As has been widely reported, Sharp started production at its new Gen 10 LCD panel manufacturing plant in Japan this week. I wrote about their plans to build this plant two years ago when it was first announced, and now it is finally ready to start production.
The glass sheets used to make the panels are roughly 9 feet by 10 feet, and are too large to ship by any conventional means and so must be created on site. These sheets are large enough to create six 60″ LCD HDTV panels at a time, or 15 40″ panels. This should yield an economy of scale through greater manufacturing efficiency, and help Sharp drive down the cost of large panels even further.
The plant reportedly will start at half-capacity, which is 36,000 sheets of glass per month. That’s enough to produce almost 2.6 million 60″ panels a year. At full speed, that jumps to 5.2 million 60″ panels a year, or nearly 13 million 40″ panels. Those are impressive numbers.
Sharp is also playing the green card with its new plant, installing solar panels on the roof to help generate some of the power needed by the factory, and using LED lighting throughout to save energy.
Sharp has forged ahead with its large LCD plant while the Korean manufacturers — LG and Samsung — have waffled and hesitated. It looks as though Sharp may have timed this right as the worldwide economy appears to be pulling out of its recession, and this may help Japan recover some of the prestige in the LCD industry that it lost to Korea and Taiwan. In any event, this development should help keep LCD HDTV prices down for a while longer.