Japanese electronics maker Sharp Corp. said it is considering raising production capacity for large liquid crystal display (LCD) panels at its Kameyama plant to meet strong demand for LCD TVs.
Sharp, a leading maker of LCD televisions, began production at its flagship Kameyama factory in western Japan in January 2004 and has been ramping up output as consumers trade in their bulkier cathode ray tube TVs for flat screen models. The company expects the global LCD TV market to nearly double to 15 million units in the current business year to March.
The Nihon Keizai newspaper reported that Sharp would increase annual output capacity at Kameyama to the equivalent of 4.8 million 32-in panels by this autumn from about 4.32 million panels now.
"We are mulling an increase to output given that strong growth in the large TV market has made supplies of panels tight. But we have not made any decision on the timing or the volume of that increase," a Sharp spokesman said.
The Kameyama factory primarily makes 26- to 65-in panels and is the world's first facility to produce LCDs from sixth-generation "motherglass" measuring 1.5 by 1.8 m. Motherglass is the glass plate from which displays are cut.
The motherglass used by Sharp is larger than fifth-generation and smaller plates used by most other makers, although a venture between Samsung Electronics Co. and Sony Corp. recently began producing with seventh-generation glass. The bigger pieces of glass enable makers to yield more panels from a single substrate, lowering manufacturing costs.
Once the capacity is raised, the Kameyama factory will be able to process 50,000 sixth-generation glass substrates per month, up from 45,000 units a month now, the newspaper said.
Earlier this month, Sharp began construction on a second plant at Kameyama, aiming to start operations in October 2006. The new factory will cut panels from larger eighth-generation glass and more than double its output capacity by 2007.
The investment in the first factory should help Sharp meet what is expected to be strong demand for the year-end shopping season and allow it to maintain its competitive edge over South Korean and Taiwanese rivals, the Nihon Keizai reported.
Sharp will consider purchasing new production equipment and other additional investment in the first factory after monitoring market demand from the autumn on, the newspaper said. (Reuters)
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