Despite the recent development of colour performance and increased life expectancy, high cost remains a problem that limits OLED technology to niche uses.
The main feature of OLED technology that stimulates the lighting sector is the uniform and glare-free distribution of its light. Interest is expected to increase gradually as manufacturers improve the colour rendering and longevity of these special light panels. However, cost remains a tremendous obstacle to the dissemination of this technology. The discussion has focussed for several years on how to improve the efficiency of OLED panels and how to bring down their high cost of manufacture. OLED panel manufacturers have made progress on both fronts, but the bad news is that the industry for conventional LEDs is moving even faster. And the gap, in terms of cost and effectiveness compared to conventional LEDs, could further widen over the next few years. Does this means we should forget about OLED technology?
However, while designers would certainly be pleased use these panels, their high cost, relatively poor efficiency and considerably limited average operating life are the main obstacles that limit their use, so they are not confined to a niche of applications. In the laboratory analyses recently conducted by DOMUS Line, the average luminous efficiency of the best OLED panels available on the market was found to be not more than 50-60 lm/W. This is the same as for the panels we tested in mid-2012. It is a value far from the performance of the cluster LEDs for instance used in the new SMALLY XS collection, measuring approximately 120 lm/W.
The increase in life expectancy is still far from the standards to which the market has already become quickly accustomed. The best (and most expensive) OLED panels do not exceed 18,000 hours of expected operating life and are only for power sources with a low maximum driving current. On the other hand, LEDs have been guaranteed an average operating life of 50,000 hours for a number of years. But the main problem remains their price. And this can easily be seen by analysing the gap between LEDs and certain OLED products offered on the market. The ratio is usually at least 5 to 1, if not more.
DOMUS Line is well-known for its focus on new technologies and it is continuing its testing of new versions of OLED panels with confidence. However, we feel it is pointless, for now, for our customers to focus their attention on a solution that is mostly academic and does not allow them to create value.