Cree claims LED production cost, color solution

LED maker says manufacturing breakthrough will result in low-cost warm white LED option for 25-watt bulbs. The announcement follows a comprehensive patent deal with Osram.

Candace Lombardi
In a software-driven world, it's easy to forget about the nuts and bolts. Whether it's cars, robots, personal gadgetry or industrial machines, Candace Lombardi examines the moving parts that keep our world rotating. A journalist who divides her time between the United States and the United Kingdom, Lombardi has written about technology for the sites of The New York Times, CNET, USA Today, MSN, ZDNet, Silicon.com, and GameSpot. She is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not a current employee of CNET.
Candace Lombardi
2 min read
MR-16 bulb components that go with new Cree XM-L EasyWhite LEDs. Cree

A manufacturing breakthrough will result in lower costs for better color LEDs, LED manufacturer Cree announced Wednesday.

Cree says it's been able to apply a new method of color mixing to produce an LED light that's akin to an incandescent light bulb in color and uniformity.

The LED light uses 4 watts of power while offering 340 lumens at 3,000 degrees Kelvin (warm white) and operating at a temperature of 85 degrees Celsius.

The LEDs are intended for use in fixtures that would normally take a 20- to 25-watt halogen bulb, such as track lighting, picture lights, projection light fixtures, and chandeliers.

LEDs (light-emitting diodes) are essentially silicon chips that produce light and are more energy efficient that CFL or incandescent lighting. But they have been hampered by the fact that they do not naturally produce white light, but rather a blue-ish light. To get them to glow white, or other colors, is an expensive production. That passed cost makes them more expensive to consumers than the average comparable incandescent or CFL light bulb. It's also been a challenge for manufacturers to mass-produce LEDs at a guaranteed wavelength consistently, despite coming from the same manufacturing batch.

"The XM-L EasyWhite LED is available in 2-step color points, which is the industry's tightest LED-to-LED color consistency offering, replicating the uniformity of incandescent light bulbs. Available in high-CRI options, XM-L EasyWhite LEDs are binned at 85 degrees Celsius to provide a single bin per color temperature. XM-L EasyWhite LEDS are also available in either a 6-volt or a high-voltage 12-volt configuration, which enables the use of efficient, small and low-cost drivers," according to Cree.

Cree employees inspecting silicon carbide wafers with a scanning electron microscope at the company's Research Triangle Park, N.C. facility. Cree

The company has not announced specific pricing for clients, but seems to be positioning itself to make a major push in LED light fixtures.

Earlier this week, Cree signed a comprehensive cross-licensing agreement with German LED giant Osram. The deal will result in the cross-licensing of key patents from each company's patent portfolio, regarding white LEDs and phosphors, as well as, LED luminaires, lamps, and lighting control systems, according to Cree.

Osram is best known for its recent lighting of the giant Christ the Redeemer Statue on Mount Corcovado in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil with more than 300 LED projection light fixtures.

Cree is not the only one to claim an LED breakthrough. All the leading LED companies have been striving to make cheaper and less color-restrictive LEDs for use in lighting, as well as electronics, with varying results. The string of breakthroughs in design and manufacturing has resulted in manufacturing costs slowly coming down.

Research analyst Pike Research reported in May 2010, that 46 percent of the $4.4 billion commercial lighting business will be in LED lighting by 2020.

Most notable was the 2009 LED breakthrough by scientists at Seoul National University in Korea. The group engineered a molecule with one orange and one blue light-emitting material, a two-step color point process that, when put together, resulted in producing a white LED light.