LCD fabrication lines have been designed to handle larger and larger sheets of glass. Each time a plant is built to handle a larger size, the manufacturers refer to that as the next generation. Gen 5 plants handle glass that is more than one yard long on each side. This is impressive until you realize that Gen 7 plants — operating today — handle sheets with nearly three times the area of Gen 5 glass, at roughly 6 feet per side. And now Gen 8 plants are being built; Sharp is expected to be first with their new plant going online this fall, but Samsung has also broken ground for its new plant.
Samsung’s example of Gen 8 glass, showing the large LCD HDTV screens it can produce
At about 8 feet by 7 feet, Gen 8 glass is enormous. As shown here, a single sheet can be used to create six 52-inch LCD HDTVs at one time. As there are many steps required to produce an LCD panel, being able to create more in one pass helps reduce costs. The increased production capacity and lower costs are behind forecasts for continued decreases in LCD prices.
How much bigger can LCD glass substrates get? As it turns out, the answer is not much bigger. There are Gen 9 plants already on the drawing board, and Gen 10 is under discussion. However, Gen 10 glass would be more than 3 meters to a side — nearly 10 feet — and this raises problems with transportation. Due to limitations of bridges and tunnels on roads, it is extremely difficult to ship glass larger than about 9 feet per side. So we may be nearing the final generation of LCD manufacturing plants, using the technology and procedures that we have now.