TOKYO ( ChipWire)-- Hoping to bring some relief to the shortage of driver ICs used in LCD panels, Samsung Electronics Co. and Toshiba Corp. have partnered on production of the devices for passive LCD screens used in cellular phones, a Toshiba spokesman confirmed today.
Beginning in the third quarter, Toshiba will start production of a "common-type" driver for 256-color super-twisted nematic LCD drivers, while Samsung will produce the complementary "segment-type" driver, the spokesman said. The partnership was reported today in the Nikkei Shimbun, and is expected to be formally announced Wednesday.
Toshiba will likely start selling samples of the devices in two to three months. Mass production is scheduled to start by the third quarter. Toshiba plans to produce 500,000 of the ICs per month, the company spokesman said.
Samsung, based in Seoul, South Korea, could not be reached for comment.
Optrex Corp., an LCD module supplier and an affiliate of Asahi Glass Co., will work with Samsung and Toshiba to provide system integration know-how. Toshiba and Samsung will supply the LCD driver chips to Optrex and other manufacturers worldwide.
"At this moment, LCD drivers are in shortage and nobody is investing in capacity," the Toshiba spokesman said.
High demand for LCDs used in notebooks, desktop PCs and cellular phones, coupled with chip makers' reluctance to add more driver-IC capacity, has created a supply shortfall that is starting to hinder sales of end products like cellular phones, according to some sources. Driver ICs are built with older, high-voltage BiCMOS technology, usually with 0.5-micron or higher technology, and are not considered profitable.
Toshiba is also considering outsourcing more LCD driver production, the spokesman said. Toshiba's foundry partners are Winbond, Worldwide Semiconductor and Tower Semiconductor.
The driver-IC shortage has affected production of LCD panels of all sizes. Last month, NEC Corp., a leading driver supplier, announced a deal to outsource to Sanyo Electric the production of an additional 4 million driver chips per month for use in large TFT panels. At that time, NEC estimated that worldwide production of TFT-LCD drivers will have to double to 700 million units per year by 2002 to keep up with panel production.