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Sharp to build second fab for system-on-LCD panels

Posted: 29 Apr 2002 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Sharp? LCD panel? silicon? mobile product?

Sharp Corp. has decided to build the second fabrication facility dedicated to making continuous grain silicon LCDs, anticipating that its initial CGS LCD fab in Tenri, Japan, scheduled to begin production in October, will not satisfy market demand. Both fabs will make small and mid-sized panels for mobile products.

"We expect that orders will surpass the capacity of the Tenri fab as early as the middle of 2003. That's why we decided on the new fab plan," said Zempei Tani, corporate senior executive director in charge of Sharp's LCD business.

Other LCD makers had intended to shift from production of PC-sized displays to smaller screens, "but demand for PC displays has increased recently, and the shift has not actually taken place," Tani said. "Therefore, the smaller-sized panel market is showing a tendency of slight shortage."

CGS LCDs, which Sharp jointly developed with Semiconductor Energy Laboratory Co. Ltd., feature electron mobility of about 300cm2/V-second, about three times higher than what's found on low-temperature polysilicon (LTPS) LCDs. Sharp is already sampling CGS LCDs, which it promotes as system-LCDs, onto which functional blocks such as LCD drivers, controllers, and power supply circuitry can be built.

LTPS manufacturers are aiming in a similar direction and are looking to increase the electron mobility of their LCDs, but Mikio Katayama, group general manager of Sharp's mobile LCD group, said, CGS LCDs have "already realized the transistors and mobility required for actual applications. With a big lead over LTPS LCDs, we want to establish CG-silicon LCDs as a de facto standard for systems-on-LCD."

Sharp will start construction of its second CGS LCD fab in Mie this August, investing about $385 million in the project. The line will handle fourth-generation substrates measuring 730x920 mm, and will have a monthly capacity of 4 million two-inch panels. Operation is scheduled to begin in October 2003.

Sharp spent about $354 million on its first CGS LCD fab in Tenri, which is to begin operations in October. At full swing, the Tenri fab will have a monthly capacity of 2.5 million two-inch panels, using 620mm-by-750mm substrates.

Mature facilities

Some LCD manufacturers in Korea and Taiwan have already installed fifth-generation lines, which handle substrates of about 1,000mm-by-1,200mm. Sharp elected to stay with fourth-generation substrates because "we are going to make small panels for small mobile displays, which do not necessarily require a big substrate," Katayama said. "Production facilities have matured for this size, so we can expect higher productivity than with a larger substrate."

In parallel, Sharp is building another LCD fab for amorphous TFT displays in Kameyama. As those LCDs will be used for TV screens, the Kameyama fab is expected to use 1,350 x 1,650-mm sixth-generation or even 1,700mm-by-2,000mm, seventh-generation substrates.

The system-on-LCD structure is advantageous for 8-inch and smaller LCDs, Sharp said. Its initial panels will have resolution of about 200 pixels per inch. "If cellular phones have QVGA resolution, [CG-silicon] can work for such applications," said Katayama.

Enabling technology

CG-silicon technology could enable multi-format displays and multi-resolution displays, Sharp said. The multi-format display could superimpose text on high-resolution images, with all necessary signal processing done on the system-LCD. A multi-resolution display would support two resolutions, such as QVGA and VGA, for example. A PDA with such a display could present low-resolution content in QVGA format and Internet pages in VGA formats. In current PC displays, these differences are handled by an operating system. But mobile units such as cellular phones and PDAs do not have a strong operating system like Windows, so a system-LCD would handle these functions while simplifying the design of such products and lowering its power consumption, Katayama said.

Sharp is already discussing designs with more than 10 manufacturers, the company said.

? Yoshiko Hara

EE Times

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