Sharp planning major LCD, solar plant in Japan

Sharp is planning to build a LCD manufacturing plant in west Japan that is likely to be the most advanced of its kind when it begins production.

Sharp is to build an LCD (liquid crystal display) manufacturing plant in west Japan that is likely to be the most advanced of its kind when it begins production.

The new plant, which will be located in Sakai City in Osaka, will be a "10th generation" plant. That means it will be able to accept sheets of mother glass -- from which several panels can be made -- of 285 centimeters x 305 centimeters. The area of each sheet is 60 percent larger than the 8th generation sheets used at Sharp's current cutting-edge Kameyama factory in Japan.

LCD panel makers are racing to use ever larger sheets of glass because production efficiency increases with each jump in size. That means screens can be made more cheaply, which in today's cut-throat market can be a critical advantage.

Sharp says it will be able to produce six LCD panels in the 60-inch class, eight panels in the 50-inch class, or 15 panels in the 40-inch class on each 10th generation sheet running through the Sakai plant. Initial capacity will be 36,000 mother glass sheets per month, increasing to 72,000 sheets over an undisclosed period of time.

Construction of the plant will begin in November and operations will begin by March 2010, Sharp said. The factory will cost about YEN 380 billion (AUD$3.7 billion).

Alongside the LCD plant Sharp will also make a new factory for solar cells. Sharp is a leading solar cell producer and the new Sakai plant will have an output equal to around 1,000M watts (megawatts) per year. The plant, which is expected to be the largest solar cell factory in the world, will start operations at about the same time as the LCD factory, the company said.

In addition to its own two factories, Sharp will invite suppliers to build factories on adjacent plots of land.

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