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Sharp accelerates ramp of LCD TV production facility

Posted: 14 Jan 2003 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:sharp? lcd? tv receiver? pdp? samsung?

Sharp Corp. is accelerating its plans to bring a fabrication facility for LCD TV receivers online and said the plant will be able to make systems with displays larger than 40-inches. The company is therefore dropping PDP TV receivers from its product portfolio.

"We have cleared technical difficulties, which will enable us to build 40-inch to 50-inch LCD TV receivers [in volume] early next year. Once we can make 40-inch and larger TV receivers, it is efficient to concentrate on LCD TV receivers," said Sharp president Katsushiko Machida. Sharp has been building and selling PDP TV receivers using PDP panels purchased from outside suppliers.

Sharp is stepping up construction of a fab in Kameyama, Japan that will produce which will produce large LCD TV receiver panels using 1.5-by-1.8m glass substrates. Originally scheduled to begin operation in May 2004, Sharp has accelerated that schedule by four months, and now plans to begin volume production next January.

Sharp has also increased its projection of LCD demand to 5.5 million units worldwide in 2004, up from 4.5 million units, and to 8 million units in 2005, up from 6 million units. The forecasts of market research firm DisplaySearch is more bullish: 7.5 million units in 2004, and 13 million in 2005. Such strong expectation motivated Sharp's decision to accelerate the operation of its fab.

Sharp is currently the world's top LCD TV receiver player with 50 percent share of the world market, according to DisplaySearch, but is not as strong as other players in large-sized screens. Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. showed a prototype 54-inch LCD TV receiver at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this week, and has offered a 40-inch LCD TV receiver since the middle of last year.

"Such a large size is possible at an experimental level, but can such panels really be made in volume?" Machida asked. "Sharp is the most advanced in establishing real volume production of large TV receivers. Only Sharp is selling the large sized TV receivers in volume."

The largest LCD TV receiver currently sold by Sharp has a 37-inch screen. The fab currently under construction will enable 60-inch panels, Machida said. "In 2004, when Kameyama begins operation, Sharp will operate with the largest substrate," he said.

Samsung, LG Philips, and Au Optronics are planning to launch so-called seventh-generation LCD lines able to produce 1.8-by-2.1m substrates in 2004, but those lines are not expected to enter volume operation until 2005. Many competitors are currently operating fabs that make fifth-generation substrates measuring about 1-by-1.25m.

Machida acknowledged that Japanese display makers will face harsh competition from suppliers in Korea, Taiwan and China, but said Japanese companies have an advantage in terms of intellectual property. Japan has 13,000 to 15,000 patents related to LCD technologies, while Korea has about 1,000 and Taiwan has 30, he said.

"In terms of technology, there is a big gap between Japan and its competitors. We are going to strongly urge them to respect intellectual properties," Machida said. Sharp struck a licensing deal with CPT last month in an effort to assert its intellectual property.

- Yoshiko Hara

EE Times

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