A new LCD (liquid crystal display) factory has opened in South Korea, with cheaper flat-panel televisions potentially on the way as a result.

The plant is operated by S-LCD Corp., a joint venture between Sony and Samsung Electronics. The first LCD panels left the plant Tuesday, Samsung said in a statement.

The factory makes the panels on a so-called "eighth generation" production line. That means it uses mother glass - the large sheets of glass from which several panels are produced - measuring 2.2 metres by 2.5 metres. S-LCD already operates a seventh generation line at a site in Tangjeong that uses glass measuring 1.87 metres by 2.2 metres. The larger sheets of glass at the new factory can lead to greater production efficiencies and hence lower prices for LCD panels.

The seventh generation line is most economical when used to produce either eight 40-inch panels or six 46-inch panels from each sheet of mother glass. The eighth generation line will work most economically to produce 46-inch and 52-inch panels, so the lower prices effects are likely to be seen in those products.

The output from the factory goes equally to Sony and Samsung for use in the their LCD TV sets. While the companies are partners on the production side, they remain fierce competitors in the marketplace. Each has developed its own proprietary signal processing technology to try to produce a picture that beats the other.

In the first three months of this year, Samsung led the world LCD TV market with shipments of 2.4 million sets, according to data from iSuppli. That gave the company a 16.8 per cent market share. Sony was ranked second with shipments of 1.8 million sets for a 12.6 per cent share.

The new factory represents an investment of 1.8 trillion won. Full output of 50,000 panels per month is due by the end of this year.