Plymouth-based Plessey has upgraded its production facility by buying the latest Temescal UEFC-4900 material deposition system from Ferrotec.
Plessey manufactures LEDs on 6-inch wafers using a GaN-on-silicon process which it claims is cost-effective because it uses standard semiconductor manufacturing techniques.
It is currently producing its second generation of GaN-on-silicon LEDs. These are 0.2W devices which produce up to 12.3 lm, this is double the efficiency of the first generation.
“We have made great strides forward in refining, productising and improving our patented technology,” said Plessey chief technology officer, Dr Keith Strickland.
These second-generation parts represent Plessey’s first attempt at entering the high volume market for entry-level LED lighting products.
The main argument for GaN-on-silicon process is it has the potential to be lower cost than the traditional way of making LEDs using a GaN-on-sapphire process.
The challenge is to match the efficiency of GaN-on-sapphire. Plessey will be hoping the increased layer accuracy of the new deposition system will help with this.
The firm’s proprietary process, dubbed MaGIC, relies on the production of a thin and highly uniform layer of GaN on a silicon substrate. This has necessitated the use of this latest generation deposition system.
"At only 2.5 µm for both buffer and epitaxial layer, our MaGIC process uses a much thinner GaN layer compared to the 8 µm thickness typical on most other LED processes," said Mike Snaith, operations director at Plessey.
Plessey is competing with larger rivals such as Osram, Cree and Toshiba to win a share of a market for LED lights expected to be worth $200bn by 2020.
Toshiba is also in production with its 2nd generation GaN-on-silicon LEDs which have an efficiency getting close to that of GaN-on-sapphire devices.
This latest system will also allow Plessey to achieve larger batch sizes, while maintaining the critically precise process parameters.
This upgrade from our existing deposition platform will provide increased capacity, faster throughput and reduced cost of operations, said Snaith.
"Plessey is making tremendous inroads into reducing the cost of high brightness LEDs with its unique GaN-on-silicon process," said Gregg Wallace, managing director of Ferrotec's Temescal division.
The semiconductor manufacturer is also in the process of strengthening its European sales channels signing distributors in Italy, Spain and the Netherlands. Last year it signed a worldwide deal with online distributor Mouser Electronics.