Sharp to Open New LCD Plant in August

Sharp will begin production at a state-of-the-art liquid crystal display (LCD) plant in Japan slightly ahead of schedule this month, the company said Tuesday.

The plant, at Kameyama in west Japan, is built alongside one that is already supplying panels for most of the large-screen, flat-panel TVs the company sells. Panels from the new plant are intended for TV sets that Sharp will sell around the world from September, it said.

Compared to the existing factory, the new one can handle larger sheets of mother glass. This is a base glass on which several LCD panels are formed, and the use of larger glass typically means LCDs can be made more cheaply. The new plant processes so-called "eighth-generation" (8G) glass, which measures 2.16 by 2.46 meters, compared to the existing "sixth-generation" plant, which processes 1.5-by-1.8-meter glass.

The larger-size glass is best suited to 40-inch and 50-inch panels. Each 8G mother glass sheet can be used to make eight 40-inch or six 50-inch panels, and initial monthly capacity will be 15,000 sheets of glass per month. This will double to 30,000 sheets per month in March next year, when a second production line at the factory is due to start operations.

Sharp is a leading manufacturer of LCD panels and television sets.

Last week it reported financial results for the April-to-June quarter and said sales of LCD panels and TV sets were strong. Total consumer electronics group sales rose 43 percent, and panel sales jumped 20 percent on the back of consumer demand for flat-panel TV sets.

It’s not only Sharp that is benefiting. Across the industry, TV set makers are reporting higher sales of LCD and plasma display panel sets as prices drop. The lower prices are thanks to more advanced production lines, like Sharp’s new plant, and greater competition between panel makers.

In May, shipments of LCD TV panels were up 124 percent compared to the same period a year earlier, according to DisplaySearch.

-Martyn Williams, IDG News Service (Tokyo Bureau)

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