Foxconn Re-commits to LCD Production in Wisconsin
Foxconn this week issued a press release announcing its intentions to break ground on manufacturing facilities at its complex in Mount Pleasant, Wisconsin, in what may have been an effort to deflect criticism that company efforts on the project are not progressing.
Foxconn said that the next phases of construction of its Wisconsin Valley Science and Technology Park in Racine County, Wisconsin “will begin by Summer 2019 and the facility will begin production in the 4th quarter of 2020.”“Our commitment from day one has been to establish a winning formula for Foxconn and for Wisconsin,” said Dr. Louis Woo, Special Assistant to Foxconn Founder and CEO Terry Gou. “We continue to expand our presence around the state, create jobs, and deepen our partnerships while innovating and adapting to meet changing market needs. We’re investing in Wisconsin because we know manufacturing here is going to drive even greater success and growth for Foxconn and for the community.”
Curiously, the announcement referred to the “initial Gen6 facility,” almost implying that there will be additional Gen 6 (or other Gen) facilities. In any case, the Gen 6 will make “LCD screens for use in a variety of product applications, including vertical solutions for industries such as education, medical and healthcare, entertainment and sports, security, and smart cities.”
The press release was issued on Monday, March 18th, ahead of a town hall meeting of the Village of Mount Pleasant. Wisconsin sources I talked to said that local residents and officials have been getting increasingly impatient with Foxconn’s apparent lack of progress in construction on the project. My sources have said that since the beginning of the year there has been abundant construction activity at the complex, but that activity is all conducted by the state and local governments for infrastructure improvements such as water, sewer, and electricity, and that there has been no activity by Foxconn.
This seems to be supported by drone video footage of the site taken in early March and released by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The footage is available here, and shows panoramic views of the complex, mostly empty and covered with a light blanket of snow. In the far left of the screen shot below, you can see the edge of the first and only building on the complex to be completed, a 120,000 square foot “multipurpose building”.
Screen Shot from Drone Video Footage at Foxconn Wisconsin Site, March 7th 2019
Source: Wisconsin Journal Sentinel
Foxconn also said that by April 1st, it will announce the awards for construction bid packages on site utilities and site roadways and associated storm damage, and perhaps more importantly, that they “will be issuing initial bid packages for construction of the Gen6 fabrication facility and ancillary buildings in May 2019.”
Up to now, DSCC has seen no evidence that Foxconn is preparing the equipment necessary to start TFT LCD production, and our assessment of the Foxconn project in the Q1 update of our Quarterly Display Capex and Equipment Service capacity database, prepared before this press release, shows Foxconn’s Wisconsin fab as a probability D project (on a scale of A through D, D means less than 50% probability) with mass production starting in the 1st quarter of 2022.
In their last public statement on the project at the end of January, Foxconn told The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that “In the next 18 months, the company…plans to construct at the Mount Pleasant campus:
- A liquid crystal module backend packaging plant
- A high precision molding factory (emphasis added)
- A system integration assembly facility
- A rapid prototyping center to help startups test out their hardware ideas and concepts which will go in line with building the AI 8K+5G ecosystem
- A research and development center
- A high-performance data center inside the park or in the vicinity
- A town center to support the people working in the Wisconn Valley Park
None of these seven buildings is an LCD plant under the common meaning in the industry, so the statement this week would seem to be either an addition to these seven or a change. If Foxconn intends to achieve a production start in Q4 2020, they will need to issue purchase orders for equipment soon; DSCC will try and determine the status of these orders as soon as possible and report it in this newsletter.
In other news on the Foxconn project:
- The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources officials “have re-evaluated key environmental permits for Foxconn Technology Group and concluded the permits meet state and federal requirements.” Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers had questioned the permit process during the 2018 election campaign.
- DSCC sources have related some more signs that Sharp may be returning to the US TV market sooner than the current expiration of their licensing deal with Hisense (December 2020). DSCC heard second hand about a Sharp-US executive Facebook post about visiting a high-end retail account with 8K TVs “on the way”, suggesting that something is brewing. We noted this possibility in our CES coverage back in January.