12 December 2011

Sumitomo Metal Mining to commercialize large-diameter sapphire substrates

Sumitomo Metal Mining Co Ltd of Tokyo, Japan has decided to start commercializing large-diameter sapphire substrates and to establish a mass-production line within its subsidiary Okuchi Electronics Co Ltd of Isa City, Kagoshima Prefecture.

Demand for white LEDs is growing for use in applications such as backlighting in large-screen LCD TVs, and is also expanding rapidly in the general lighting market due to the LED’s benefit in saving energy and reducing environmental impacts. Accordingly, the market for sapphire (as a substrate for fabricating gallium nitride for use in white and blue LEDs) is expected to see further growth.

Having planned its entry into the large-diameter sapphire substrate market for some time, Sumitomo Metal Mining has decided to install a new large fabrication furnace at Okuchi Electronics and to mass produce 6-inch sapphire substrates. The planned value of the capital investment is about ¥1.2bn (including investment already completed). Through the investment, Sumitomo Metal Mining will construct a continuous production system extending from the fabrication of large sapphire crystals to substrate processing.

At present, 2- to 4-inch sapphire substrates are prevalent in the market. However, due to LED makers’ demands for cost reductions, the market for larger-diameter substrates is forecast to expand. The production of 6-inch substrates requires the fabrication of large-size crystals, but production is technically difficult and can be performed stably by only a small number of manufacturers worldwide, says the firm. Sumitomo Metal Mining says it has therefore secured a mass-production capability based on its crystal fabrication technology built over many years.

In the future, the firm aims to enhance its development of materials in the environmental and energy sectors and to advance growth strategies in its materials business.

Tags: Sumitomo Metal Mining Large-diameter sapphire substrates

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