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Sharp seeks new panel buyers as Apple adopts OLED

LCD maker seeks product use in autos, 8K monitors

Sharp's Kameyama plant is its key site for making LCD panels.

OSAKA -- Sharp will start making liquid crystal display panels for automobiles and ultra-high definition monitors at its key manufacturing facility that once focused solely on supplying LCD panels for the iPhone.

The Japanese company's Kameyama No. 1 plant shifted its attention from making LCD panels for televisions to those for Apple's iPhones in 2012, with the U.S. tech giant shouldering investment for roughly half of the production facilities necessary for the switch. Initially the plant was totally dedicated to producing LCD panels for iPhones.

Sharp appears to have began making panels for other smartphone brands at the plant in Mie Prefecture in 2015 or later as its earnings took a tumble in the face of competition. The company was acquired last year for $3.8 billion by Hon Hai Precision Industry, known as Foxconn Technology Group, and operates as the Taiwanese company's subsidiary today.

The Kameyama No. 1 plant is now gearing up move beyond smartphones to also produce LCD panels for automobiles and 27-inch 8K LCD panels for use in monitors. Equipment utilizing Sharp's proprietary IGZO technology will likely be installed in the plant for the production of the midsize panels. The technology offers high image quality and energy efficiency. Apple is believed to have given blessing to the move to tap other customers.

The U.S. company will use organic light-emitting diode panels in its iPhone X, due to be launched next month. With the company expected to increase the use of the next-generation display panel in the future, the fate of the Kameyama No. 1 plant has been drawing attention, although the facility currently enjoys a high utilization rate.

Since demand for automotive LCD panels is expected to grow over time, Sharp can also address the issue of the plant's heavy reliance on the iPhone by making panels for those applications.


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