Anticipating smartphone market growth, 3M to boost manufacturing of touch-screen filmsSmartphones have exploded in popularity over the past few years as the iPhone and Android-based smartphones rose to prominence in a relatively short period of time. 3M is betting that market will continue to surge over the next four years, announcing it will expand production of its touch-screen films used in tablet computers, e-readers and smartphones.

The move is strategic for the company: According to 3M's business manager for electronics markets materials, Tony DeRose, the company values the market for touch-screen materials at $2 billion. "The market is just exploding, and we're ahead of it," DeRose said in an interview. The company will boost production of the optically clear adhesives - as thin-films are known - in South Korea, China, Taiwan and Singapore.

3M's films are used to join panels between the liquid crystal display on smartphones and tablets and the surface that users swipe to control the devices, Bloomberg reports. "We've had assets since 2007 for electronics, and we built those up to really grab the smartphone market," DeRose affirmed.

In the fourth quarter of 2010, smartphone sales eclipsed those of personal computers for the first time ever, and analysts assert smartphone shipments could jump by as much as 49 percent in 2011 to 452.5 million units. "It's not a landscape that's void of competitors," said DeRose. "That's why our investments are important." 
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