NEWS: Sharp plans massive LCD panel plant

Sharp has reinforced its commitment to LCD screen technology with the announcement of plans for a massive plant to make the displays. The factory, due to come on-stream by March 2010, has a capacity of over a million screens a month.

And in a neat piece of vertical integration, the company be inviting manufacturers of materials used in the making of the substrates, such as glass and colour filters, to set up operations on the same site. It will also be using the plant to manufacture thin-film solar cells for power generation, which use very similar technology.

Construction of the £1.6bn factory starts this Autumn, at Sakai City, on the edge of Osaka Bay, and it will use 10th-generation substrates (ably demonstrated left by company president Mikio Katayama).

At 2.85x3.05m. these are 60% larger than those currently used at Sharp's Kameyama plant, and will each yield six 60in panels, eight 50in, or 15 40in screens. With planned production using 72,000 of these substrates per month, that could mean up to 432,000 60in screens, or over a million in the 40in class.

This should give Sharp appreciable economies of scale, enabling it it make screens much more efficiently in what is a highly competitive market with constant downward pressure on prices.

The plant will also make thin-film solar energy panels, further boosting the company's position as the world's largest manufacturer, at least in volume terms, of such products. The plan is for an annual production of cells capable of producing around 1,000 megawatts.

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