The Drive for LCD
One of the pillars of Sharp’s planned success strategy rests in the new Kameyama plant itself. First, Sharp is banking on it’s choice of mother glass size because it dictates 46- to 52-inch panels will be it’s primary output. If other sizes end up being more popular (such as 40, 42 or 50) then Sharp’s facilities won’t be optimized. (LG is developing a 7.5 generation LCD panel factory.) Sharp calls the plant fully integrated, meaning that everything from panel manufacturing to final TV assembly is conducted here for the Japanese market. Products headed for the US market are actually assembled in Mexico, though the panels are created in Kameyama. Being integrated and heavily automated creates efficiencies which translate into cost savings—allowing Sharp to be price competitive. The 46-inch LC-46D62U is priced at $3,499, while the 52-inch LC-52D6U will go for $4,799. In 2004, Sharp’s 45-inch LCD (from the Kamayama 1 plant) went for $8,499.
The new plant also stands out for being environmentally responsible. Being a producer of solar panels, sharp is in a good position to make the most of its home grown technology. The roof of the plant is a field of solar panels which produce 5,150kW—a third of the plant’s power. The plant also houses the world’s largest fuel cell system at 1,000kW. One hundred percent of the plant’s manufacturing wastewater is recycled. The whole facility rests on a seismic-safe foundation to protect it from earthquakes.
The new line of TVs include a number of picture technology enhancements that Sharp hopes will win dealers and consumers to their side. First off, the company plans to promote the fact that the new sizes all include 1080p “full HD” resolution. While Sharp is certainly not the only premium brand offering 1080p, lower priced and warehouse brands will not, at least immediately, be able to make the same claim. Also, currently only the top-tier plasma models are available in 1080p, and those mostly include 60-inch and above sizes. Sharp also claims the highest contrast ratio at 2,000:1 using picture enhancements and black luminance reduction. Sharp has improved its panel’s response time to 4ms in the D62 line, making them much better suited for sports and fast action. Sharp has also improved the backlight technology by adding a crimson red to the pure red, blue and green wavelengths of a standard backlight. Sharp engineers put on a fairly convincing demonstration showing how their fast response LCDs compare to plasma TVs. In the demo, in which white text was scrolled across a black screen, the plasmas exhibited a red trail due to the slower response time of red phosphors, while the LCD TVs looked smooth.