Sharp aims to mass-produce new generation of display panels by 2017

Reuters News
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Posted: Sep 12, 2014 5:22 AM

TOKYO (Reuters) - Sharp Corp said it would begin mass-producing a new type of next-generation displays with Qualcomm unit Pixtronix from 2017, in the hopes that innovation would pay off in the long term as the firm nurses its finances back to health.

Qualcomm and Sharp said the new type of panel, called MEMS-IGZO after their respective display technologies, uses less energy and can withstand harsher temperatures than the liquid crystal displays (LCD) used in most smartphones and tablets.

"LCD is really hitting its limits in a lot of things. We can go brighter and this is the first generation of this technology," said Greg Heinzinger, senior vice president of Qualcomm's technology licensing division and president of Pixtronix, at a briefing at Sharp's Tokyo office on Friday.

Sharp is hoping that innovative display technologies can sustain its recovery from a massive 545.4 billion yen ($5.34 billion) net loss in the year to March 2013, with its dependence on panels for operating profit approaching 50 percent.

The MEMS-IGZO panels, which use a high-speed shutter to display images, boast brighter colours than LCD panels as they do not require a color filter, allowing more illumination from the backlight.

Sharp said it will market the new technology to automakers, and makers of industrial devices, smartphones and tablets, and aims to start mass-production in 2017. It has built a test line for the technology at its factory in Tottori prefecture on Japan's northern coast.

Before then, Sharp hopes to release curved LCD panels with its 'Free Form Display' technology, unveiled in June, which it showcased on Friday with a car dashboard featuring three illuminated circular dials.

Qualcomm entered a capital alliance with Sharp in December 2012, investing 10.8 billion yen in the company over the following six months, making it Sharp's third-largest shareholder at end-March.

(Reporting by Sophie Knight; Editing by Ryan Woo)