Korea develops panel technology

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Korea develops panel technology

The government, a group of conglomerates and some other businesses successfully developed the technology to build an eighth-generation digital lithography system, or light exposure equipment, a key to producing flat panel displays (FPDs), the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy said yesterday.

Although Korea is one of the largest display makers in the world it was dependant on imports of analog lithography systems from Japan’s Nikon and Canon for this technology.

With that achievement, the country will be able to reduce about 600 billion won ($570 million) a year in imports of equipment from Japan.

The Industry Ministry said it has succeeded in inventing one of five core technologies for displays that the country didn’t have on its own.

A single 8G lithography system costs about 20 billion won to 30 billion won, according to the ministry.

In the production of FPDs using analog lithography, “photo masks” are projected onto the surface of glass displays and circuits are then engraved. Korea’s digital system makes it possible to skip photo masks, and the circuits are digitally engraved.

An 8G lithography system can produce six pieces in one go as large as 220 centimeters (7.2 feet) in length and 250 centimeters in width, currently the biggest and thinnest available size for FPDs. Displays of this size are used to make 55-inch flat-screen TVs.

The success came after five years of financial support from the government totaling 21.2 billion won.

Korea has secured 52 patents. As a result, the system will help display producers to cut costs and time, the ministry said.

Samsung Electronics, LG Electronics, 19 other companies and Yonsei University have participated in the project for the last five years.

“Building the lithography system requires certain high-level technologies that Korea has had no access to,” said a ministry official. “By inventing our own technology, we can keep our know-how on the display industry from being leaked to competitors and expect exports of the technology in the future.”

In about three years, the companies will be able to use the lithography technology in commercial production of displays, the ministry estimated.

BY SONG SU-HYUN [ssh@joongang.co.kr]
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