Canon, Toshiba to start SED production this week

A Canon and Toshiba joint venture will begin test production of SED flat panel displays this week.

A joint venture established by Canon and Toshiba to develop and commercialise a new flat-panel display technology called surface-conduction electron-emitter display (SED) will begin trial production of displays this week.

SED technology has been under development for more than 20 years and is being positioned by Canon and Toshiba as a better option for large-screen TVs than plasma display panel (PDP) technology. SED panels can produce pictures that are as bright as CRTs, use up to one-third less power than equivalent size PDPs and don't have the slight time delay sometimes seen with some other flat-panel displays, according to the companies.

Canon and Toshiba are hoping to see the first SED televisions available in Japan sometime in the first half of next year.

But before those TVs can come to market, the companies must be able to mass produce the SED panels. As part of their work towards this goal they established SED Inc. in October last year and committed YEN 200 billion ($US1.8 billion) towards SED research, development, production and marketing.

Later this week, the venture will begin test production of panels at a factory in Hiratsuka City in Kanagawa prefecture, west of Tokyo, a spokesperson for Canon said. Hiratsuka is where Canon began its development work on SED technology.

On Monday, Canon announced it will invest YEN 20.8 billion to build a new research and development centre near the current Hiratsuka plant. The centre will be owned by Canon but lent to the SED joint venture, Berger said.

Initial plans call for production of about 3000 SED panels per month. Those panels will be 50-inch class panels, which means they'll be somewhere between 50 inches and 59 inches across the diagonal. Although initially intended only to prove the mass production technology, panels that pass quality tests will likely find their way into the first consumer SED televisions.

The test production is expected to continue through 2006 with mass production starting in 2007, according to current plans. That will begin at 15,000 panels per month and increase to 75,000 panels per month by the end of 2007 as Canon and Toshiba aim to grab a 30 per cent share of the market for TVs of 50 inches and above.

Several display technologies are being promoted by different companies, and which one is most suitable for which type of television depends on who you ask.

Most familiar to TV shoppers are LCD and PDP televisions. At present, LCD TVs are available up to about 40 inches across the diagonal, and PDPs begin from around 36 inches, but the division is shifting. That's because companies with strengths in the respective technologies are trying to get a greater market share.

For example, Samsung Electronics, which is a leading maker of LCD panels, has already shown an 80-inch LCD panel, although it's not a commercial product.

There's also organic light emitting diode (OLED) technology. It's being developed by companies like Seiko Epson and Samsung Electronics and is also being pushed as a TV display technology, although it has yet to reach commercialisation.

There are also several projection display technologies, including Texas Instruments's Digital Light Processing (DLP), Sony's Silicon Crystal Reflective Display (SXRD) and Seiko Epson's 3LCD.

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Martyn Williams

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