Samsung starts work on new LCD TV panel line

Samsung Electronics will this week begin installing equipment at a second seventh-generation LCD production line in South Korea.

Four months after a Samsung Electronics joint-venture began operating one of the world's largest and most advanced LCD production lines, the company has begun installing equipment on a second line at its facility in South Korea.

The new production line should be able to produce larger LCD panels for flat-screen TVs more cheaply than many current production lines and this could help TV makers respond to consumer pressure to cut LCD TV prices.

It will be operated solely by Samsung Electronics and is expected to begin mass production in April 2006, which will be one year after the first line started producing panels for S-LCD, a joint venture between Samsung and Japan's Sony.

Like the S-LCD line, the new factory will house a seventh-generation production line that is capable of handling glass up to 187cm x 220cm. The technology generation of the line is defined by the size of glass sheet it can process. Each sheet is used to make several displays and using larger sheets enables bigger displays and is more cost-effective but it also requires more advanced equipment. At present, seventh generation production represents the cutting edge of LCD manufacturing.

When the new line reaches full capacity it will be able to handle 45,000 of these large sheets per month. This was 25 per cent less than the S-LCD line capacity of 60,000 sheets per month, a spokesperson for Samsung, Lee Jae-Min, said.

The actual number of LCD panels that can be produced each month will vary depending on the size of panel being made. As a guide, Samsung said eight 40-inch or six 46-inch panels could be produced on each sheet.

The line represents an investment of about 1 trillion won $US975 million.

"We see strong demand for LCD TV panels in the future and that's why we are building it," Lee said.

Demand for flat-panel TVs is booming in many markets as prices fall.

The US market is expected to hit 3.8 million units in 2005 from an estimated 2.6 million units in 2004, according to a January report from the Consumer Electronics Association.

In contrast, Plasma Display Panel (PDP) shipments were expected to reach 1.4 million units from 853,000 in 2004, the CEA said.

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Martyn Williams

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