By James Wells in Berlin

BERLIN, GERMANY: Sharp has announced the opening of its new European LCD factory as well as details of the world’s first 10th generation LCD Japanese plant at IFA 2007 in Berlin.

Called Crystal Park, the new Sharp LCD assembly plant in Poland was opened with a traditional Japanese ceremony on 28 August by Sharp president Mikio Katayama, after an investment of 44 million Euros.

The positioning of a TV production plant in Eastern Europe allows Sharp to capitalise on the growth from countries such as Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia. In this financial year alone, Sharp expects to sell 2.2 million Aquos LCD TVs in Europe.

Europe is currently the largest market for flat-screen TVs, representing over 40 per cent of all TVs marketed around the world. In 2007, European demand rose by 50 per cent in 2007 to 27 million LCD TVs. Utilising motherglass from the Kameyama II plant in Japan, Crystal Park will be able to manufacture eight 46-inch or six 52-inch LCD TVs from each piece of motherglass.

After creating the world’s first eighth generation plant at Kameyama which opened in September 2006, Sharp has announced it will start building the first 10th generation LCD plant at Sakai near Osaka in Japan in November with construction expected to be completed by March 2010.

“Through the combination of state-of-the-art plants with vertically integrated production, Sharp aims to further underline its innovation leadership in the markets of the future: consumer electronics and renewable energies,” Sharp said in a statement.

“The glass coating technology is the same for both the production of LCD panels as well as the production of thin-film solar cells, so in addition to production advantages resulting from the combined utlisation of materials and machines, new synergy will be created benefiting both lines. Besides the two state of the art plants, the 1.27 million square metre industrial park will have room for suppliers supporting the entire production process as well as further infrastructure, providing a time and cost advantage.”

The 10th generation plant will be the world’s first LCD plant manufacturing mother glasses with a size of 8.7 square metres — 60 per cent bigger than the ones being used by Sharp’s eighth generation plant at Kameyama II. From the 10th generation motherglass, six 65-inch or eight 57-inch LCD panels or 15 panels measuring 42-inches can be manufactured. The capacity of the 10th generation plant at full production will be one million 32-inch panels per month.