Growth in Asia: Joint venture brings large-format TFT glass substrate plant to Korea

By Control Engineering Staff March 15, 2007

Responding to increasing demand for TFT-LCD (thin film resistor-liquid crystal display) glass substrates, Kuramoto Co. Ltd. and Schott have opened a joint venture plant for processing large-format TFT-LCD products in Korea. ‘With the processing capability fully installed,’ said Dr.-Ing. Karl-Peter Merz, member of the Schott management board, ‘the volume supply of Generation 7 TFT glass substrates can now begin.’

Schott is supplying large-format glass substrates of Generation 5 and upwards (glass substrate size advances are called generations; Generation 8 is said to be state-of-the-art). Kuramoto is contributing its TFT-LCD glass substrate processing know-how to the venture.

The need for TFT-LCD glass substrates is growing as manufacturers are producing more flat panel displays for computer monitors, notebooks, and flat-screen TVs. According to Schott, the global market for flat-screen televisions with TFT-LCD glass substrates doubled in volume in 2006 for the second year in a row, and is now at more than 40 million. Demand is expected to grow at an average annual rate of 20-30% through 2010, it reports.

In addition to the joint venture in Korea, Schott is also investing in ways to produce more alkali-free thin glass substrates. Last winter (November 2006), the company fired up a new $75 million (60 million Euro) melting tank in Jena, Germany, to more than double its melting capacity for 0.7-mm-thick TFT-LCD glass substrates. The raw glass substrates are shipped from the melting tanks in Germany to Korea, where they are cut, beveled, edge-polished, polished, and ultrasonically cleaned before inspection and packing at the Korean plant’s class 1000 clean room.

The processing lines for the operation, which has created 400 highly skilled jobs, are expected to be running at full capacity by August 2007. Schott Kuramoto Processing Korea Co. Ltd. is approximately 100 km south of Seoul in the Chungcheongbuk-do Ochang Science Park. The location places the facility near global-market flat-screen leaders Samsung Electronics and LG Philips LCD.

—Edited by Jeanine Katzel , senior editor, Control Engineering