Race To Build China’s Panel Production May Bring TV Bargains
A brewing battle between TV display panel manufactures from South Korea and China might soon begin to produce dividends for U.S. TV tech enthusiasts looking for bigger and better LCD and OLED TVs at lower prices.
According to a report from tech-industry business web site Digitimes Monday, China LCD and OLED panel manufacturers BOE Technology and China Star Optoelectronics Technology (CSOT) – which is jointly owned by TCL, Century Science and Technology and Samsung Display – are setting up TFT LCD panel factories equipped to produce mother glass panels of 10.5 Gen and 11 Gen sizes, respectively. These large substrates are cut into smaller LCD panels, for efficient mass production of a range of television screen sizes including large screens measuring 100 inches plus.
Plans are also said to be in place for the Chinese manufacturers to build additional 10.5G and 11G fabs producing Active Matrix Organic Light Emitting Diode (AMOLED) panels in addition to LCD panels, the report stated.
The moves provide further verification that competition in the display panel field is heating up between manufacturers from the two countries in a fight for share of a market that has been largely abandoned by Japanese firms.
Although Japan’s manufacturers, like Sharp, Panasonic, Hitachi, Fujitsu and others, initiated the flat-panel display industry almost 20 years ago, most have now ceded that area of the business to their South Korean, Chinese and Taiwanese competitors due to high startup costs and ever-declining prices and profit margins for finished goods.
Read more on the expanding display panel operations in South Korea and China after the jump:
According to Digitimes citing unnamed sources, BOE is setting up a 10.5G LCD factory in Hefei, northern China, and plans to set up another in Wuhan, central China, while CSOT is setting up an 11G line in Shenzhen, southern China, and plans to construct another beside it.
Plans are for BOE to begin production at its 10.5G factory in the first half of 2018. China Star will commence operations at its 11G line in 2019, the report said.
The new plants will take on AMOLED panel kingpin LG Display, which is currently the only AMOLED TV panel manufacturer. Those panels are sold for use in finished OLED TVs to LG Electronics, Sony, Panasonic and Chinese vendors including Konka, Changhong and Skyworth.
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BOE has invested in inkjet printing-based OLED technology in an attempt to produce 55-inch OLED TV panels, the report said.
BOE purchased inkjet-printing manufacturing equipment from U.S.-based Kateeva in May 2017 and will set up an experimental OLED production line at its panel factory in Hefei City, central China. Digitimes said BOE will invest $88.3 million for a 75 percent stake, and the city government will hold the rest of the company.
Digitimes estimates that about 1 million AMOLED TVs will be shipped globally this year, compared to more than 200 million LCD TVs. This is keeping prices on OLED TVs comparatively high.
The contributions to the global AMOLED panel supply pool by BOE and CSOT would help to increase the volume of finished OLED TV supply, while driving prices lower.
Prompting the moves by the Chinese firms might be plans by LG Display to build a new 10.5G factory in South Korea that will initially produce TFT-LCD panels before shifting production to AMOLED panels, according to the report.
The report added that both BOE and CSOT will use printing-based OLED production technologies, which should be more efficient and cost effective than processes used today. BOE has reportedly invested $145 million to set up its OLED production operation, while CSOT is working in cooperation with panel maker Tianma Micro-electronics to install a similar process.
Inkjet printing-based OLED technologies have been proposed by a number of companies but have taken a while to perfect. The advantages are said to be comparatively low equipment and materials costs with the ability to produce very thin, transparent and potentially flexible large-format OLED panels.
Meanwhile, Taiwan’s Hon Hai Precision Ind./Foxconn recently disclosed that it is investing close to $9 billion in a new 10.5G plant being constructed in Guangzhou, China to produce LCD TVs with 8K resolution, according to reports from China Post.
The new plant, which is expected to begin operations in 2019, is to be operated by Sakai Display, which is part of Sharp, the Japanese manufacturer in which Foxconn acquired controlling interest last year.
The new Foxconn plant will be dedicated to production of large-size TVs with 8K resolution – which is four times the pixels of today’s 4K Ultra HD displays. Due to the greater pixel density, 8K will have discernible benefits primarily in very large-screen TVs. Terry Gou, the chairman of Hon Hai/Foxconn, has said he expects the global 8K market to be worth $5.15 trillion by 2020.
Foxconn is also investing in OLED technology, but its focus is on small OLED panels used in mobile devices like the Apple iPhone. Foxconn is investing $1.95 billion to get its small screen OLED production up to speed. The company will also draw on research and expertise from display maker Innolux that is also owned by Foxconn.
By Greg Tarr
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