next investment cycle. E-beam evaporators have turned into commodities, with systems available from dozens of vendors at very low cost. But opportunities exist in promoting sputtering for ITO deposition and sputtering could also gain some traction in metal deposition if the industry adopts large diameter wafers and moves from batch to single wafer processing. Sputtering equipment could then offer improved cost of ownership.

LED Front End Equipment Market Revenue
(MOCVD,lithography,dry etching, PECVD,PVD)

(Source: LED Front-End Manufacturing report,
Yole Développement, June 2012)


To enable massive adoption in general lighting applications, significant technology and manufacturing efficiency improvements are still needed to reduce the cost per lumen of packaged LED. Front-End LED manufacturing typically represents about 50% of the total cost of a packaged LED and offers significant opportunities. Continuous progress is being made in terms of LED structures and materials to improve performance, manufacturability or reduce cost.

MOCVD represents the single largest opportunity for front end cost reduction. Downstream, the emergence of LED dedicated tools has already contributed significantly to cost reduction in lithography, plasma and PVD processing.

Example of contact designt of OSRAM ThingGaN UX:3 chip

Traditional large semiconductor equipment suppliers are mostly absent from the LED manufacturing equipment markets. For MOCVD, the tools are very different than the epitaxy tools used in mainstream semiconductor manufacturing. Designing and building such equipment requires significant and unique expertise that Aixtron, Veeco and Tiyo Nippon Sanso, the leading companies in the sector, have acquired through almost 2 decades.

Other front end LED manufacturing tools are similar in essence to those used in mainstream semiconductor. However, they often require a full redesign in order to deliver optimum performance and cost of ownership for LED. This opened the door to smaller companies eager to capture the opportunity offered by this niche market. Those companies are now offering LED dedicated tools delivering significant COO improvements.

Metal deposition of vertical thin film structures

Example of a commercial VTF LED structure
(Source: Yole, System Plus Consulting)


With close to 100 companies involved in front end LED manufacturing, the industry is too fragmented to generate significant economies of scale. We expect massive consolidation within the next 3 years (2012-2015) which should eventually speed up process and tool standardization and allow economy of scale.

LED manufacturing still uses methods that would be considered outdated in most semiconductor industries. Consolidation and emergence of LED “giants” will also facilitate and speed up adoption of manufacturing paradigms coming from the IC industry.

Adoption of Silicon substrates for LED manufacturing could speed up those trends by rapidly moving LED epiwafer processing into existing, highly automated and fully depreciated CMOS fabs. This would also give LED makers access to extended “process toolboxes” which could pave the way for entirely new LED structures.

Front End Cost Breakdown for Vertical LED



This report presents a detailed analysis of front end LED manufacturing process, equipment and LED chip design trends. The major LED die structures are presented with pro and con analyzed (standard and flip chip mesa, vertical thin film, thin film flip chip, vertical thin films with vias...). The function, manufacturing process, material and emerging trends of each of the key elements of LED die are presented, including: epitaxial layers, mirrors, pads, electrodes and contacts, passivation and insulation, texturation (patterned substrates). Trends in LED substrates are analyzed and quantified: sapphire, PSS as well as risk and opportunities for LED on Silicon.

Front end manufacturing technologies and the corresponding equipment markets are analyzed in detail, including: MOCVD, lithography, plasma etching, PECVD, PCD (e-beam, sputtering).


ACC Silicon, Accretech, Advanced Dicing Technology, Advanced System Technology (AST), Advatool Semiconductor, Aixtron, ALSI, Altatech (Soitec), AM Technology, AMEC, And Corporation, Applied Materials, APT, Arima, ASM Pacific Technology, ASML, Astri, Aurotek, Autec, Azzurro, Bayer, Beijing Yuji, Bergquist, Bridgelux, Bruker, Canon, Cascade Microtech, China Electronics Technology Group Corporation (CETC), Chroma, Corial, Cree, Crystal Applied Technology (SAS), Crystal Optech, Crystalwise, Dai Nippon Kaken (DNK), Dai Nippon Screen Mfg, Daitron, Delphi Laser, Denka, Disco, Dow Corning, Dow Electronic Materials, Dynatex, Edison Opto, Epiluxy, Epistar, Eplustek, ESI, Eulitha, EV Group (EVG), Evatec, Everlight Electronics, Fittech, Formosa Epitaxy (Forepi), Four N4, Fraunhofer IZM, FSE Corporation (Fulintec), Galaxia, GE, GloAB, Hans Laser, Hansol Technics, Hauman, Heliodel, Hitachi Cable, Huga, Hybond, Iljin Display, IMEC, Intematix, InVacuo, Ismeca, JCT, JPSA, JT Corp, Jusung Engineering, K&S, KLA Tencor, Lattice Power, Laurier, Laytech, LG Innotek, Lightscape, Lightwave Photonic, Litec, Loomis, Luminus Devices, LWB, Maxis Co, Merk/Litec, Mitsubishi, Mitsuboshi Diamond Industrial, Molecular Imprint, Momentive, Monocrystal, MPI, Nanoco, Nanometrics, Nanosys, Nichia, Nihon Gartner, Nikon, NN Crystal, North Microelectronics, Novellus, NTT, Nusil, Obducat, Oerlikon Systems, OP System, Optest, Opto Supply Ltd, Orbotech, Osram, Oxfrod Instrument Plasma Technology, Palomar Technology, Panasonic, Philips Lumileds, Phosphortech, Plasma-Therm, Procrystal, Proway, Puji Optical, QD Vision, QMC, Quatek, Rigidtek, Rose Street Lab, Rubicon, Rudolph , Samco, Samsung, Sanken, Semileds, Seoul Semiconductors, Sharp, Shibuya, Sino American Silicon (SAS), Sino Kristals Optoelectronics, Sino Nitride, Sky Technology, SNTEK, SPTS, Stararc, Sumitomo Chemical, Suss Microtech, Synova, Tainics, Taiyo Nippon Senso, Tamarack, Tecdia, Technology & Science Enabler (TSE), Tekcore, Temescal, TeraXtal, Toyoda Gosei, Transluscent, TSMC, Ultratech, Ulva, Uni Via Technology, Ushio, Varian, Veeco, Verticle, Wacker, Waferworks, Wellypower, Wentworth Laboratories, Withlight, YCChem, Ying Lyu, Zeon Chemical.


Dr. Eric VIREY, holds a Ph-D in Optoelectronics from the National Polytechnic Institute of Grenoble. In the last 12 years, he's held various R&D, engineering, manufacturing and marketing position with Saint- Gobain Crystals.

Tom Pearsall & EPIC fellow: in 2003, Tom started the European Photonics Industry Consortium. Before EPIC, he works among others for Bell Laboratories, Thomson/CSF and Corning. He is a Fellow of the American Physical Society and a Fellow of the IEEE.

Table of Contents

  • Glossary :
  • Table of content

Report Scope

Executive Summary:

LED Market Trends :

  • Revenue Forecast by Application
  • Die Surface by Application
  • Recent Trends
  • Packaged LED Price Trends

Key Constituents of LED die Structures

  • Executive Summary
  • Overview
  • Mirrors
  • Pads, Electrodes and Contacts
  • Dielectric Layers
  • Light Extraction

LED Manufacturing Overview

  • LED Manufacturing Yields
  • Sorting and Binning
  • The Cost of Yields in Front End:
  • Cost Structures: Luminaire
  • Cost Structures: The Path to Cost Reduction
  • 1W LED Cost Analysis: Overview
  • 1W LED Cost Analysis: Consumable and labor
  • 1W LED Cost Analysis: Equipment cost
  • GaN LED Chip Design: Simple MESA
  • GaN LED Chip Design: Flip Chip (FC)
  • GaN LED Chip Design: Vertical Thin Film (VTF)
  • GaN LED Chip Design: Thin Film Flip Chip (TFFC)
  • GaN LED Chip Design: Vertical Thin Film with Vias (VTFV)
  • Process Overview
  • Front End Manufacturing Flow: Example of a MESA Structure
  • Front End Manufacturing Flow: Example of a VTF Structure
  • Front End LED Manufacturing: Other steps.
  • Conclusion

LED Substrates

  • Executive Summary
  • LED Substrates: 2008-2020 breakdown by material
  • Diameter Trends
  • PSS: Benefits
  • PSS: When are they used?
  • PSS: Pattern Types
  • PSS: Key Players and Business Model
  • PSS: Manufacturing Process
  • PSS: Price Aspects
  • PSS: Manufacturing Challenges:
  • PSS: Trends and Forecast


  • Executive Summary
  • Introduction
  • LED-on-Silicon: Potential Cost Benefits
  • Potential Impact of using Si for LED Manufacturing
  • Main Challenge: TEC Mismatch
  • How to Grow LED structures on Si?
  • Other Challenges for LED on Si:
  • Si absorbs light -> substrate removal is mandatory
  • Conditions for Success: Performance
  • Conditions for Success: Manufacturing Yields
  • Conditions for Success: #3: CMOS Compatibility
  • LED on SI Players:
  • Additional incentive: Wafer Level Packaging

LED Epitaxy

  • Executive Summary
  • Introduction
  • System Overview
  • GaN LED Structures
  • GaN LED Epitaxy Challenges: Wafer Curvature
  • Cost Aspects: Packaged LED cost structure
  • Cost of Ownership Drivers
  • Epitaxy Cost Reduction Opportunities
  • Sorting and Binning
  • In Situ Metrology
  • LED Epitaxy Cycle Time: Overview
  • LED Epitaxy Cycle Time: Hybrid Reactors
  • Cost Of Ownership Drivers: Batch size
  • Cost Of Ownership Drivers: Larger wafers
  • Cost Of Ownership Drivers: Downtime and chamber cleaning
  • Cost Of Ownership Drivers: Growth rate
  • Cost Of Ownership Drivers: Precursor Efficiency
  • Main Players
  • LED Reactors Forecast
  • Key Hypothesis
  • 2009-2020 volume forecast GaN vs. InGaAlP
  • Comments


  • Executive Summary
  • Overview: LED Lithography Steps
  • Requirements and Main Challenges:
  • Pattern Recognition and Alignment
  • Lithography Techniques for LED: Contact / Proximity
  • Lithography Techniques for LED: Projection - Steppers
  • Lithography Techniques for LED: Projection - Full Field
  • Comparison of Lithography Techniques for LED:
  • Mask Related Costs
  • Legacy Lithography Tools for LED
  • Dedicated LED Lithography Tools
  • Lithography For PSS
  • Imprint Lithography
  • Emerging Technologies:
  • Main Suppliers
  • Units and Revenue Forecast 2009-2017

Plasma Etching and Deposition For HB LED Manufacturing

  • Executive Summary
  • Overview of Etching Techniques
  • Plasma Etching in LED Manufacturing
  • Illustrations
  • Etching Techniques: RIE
  • Etching Techniques: ICP-RIE
  • LED Etching Requirements
  • LED Etching Specificities
  • Dielectric Layer Deposition
  • Alternative Technologies for Passivation
  • Process Control and Metrology
  • Reactor Cleaning: Etching Tools
  • Reactor Cleaning: Deposition Tools (PECVD)
  • Plasma Tools Examples
  • Main Players
  • Equipment Makers
  • Other Plasma Processes in HB LED Manufacturing: Surface Cleaning
  • 2009-2017 Etching tools Forecast
  • 2009-2017 PECVD Forecast

Physical Vapor Deposition for TCL and Metals

  • Executive Summary
  • Transparent Contact Layer: overview
  • Transparent Contact Layer: Critical Parameters
  • Transparent Contact Layer: Deposition Technologies
  • Metal Deposition: Overview
  • Metal Deposition: Mesa and Flip Chip Structures
  • Metal Deposition: Vertical thin Film Structures
  • TCL and Metal Deposition Tools: Main Players
  • TCL and Metal Deposition Tools: Examples
  • TCL and Metal Deposition Tools: Automation
  • PVD for HB-LED Manufacturing: 2009-2017 volume forecast
  • PVD for HB-LED Manufacturing: 2009-2017 revenue forecast

LED Testing and Binning

  • Executive Summary
  • Introduction
  • LED Testing and Sorting: Overview
  • LED Manufacturing and Testing
  • Wafer Level And Die Testing: Optical inspection and probing
  • Wafer Level And Die Testing: Visual inspection and probing
  • Package Testing and Sorting
  • Equipment: overview
  • Optical and Visual Inspection: examples
  • Wafer, Die Testers and Sorters: Examples
  • Wafer, Die Testers and Sorters: Examples
  • Packaged LED Testers, Sorters & Taping: Examples
  • Software
  • Testing Equipment: Main Players
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