Sharp has begun production of LCD panels on its latest manufacturing line in Japan which, it claims, is the most advanced commercial line in the world.
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The production line is a so-called sixth-generation line and can handle mother glass - the initial glass sheet onto which the LCDs are built - as large as 1.5m by 1.8m, said Sharp spokesman Miyuki Nakayama.
Until Sharp began production at the factory in Kameyama, the most advanced LCD production facilities involved in mass production of panels were fifth-generation lines that can accept glass up to 1.1m by 1.3m.
Increasing the size of the mother glass means more panels can be made per sheet of glass, reducing costs and resulting in cheaper LCD panels.
The latest production line has a maximum capacity of 15,000 sheets of mother glass a month. A single sheet can be used to produce eight 26-inch widescreen LCD panels or a smaller number of larger panels. In total the line can produce up to 100,000 LCD televisions of various screen sizes a month.
A second production line planned for the Kameyama factory is scheduled to begin manufacturing panels in August, which would bring total maximum production to 27,000 sheets of mother glass a month.
Other LCD manufacturers are also planning bringing new production lines on stream this year to help satisfy a growing appetite for LCD-based televisions and computer monitors.
Samsung recently began construction on a seventh-generation production line, having decided to skip the sixth generation, and says that mass production is due in 2005. Seventh-generation lines can accept mother glass of 1.9m by 2.2m.
Martyn Williams writes for IDG News Service