Japanse display panel manufacturer Sharp Corp. is planning to invest 57.4 billion yen — more than $514 million USD — in organic light-emitting diode (OLED) modules for smartphones and tablets, industry sources said earlier this month. The Osaka-based tech giant is also planning to dedicate a portion of its upcoming investment to OLED panels for laptops and television sets, latest reports indicate. Despite planning a major expansion of its existing operations to a new product category, Sharp is said to continue manufacturing liquid crystal display (LCD) panels for TVs and other consumer electronics. The Hon Hai Precision Industry-owned firm will start related developments later this year and is hoping that its future OLED manufacturing facilities will be fully operational by the end of the second quarter of 2018, people with alleged knowledge of the matter said, adding that the new production lines may start operating as early as next April.
The expansion is said to affect Sharp's existing facilities in Taki, Mie Prefecture, and Sakai, Osaka Prefecture. The company may opt to build on this investment in the future, with some industry watchers expecting it to continue expanding its OLED manufacturing operations in the coming years. Sharp makes its own consumer electronics across a wide variety of categories, in addition to supplying a broad range of third parties with display panels. Even though LCD screens are still the more popular choice in the majority of industries, OLEDs have been gaining traction in recent times and are expected to start dominating the smartphone market as early as next year. With Samsung being the only major manufacturer of OLED display modules for smartphones and tablets, a number of other companies including LG Display and Sharp have been ramping up their efforts in this segment in the past few years, hoping to gain a larger foothold in the market.
Apart from showing signs of shifting a portion of its resources to OLED manufacturing, Sharp may also be changing some of its product design philosophies, with recent reports indicating that the consumer electronics division of the Japanese tech giant is currently working on a smartphone with an unconventional aspect ratio of 17:9. An update on the company's endeavors is expected to follow later this year.