Sony Corp, the world's second-largest consumer electronics maker, and Samsung Electronics Co started shipments of their largest liquid-crystal-displays (LCD) yesterday, a year after Sharp Corp began supplying similar-sized panels.
The S-LCD Corp venture between Sony and Samsung started production of LCDs last month using so-called eighth-generation glass sheets, used to make television sets measuring as large as 52 inches. S-LCD will produce 50,000 LCD panels a month by the end of this year, Tokyo-based Sony said in a statement.
"Our sights are now on LCD TVs in the 50-inch class and we aim to lead that segment," S-LCD CEO Chang Won-kie said in a statement.
The first panels shipped were 52 inches.
The new facility is capable of manufacturing some of the world's largest substrates -- the glass sheets used to make screens for flat screen televisions -- measuring 2,200mm (88 inches) by 2,500mm.
Samsung and Sony founded S-LCD in 2004 to produce panels to meet demand for flat screen tele-visions, which has soared in recent years as consumers give up bulky cathode-ray tube sets for the sleeker versions.
Succeeding generations of plants use larger glass substrates to cut LCD panels, thereby boosting output and eventually helping LCD makers cut manufacturing costs.
S-LCD, based in Asan, about 90km south of Seoul, said the new line would reach full monthly capacity of 50,000 panels by year-end.
Sony and Samsung, the world's largest LCD supplier, are tapping demand for larger, high-definition televisions amid competition from LCD makers including Sharp, Japan's biggest maker of LCD panels, and Matsushita Electric Industrial Co, the world's largest plasma TV maker. Both Sharp and Matsushita, maker of the Panasonic brand, are investing in bigger factories to make screens measuring 60 inches or more.
Osaka-based Sharp, which started its eighth-generation factory last August, is investing ?380 billion (US$3.3 billion) in the industry's most advanced manufacturing factory in Sakai City, Osaka. The 10th-generation plant will start production by March 2010.
Matsushita, based in Osaka, plans to double monthly plasma display production in two years to 1.26 million panels a month by May 2009 at its Amagasaki factories in Hyogo Prefecture.
Sony fell to third place last quarter among global television makers after the company posted the slowest growth in LCD TV sales, according to market researcher DisplaySearch.
Suwon, South Korea-based Samsung ranked first, while Matsushita was fifth.
Sharp wasn't in the top five global TV ranking by sales, according to the researcher.
Shares of Sony fell 0.6 percent to ?5,380 on the Tokyo Stock Exchange, while the benchmark Nikkei 225 Stock Average declined 0.1 percent. Sharp was unchanged at ?2,010, while Matsushita declined 1.5 percent to ?2,000.