FUJIFILM Corporation (President: Shigehiro Nakajima) is investing approx. one billion yen in the Ashigara Site of the Kanagawa Factory to reinforce its production facilities in order to expand the production capacity for the touch-panel sensor film "EXCLEAR", used in smartphones, tablets, notebook computers and all-in-one computers*. The move is expected to more than double the production capacity for EXCLEAR by June this year.
Amidst the rapid proliferation of smartphones and tablet computers, the market has seen an increasing number of notebook and all-in-one computers incorporating the touch-panel function. Predictions are made that the touch-panel market will be making two-digit annual growth in coming years.
At present, touch-panel sensors are made of transparent conductive film, i.e. film or glass coated with a rare metal called ITO (indium tin oxide). This material is easy to break when bent, and has some issues.
The film-based version (1) has high resistance, thereby increasing response time when used on mid- to large-size touch-panels for notebook and all-in-one computers, and (2) must have a thick coat of film to reduce resistance, thus making it less transparent. The glass-based version has low resistance, but ends up being heavier and thicker overall compared to the film version. These issues have raised expectations for the development of touch-panel sensor film that has low resistance, high transparency and flexibility.
EXCLEAR incorporates silver-halide photographic technologies, e.g. studies on functional materials, technologies for precision thin coating and image-design, which Fujifilm has nurtured in its photographic film and flat-panel display material businesses, in order to form fine-pitch silver patterns on transparent PET** film. This makes the touch-panel sensor film low resistance and high transparency / flexibility at the same time. EXCLEAR gives outstanding responsiveness to not only small-size touch panels for smartphones and tablets, but also mid- to large-size panels for notebook and all-in-one computers. The fact that it does not use rare metal eliminates concerns for the supply issue of raw materials. Fujifilm began full-scale shipment of EXCLEAR in November last year.
Under the latest plan, the company will introduce cutting-edge facilities including inspection devices and patterning machines for placing conductive patterns to the Kanagawa Factory's Ashigara Site, the production base of EXCLEAR, with a view to put them into operation in June this year. This is expected to more than double the production capacity of EXCLEAR. Efforts will be made to expand the EXCLEAR market to address the needs for replacing ITO-based transparent conductive film, and cater to the growing demand for touch panels with stable supplies.
Fujifilm is currently implementing growth strategies on its focal business fields under the mid-term management plan, "VISION80". One of the major pillars of the growth strategies is to expand business further in the field of highly functional materials. Technologies nurtured in the photographic film business are explored to create new highly functional materials, as in the flat-panel display materials. This initiative has led to the development of new highly functional materials such as the touch-panel sensor film "EXCLEAR" and the solar cell backsheet. A total of some 10 billion yen were spent on capital investments to start full-scale product shipments last year. The company plans to further expand the sales of these new highly functional materials, while developing and supplying innovative highly functional materials that meet market needs to achieve overall business expansion.
|1. Location||Ashigara Site, Kanagawa Factory (210 Nakanuma, Minami-Ashigara-shi, Kanagawa)|
|2. Facilities||Patterning machines, inspection devices, etc.|
|3. Amount of investment||Approx. 1 billion yen|
|4. Production item||Touch-panel sensor film "EXCLEAR"|
|5. Operational commencement||June 2013|