In its recent report "Phosphors & Quantum Dots 2017 - LED Downconverters for Lighting & Displays", Yole highlights that most of those companies do not have any elements of differentiation, be it on performance or manufacturing cost that could allow them to survive in the mid and long term. For most phosphor suppliers, the name of the game is to keep decreasing costs as volume increase and revenue remain essentially flat.
On the IP front, key patents held by Nichia and Osram have started expiring in 2017 and will continue to do so in 2018. While both companies have since built on those patents and created broad families of intellectual property (IP), it will become much more difficult for them to prevent competitors from using garnet phosphors in their LED packages.
As a result, phosphor families such as silicates and yellow nitrides (LYSN) are expected to lose market share as LED packages transition to garnets. The switch will especially affect silicates, which are perceived to have lower performance than yttrium aluminum garnet (YAG) and other garnets.
However, some of the most recent silicate compositions developed by tier-1 suppliers are now matching YAG performance but come at a premium price. Leading phosphor suppliers with a strong focus on silicate materials must therefore diversify their portfolio. They need to create new silicate compositions with unique features to meet specific demands in various high added value lighting applications.