The largest Chinese LCD panel maker, BOE Technology Group (BOE), formally announced on December 2 that it is commencing the building of its Gen-10.5 LCD panel fabrication plant in the Chinese city of Hefei. With the construction of the Hefei fab underway, major Japanese panel maker Sharp will find its days as the manufacturer of the largest LCD panels numbered. For more than six years, Sharp has led in generation technology with its Gen-10 fab, which is located in the Japanese city of Sakai and has been in operation since July 2009. BOE is poised to surpass this record with its future Gen-10.5 fab, which is scheduled for mass production in the second quarter of 2018 and will have a capacity reaching 90,000 pieces of glass per month. Mainstream Gen-8.5 fabs process glass substrates sized 2,500 x 2,200 mm. The Hefei fab by contrast will be capable of processing glass substrates that reach 3,370 x 2,940 mm, representing an 80% increase in area.
BOE plans to allocate the production of 65- and 75-inch super-large TV panels to its Gen-10.5 fab. “Market demand for large TV panels has soared in recent years mainly because the pricing of TV sets has become more competitive, making super-large TVs the first choice for consumers looking for replacements,” Eric Chiou, senior research director at WitsView, a division of TrendForce. According to WitsView, 65-inch-and-above size segment accounted for less than 0.6% of the TV panel shipments worldwide in 2014, totaling at 1.5 million pieces. This year, the share of this segment is projected to expand to 2.5% and pieces shipped will surge by three and a half fold to 6.8 million. Shipment forecast for 2016 is at 8.3 million pieces and the market share within the TV application will rise further to 3%.
BOE’s Gen-10.5 fab will be able to produce eight 65-inch LCD panels from a single piece of glass substrate. The leading Chinese panel maker expects that more economical panel-cutting process will lead to a significant gain in shipment volume that could offset its disadvantage of being the late market entrant. Moreover, BOE’s fab investment takes advantage of the rising market acceptance of large-size TVs in China and will help the company take a sizable market share in this segment.