LCD substrate makers invest for larger panels

The world“s only four manufacturers of glass substrates for LCD panels are investing in new facilities to make larger products, according to industry sources.
US Corning Inc. the largest manufacture…

The world“s only four manufacturers of glass substrates for LCD panels are investing in new facilities to make larger products, according to industry sources. US Corning Inc. the largest manufacturer, has set up a new production line at its Shizuoka Prefecture plant to supply Sharp Corp. Full-scale production at the Shizuoka plant is scheduled to begin by the end of 2003. Sharp is due to start making LCD panels in January 2004 with the so-called sixth-generation substrate (as large as 1.5 x 1.8 meters), a world first. The investment costs are estimated at JPY 3 – 4 billion. Asahi Glass Co. plans to invest JPY 25 billion yen in kilns for substrates at its Hyogo Prefecture and Taiwanese plants. The substrates are destined for Sharp“s large-screen panels, company sources said. The new facilities, which can make substrates as wide as four meters, are scheduled to enter service at the Hyogo plant in October 2003 and in Taiwan in September 2004. The annual output capacity of the new facilities will be 4 million sq. meters each, raising Asahi Glass“s total production by 130% to 14 million sq. meters. New kilns at Nippon Electric Glass Co. in Shiga Prefecture and at NH Techno Glass Corp., a joint venture between Nippon Sheet Glass Co. and Hoya Corp. in Taiwan are scheduled to start production by the end of 2003, according to officials at the two producers. Initially, they will mainly make fifth-generation substrates measuring 1.1 X 1.3 meters. The annual output capacity of the new kiln at Nippon Electric Glass is 1.8 million sq. meters while that of NH Techno Glass is 360,000 units. The four companies are the only producers of LCD glass substrates in the world and supply LCD panel producers mainly in Japan, South Korea and Taiwan. Global LCD panel sales are forecast to rise 80% by fiscal 2005, compared to the fiscal 2002 level, to 112 million units. It is possible to make eight 32-inch panels with the sixth-generation substrate, which is expected to substantially improve productivity. Besides Sharp, South Korea“s LG Philips LCD Co. and Taiwan“s AU Optronics Corp. are planning to make panels of this size. Samsung Electronics Co., another South Korean firm, plans to begin making panels with even larger seventh-generation substrates in 2005, putting pressure on substrate makers to install further upgrades.