Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Anticipated tablet growth alters TFT LCD manufacturing strategies

SANTA CLARA, USA: In response to falling large-area TFT LCD panel prices in 2011, panel makers have minimized their 2H’11 production, but preparation for 2012 models and gradual clearing of supply chain inventories are encouraging panel makers to take a more positive stance in their production strategies.

According to the NPD DisplaySearch Quarterly Large-Area Production Strategy Report, global TFT LCD glass input peaked in Q2’11, achieving a record 42.1 million square meters, but then fell to 36.5 million square meters in Q3’11, and is expected to reach 37.8 million square meters in Q4’11.

In Q1’12, panel makers are expecting to increase glass input by 5 percent, to 39.8 million square meters. The forecast capacity utilization is 77 percent in Q1’12, which is 7 percent higher than previously expected. This is partly based on expectations that prices have bottomed out in this cycle.

Also, panel makers are planning for new models, such as larger size multi-function monitor panels, ultra-slim notebook PC panels, new TV panel sizes including 39”W, 43”W, 48”W and 50”W with cost effective CCFL and LED backlights, and slim bezels. However, with 2012 market demand still unclear, panel makers foresee the possibility of adjusting capacity utilization again in Q1’12.Source: NPD DisplaySearch Quarterly Large-Area Production Strategy Report, USA.

According to Shawn Lee, senior analyst for NPD DisplaySearch: “Increasing production does not necessarily increase shipments, as panel prices are close to cash costs in many cases. However, improved inventory and price outlooks, as well as the launch of new panel models, are leading panel makers to be more optimistic.”

Lee added: “Other factors leading to the increased production forecast include the need to increase utilization rates in order to cover depreciation costs, and the fact that new panel producers in China are starting to ramp up their fabs, contributing to the increased input. After a long oversupply period, panel makers are still cautious about glass input and utilization rates, and they do not plan to increase utilization to more than 80 percent in Q1’12.”

Tablet panel production on rise, while mini-notes slide
In mobile PC applications, panel makers plan to decrease production of mini-note PC panels while increasing production of tablet PC panels, with area production of tablet PC panels expected to double from Q1’11 to Q2’11. Panel makers are also reshaping their tablet PC panel production strategies, with Sharp using its Gen 8 fab to produce tablet PC panels with oxide TFT backplanes, and Samsung, LG Display, and Sharp producing tablet PC panels with more than 200 pixels per inch.

Other panel makers, including AUO, Chimei Innolux, BOE, CPT and HannStar, are planning to apply more production resources to tablet PC panels in 2012. Although Gen 5 and smaller fabs will mainly produce mini-note and tablet PC panels, more than half of these will be produced in Gen 6 and Gen 8 starting in Q1’12.Source: NPD DisplaySearch Quarterly Large-Area Production Strategy Report, USA.

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