By Chris Nicholls

TOKYO: Panasonic has announced it will start construction of a new LCD television factory in August this year that will more than double their production capacity. 

The new $3 billion factory will be located in Hyogo prefecture’s Himeji city and cover 480,000 square metres. According to a release on parent company Matsushita’s website, the factory will begin production using ‘eighth-generation substrates’ in January 2010 and increase production capacity from the current 600,000 units a year to 1.5 million (calculated at 32-inch size). By 2013, it could be producing 2.1 million units a year.

According to Panasonic, the move to increase production capacity is due to internal predictions the flat panel market will grow to 200 million units, or 85 per cent of the global TV market, by 2015. A lot of that increase would come from the BRIC countries and Vietnam, the company said.

However, following Panasonic’s strategy to produce LCD in small sizes only, the factory will produce screen sizes no larger than 40-inch.

A spokesperson at Panasonic’s Tokyo head office also confirmed to the factory would also produce OLED TVs, but only after the 2010 opening and once the LCD production lines are fully operational. The confirmation means Sony will have at least a two-year head start in OLED television sales by the time Panasonic gets their models to market. 

In an environmental concession, the company said the new factory would also emit a claimed 25 per cent less carbon dioxide than their current facilities.

The factory announcement came after Hitachi and Panasonic finalised their joint venture into the LCD market. The two companies already have a plasma TV joint venture in the IPS Alpha company, but the LCD tie-up is a first.