Samsung to Invest $2.2B in LCD Plant, Without Sony

Samsung Electronics plans to invest 2 trillion Korean won (US$2.2 billion) in a new LCD production line at a factory it originally opened with Sony -- but Sony will not be investing in the new line, Samsung said.

This line is slated to begin production in the third quarter of next year, enabling the company to produce display panels 50-inches and larger for LCD TVs (liquid crystal display televisions).

Sony and Samsung are already making panels for LCD TVs on the factory's first production line, which is part of their joint venture, S-LCD Corp. The line cost 1.8 trillion (US$1.9 billion) to build and is expected to reach maximum output of 50,000 display panels per month by the end of this year.

The second production line Samsung plans to build will also have a monthly capacity of 60,000 panels. Samsung did not say why it was investing in the line without Sony, and Sony couldn't immediately be reached for comment.

The production lines Samsung is working on now will be able to make sheets of mother glass up to 2.2 meters by 2.5m, the so-called 8th-generation of mother glass from which LCD panels are cut. The bigger the mother glass, the more large-sized LCD panels can be cut from them to build LCD TVs.

Companies are working with larger mother glass for two main reasons: to lower the cost per unit of LCD panels, and to increase available LCD TV screen sizes.

Samsung's rivals are already investing in plants to make larger sheets of mother glass: Sharp's 10th-generation LCD factory, capable of making sheets measuring 2.85m by 3.05m, was due to open this month.

Samsung plans to leapfrog that stage and invest in an 11th generation factory able to produce glass sheets measuring 3.2m by 3.6m, according to Samsung spokesman Henry Kim. The company already has the technology to build an 11th generation LCD factory, but it will wait until market conditions are right before starting such a project, Kim said. Such a factory would be able to make screens for LCD TVs of 70 inches and larger.

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