Horseheads CRT Factory To Close

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Horseheads, N.Y. – One-day after Panasonic executives announced plans to end CRT-based rear-projection TV production, the Matsushita-Toshiba Picture Display joint-venture picture tube factory here notified workers that it will end production operations Dec. 29, according to a report in the Elmira Star-Gazette.

The announcement was seen by industry observers as one more sign that flat-panel television and microdisplay technologies are rapidly replacing the cathode-ray tube, which has ruled the television roost since the birth of technology.

It was also another in a list of U.S. television factories that have been shuttered in the past year in favor of more competitive Asian-made goods.

The joint venture company, which had been in place for the last 12 months, had primarily produced large screen CRT picture tubes. Prior to the joint venture, the 19-year-old facility had produced SuperTubes for Toshiba’s television lines, and had originally operated under a joint venture between Toshiba and Westinghouse.

Most recently, the Horseheads, N.Y. plant had been used to manufacture 32- and 36-inch picture tubes for a category of televisions that has come under increasing price pressure from the explosive growth in flat-panel plasma and LCD television imports.

The MT Picture Display Company will continue to manufacture large-tube CRTs at its Troy, Ohio facility, although that facility has also recently seen staff reductions.

Underscoring the future direction of the companies, an announcement was made in Japan a day later by the parent companies of Hitachi, Toshiba and Matsushita, saying they completed the formation a joint-venture company to manufacture and sell LCD panels for flat panel TVs. The agreement was originally announced August 31.

The joint venture, to be called IPS Alpha Technology (IPS Alpha), will begin operations Jan. 1, 2005, the companies said.

Hitachi Displays Co. President, Fumiaki Yonai, will add the role of IPS Alpha president.

According to a company statement, IPS Alpha will manufacture LCD panels using Hitachi Displays' IPS mode system technology. The companies said that the collaboration of the three companies will yield products that are “even more competitive” in performance and price.

The LCD company will leverage In-Plane-Switching (IPS) mode technology for its TFT LCD displays. The IPS system is said to produce panels with a 170-degree viewing angles, both horizontally and vertically, with minimal gray-scale inversion. The companies said their panels will reproduce “lifelike images,” by rotating liquid crystal molecules parallel to the substrate when voltage is applied for “perfect orientation of the crystals.”

Futher, an Advanced Super (AS)-IPS mode technology to be used at the company will achieve a 30 percent improvement in the aperture ratio over conventional IPS technology. It is also said to deliver a higher level of brightness and color purity through the use of color filters and other proprietary technologies.

Panasonic, which markets consumer electronics products for its Matsushita Electric parent, announced on Wednesday that it would end production of “large-screen CRT” televisions by March, 2005.

Ed Wolff, Panasonic Display Group VP, later explained his company would stop the production of CRT rear-projection televisions next year, but would continue to sell direct view CRT products for the foreseeable future.

Wolff said the company was finding it harder to justify the expenditure of resources for a dying technology [CRT rear projection], which has seen considerable compression with the rapid price declines in flat-panel televisions.

He said market analysts had recently listed Panasonic as No. 1 in plasma TV market share for the most recent quarter.

Executives with Toshiba could not be reached for comment.


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