Cree Inc.

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Cree, Inc.
S&P 400 Component
Industry Electronics
Founded 1987
Headquarters Durham, North Carolina, United States
Products Light-emitting diodes
Revenue $1.65 billion[1]
USD $124 million (Fiscal Year 2014)[1]
Number of employees

Cree, Inc. is an American worldwide manufacturer and marketer of lighting-class LEDs, lighting products and products for power and radio frequency (RF) applications. Most of its products are based on silicon carbide (SiC), a rare, naturally occurring mineral compound which early Cree researchers successfully synthesized in a laboratory. SiC enables higher performance in applications which require high endurance and in semiconductor devices that operate at high temperatures or high voltages, or both.[2] With the establishment of a reliable source for high-quality SiC, the firm expanded into several market segments with products that provided significantly higher performance and efficiency.[2] Cree's product families include LED lighting systems and bulbs, blue and green LED chips, high-brightness LEDs, lighting-class power LEDs, and a portfolio of SiC-based and wide bandgap SiC-on-GaN (gallium nitride) power-switching and RF (radio frequency) devices.

These products enable applications that include general illumination, electronic signs and signals, industrial power supplies and inverters, and military, satellite and broadband telecommunications.


Cree's high-power LEDs, XLamp 7090 XR-E Q4
A Cree 9.5 watt 800 lumen dimmable lamp bulb, with 2700 K color temperature, introduced in March 2013

Cree was founded in July 1987 in Durham, North Carolina. Five of the six founders – Thomas Coleman, John Edmond, Eric Hunter, John Palmour and Calvin Carter – are graduates of North Carolina State University.[3]

In 1983, the founders -– one a research assistant professor and the others student researchers – were seeking ways to leverage the properties of silicon carbide to enable semiconductors to operate at higher operating temperatures and power levels.[3] They also knew silicon carbide could serve as the diode in light-emitting diode (LED) lighting, a light source first demonstrated in 1907 with an electrically-charged diode of SiC.

The research team devised a way to grow silicon crystals in the laboratory, and in 1987 founded a company, Cree Research, Inc., to produce SiC and exploit its usage commercially in both semiconductors and lighting. The founders raised money to establish office and laboratory facilities and entered a period of steady technological advancements.[3]

In 1989, the company introduced the world's first blue LED, which enabled the development of large, full-color video screens and billboards.[3]

In 1991, Cree released the world's first commercial silicon carbide wafer.[3]

In 1993, Cree launched an initial public offering.

In 1999, the company name is changed from Cree Research to Cree, Inc.[4]

In 2001, Cree had grown to about 1000 employees.[3]

In 2011 Cree acquired Ruud Lighting, a national firm experienced in the use of LED for outdoor lighting. This expanded Cree sales channels and led to a new generation of lighting-class LED components.[5]

In 2012 Cree announced the XLamp XT-E, which was claimed to deliver twice as much light for the same price as older LEDs.[6]

In October 2013, Cree's first consumer products, two household LED bulbs qualified for Energy Star rating by the United States Environmental Protection Agency.[7]

In 2014, Cree introduced a series of dimmable 40 and 60 watt LED bulbs specifically designed to match the classic A-19 shape; that year Cree established an exclusive relationship with home improvement chain Home Depot to distribute Cree LED bulbs.[8]

In 2015, Cree acquired Arkansas Power Electronics International, Inc. (APEI) combining the resources of two established firms which make components for high-performance power modules. The collaboration led to multiple government contracts, including one for a SiC-based vehicle charger for hybrid electric vehicles for the U.S. Dept. of Energy's Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E).[9]

In July 2016, German chip maker Infineon Technologies AG said it agreed to buy Cree's Wolfspeed business unit (RF and power electronics devices) for $850 million in cash.[10] However, the deal was called off in February 2017 after the companies were unable to resolve regulators’ national security concerns.[11]

Industry firsts[edit]

  • First GaN HEMT MMIC grown on SiC
  • First viable LED downlights and LED streetlights
  • First viable lighting-class LED lamp
  • First viable LED PAR (parabolic aluminized reflector) lamp
  • First LED troffer
  • First sub-$200 LED streetlight
  • First SiC MOSFET (metal–oxide–semiconductor field-effect transistor) (2012)[12]

Industry recognition[edit]

  • In 2015 Cree was named to Fast Company's list of the 50 Most Innovative Companies in the World,[13] and No. 1 the Energy sector.[14]
  • Inc. magazine named Cree to its list of the Most Innovative Startups of 2015.[15]
  • Cree was featured in the MIT Technology Review of 50 Smartest Companies (2014).[16]
  • Cree was included in the Deloitte 2014 Technology Fast 500 (2014).[17]
  • Cree was named to Forbes Top 25 Fastest Growing Tech Companies. (2013)[18]
  • Awarded ENERGY STAR® qualifications for LR6, LR5 and LR4 LED downlights (April 2009)[19]

Corporate affairs[edit]

  • As of June 28, 2015, Cree had 6,387 employees.[2]
  • Cree owns 204 acres in Durham, NC, where it has its headquarters, primary research & development operations, and a manufacturing facility. Its products are produced in Durham; Racine, WI; Florence, Italy; and Huizhou, Guangdong Province, China. They also maintain sales and support offices through subsidiaries in leased office space in North America, Asia and Europe.[2]
  • As of January 2015, Cree holds or has applied for more than 4000 patents in the U.S. and worldwide.[20]
  • Subsidiary companies include APEI (Arkansas Power Electronics International, Inc.), Cree LED Lighting Solutions, Cree Japan Limited, Cree Europe GmbH, Cree Hong Kong Ltd., Cree Microwave, LLC, and Cree Asia Pacific Ltd.[21]


Cree allows other companies access to its proprietary or patented technology through a formal intellectual property licensing program, as part of their strategy to accelerate the adoption of LED and other products in new and developing markets. With thousands of granted patents in over twenty countries around the world, Cree's technologies encompass new materials systems, such as Group III nitrides and silicon carbide, compound semiconductor devices for LED lighting, wireless and power applications, and LED-based systems, such as LCD backlighting systems and general illumination systems. A license to Cree's patents can enable other companies to improve existing products, enter new markets or speed time-to-market of new products.[20]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Garrabrant, Raiford (2015-05-05). "Cree Reports Financial Results for the Fourth Quarter and Fiscal Year 2014" (PDF). Cree. 
  2. ^ a b c d e "2015 Annual Report" (PDF). Annual reports. Cree. Retrieved 2016-05-27. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f "Creating CREE". NC State Engineering Magazine (Spring 2010). 2010. Retrieved 2016-05-27. 
  4. ^ "Cree proposes a public offering, changes name". Triangle Business Journal. Raleigh, NC: American City Business Journals. 2000-01-03. Retrieved 2016-05-27. 
  5. ^ Wright, Maury (2011-08-01). "Cree acquires lighting manufacturer Ruud and BetaLED subsidiary". LEDs Magazine. Retrieved 2016-05-27. 
  6. ^ Ranii, David (2012-02-08). "Cree launches another lower-cost LED". The News & Observer. Archived from the original on April 4, 2012. Retrieved 2012-02-08. 
  7. ^ Funk, John (October 10, 2013). "Cree's LED bulb now Energy Star, qualifies for up to $5 price cut". The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer. Retrieved 2013-10-10. 
  8. ^ Kelly-Detwiler, Peter (2014-10-28). "What? Another Efficient LED Light Bulb From Cree?". Forbes. Retrieved 2016-05-27. 
  9. ^ "Cree Acquires APEI (Arkansas Power Electronics International, Inc.)". BusinessWire. Yahoo! Finance. 2015-07-09. Retrieved 2016-05-27. 
  10. ^ By Friedrich Geiger and Eyk Henning, Wall Street Journal. "Infineon to Buy Cree's Wolfspeed Unit for $850 Million ." July 14, 2016.
  11. ^ Armental, Maria (2017-02-16). "Cree and Infineon Call Off Wolfspeed Deal". WSJ. Retrieved 2017-06-08. 
  12. ^ "Milestones". Cree Milestones. Cree. Retrieved 2016-05-27. 
  13. ^ Gertner, Jon (2015-02-09). "Most Innovative Companies 2015". Fast Company. Retrieved 2016-05-27. 
  14. ^ "The World". Fast Company. 2015-02-09. Retrieved 2016-05-27. 
  15. ^ Lagorio-Chafkin, Christine (2015). "The Most Innovative Startups of 2015". Inc., Magazine. Retrieved 2016-05-27. 
  16. ^ "50 Smartest Companies". MIT. Retrieved 2016-05-27. 
  17. ^ "Deloitte 2014 Technology Fast 500" (PDF). 2014. Retrieved 2016-05-27. 
  18. ^ DeCarlo, Scott; Geron, Tomio (2013-06-24). "America's Fastest Growing Tech Companies 2013". Forbes. Retrieved 2016-05-27. 
  19. ^ "Cree Earns Commercial and Residential Energy Star Qualifications for LED Downlight Family". LED Lighting Luminaires and Fixtures. Solid State Lighting Design. 2009-04-02. Retrieved 2016-05-27. 
  20. ^ a b "Licensing". About Cree. Cree. Retrieved 2016-05-27. 
  21. ^ "Subsidiaries". SEC. 2007-06-24. Retrieved 2016-05-27. 

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