spoiler: Nichia Rocks. But first a flashback.
Chinese LEDs I was looking for? They had kind of iffy
construction, but up to that point they were the closest color match I
could find to what I needed for my Thinkpad backlight project. I
found more of the same type from random Chinese resellers, but none
with exacly the same whitepoint as the original. I never determined the
I was looking for these dodgy Chinese LEDs because I
couldn't get any major manufacturers or resellers to sell me the LEDs I
needed in any kind of reasonable quantity. The smallest
amount any factory quoted was a MOQ of 100,000 and that was only
because a friend of a friend was willing to call in a favor to an
unnamed factory in Hebei. The name brands you'd recognize weren't
willing to discuss anything less than 1,000,000 units.
Or so I thought. I'd stopped looking slightly too early.
The AFFS LCDs I'm retrofitting have red and green filters with a lot
of overlap in the yellow region because the original CCFL backlight
doesn't put out much yellow. The broad yellow peak from typical white
LEDs pollutes the red and green primaries. That messes up the saturation
and color reproduction, even if the white point is correct.
But last year Nichia released a new line of component phosphor LEDs
specifically designed for backlighting that don't use a broad yellow
phosphor; they use separate red and green phosphors.
The specs also
claimed tight binning, surprisingly high lumens/watt, and a weirdly
low forward voltage. Oh, and they came in a low-profile 3014 package
rated for mid-power output.
With no great optimism, I called up Nichia USA and asked for some
samples. After being redirected a few times, I talked to a nice lady
in Detroit who was happy to send me some LEDs for testing. That was farther than I expected to get.
The LED samples were everything the specs claimed them to be. I
had never tested an LED as efficient, or with color binning so tight.
They blew everything else out of the water.
So I called back. "What was the minimum order?" The answer: 1 reel,
only 5,000 LEDs. Too good to be true.
The next question I was sure would undo me: "Can you tell me if I
order now, what kind of bin I'll get?" I was still expecting to get
something in the rough ballpark of what I really wanted that I could
then tweak a bit with a filter. The reply: "What do you mean? You can
have any bin mentioned on the spec sheet."
I could select specific whitepoint, forward voltage, and luminosity
bin. At only 5,000 quantity. Jaw on floor.
It still felt too good to be true, but Nichia made the LEDs
on-demand in Japan when I placed the order, and they arrived in the
mail 15 calendar days later.
So as it turns out, I was able to get my dream LED for this silly
little custom project. I'm reminded to post this now as there's been
steady demand for the resulting Thinkpad
backlight retrofit kits, and it's time to order another reel.