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Sharp Shows LCD Future

Just as “Full HD” 1,080p displays turned out to be the hot trend in TV technologies last year, flat-panel TVs with super high-contrast performance turned out to be a common theme at CEATEC 2006, including the Sharp AQUOS booth.

Toshiba and Canon appeared to have instigated the new direction by introducing the first working 55W-inch prototypes of flat-panel displays based on their Surface-conduction Electron-emitter Display (SED) technology, which was said to present a CRT-like 50,000:1 contrast ratio.

Not to be out done, Sharp executives took a group of U.S. journalists to CEATEC and later to its new Kameyama II big-screen 1,080p LCD plant to show the future direction LCD technology.

Sharp, which was the pioneer of thin-film-transistor (TFT) LCD development, repeatedly emphasized that LCD technology continues to advance and evolve. To demonstrate the point, Sharp engineering representatives pointed to several key areas in development including a “Mega Contrast” LCD screen that will eventually produce a “dynamic contrast ratio” of up to 1,000,000:1 for 42W-inch and larger models earmarked for an AQUOS PRO series due in 2007.

The company showed a working 37W-inch Mega Contrast panel at the show.

Sharp executives said improved contrast performance will be an attribute in all 1,080p models going forward, adding that 1,080p AQUOS models in the “premium, step-up high grade, and high-grade” lines, would have 10,000:1 dynamic contrast ratio performance (2,000:1 native contrast), starting with D62U series models shipping this fall.

A technology director said future 1,080p AQUOS displays could also piggyback a new breakthrough in anti-reflection screen technology that promises further improvements to perceivable contrast performance.

Meanwhile, in a separate Sharp technology announcement, the company showed the first working prototype of a video display with four times the resolution of today’s 1,080p models.

Billed as the “world’s first ultimate resolution digital cinema display,” the 64W-inch prototype was said to offer 8.84 million total pixels (4,096 by 2,160 dots, also called the “4K by 2K” format). The resolution level is said to be the same level as that used in professional digital cinema applications.

Initial applications will target professional and institutional uses, including display of digital archive material in museums, theaters, and medical centers.

Ultimately, Sharp is aiming to bring the technology to super resolution high-definition home theater systems, a spokesperson said.

During CEATEC Sharp showed its recently introduced 1,080p models, which are slated for production at the newly opened Kameyama II plant.

Screen sizes slated for U.S. introduction include 42W-, 52W- and 46W-inch screen sizes. A company spokesperson said 57W-inch panels are also scheduled for production at the plant.

Kameyama II produces an eighth-generation mother glass measuring 6.9 by 8.5 feet, from which six 50W-inch class panels will be cut, vs. two from the sixth-generation mother glass produced at the neighboring Kameyama I facility, which opened in 2004.

The Kameyama facilities integrate full LCD TV production on site, from panel manufacturing to final set assembly (the latter for the Japanese market).

Because the Japanese government is engaged in aggressive environmental conservation efforts, Kameyama II was also designed as a “super green factory,” using a massive array of Sharp-developed roof-top solar collectors to help offset some of the plant’s large electricity consumption. Additionally, 100 percent of the water used to produce LCD glass is recycled, the company said.

In addition to producing LCD TVs, Sharp is using the factory as a showcase for its solar panel customers. Among the screen sizes produced at that the Kameyama I are 32W-inches and 37W-inches, which are very popular in the Japanese market.

Pointing to the exploding growth of LCD TV, Sharp said it celebrated in May the 10-millionth unit production mark for AQUOS TVs. This year alone 6 million AQUOS unit sales are expected world wide in 2006, they added.

Spreading out the domestic AQUOS selection, Sharp showed a line of Internet TVs with 37W-, 32W- and 20W-inch LCD monitors with attached PCs containing 500GB hard drives, and wireless keyboards.

Sharp said the products are targeted at the Japanese market, where relatively small living quarters don’t afford room for both PCs and TVs.

To support its full 1,080p HDTVs, Sharp showed several Blu-ray Disc player approaches with 1,080p output, including a prototype built into an A/V surround sound system. The system is “being studied for possible commercialization,” according to a Sharp spokesperson.

Also shown was a Blu-ray Disc player/recorder combination prototype that was also said to be “under consideration for commercialization.”