Weiner International Associates
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Weiner's World 2017 Archive

January 2017

 

This month's column is a bit shorter than usual as we prepare for next

month's IPC APEX EXPO show and its Executive Forum for PCB fabricators and their supply chain.

 

This month also marks the 65th anniversary of Epec,  LLC in New Bedford, Massachusetts. The company, founded in 1952, is the oldest printed circuit fabricator in North America. I well remember as a rookie technical salesman for Shipley Company Inc. calling on Dick Zens the company's president in 1956-7. Dick went on to become one of the founders of the IPC in 1957 along with other former friends and customers of yore: Al Hughes, Bill McGinley and Bob Swiggett.

 

I am reminded by this anniversary of other industry pioneers of our industry's beginnings including Jim Penney, Tad Navoy, Pete Sarmanian, Charlie Shipley, George Hart, Spence Glaspell, Dr. Harold Narcus, Herb Pollack, Jim Donaghy, Foster Gray, Rolly Mettler, Dick Douglas, Bert  Krasnow, Bill Jacobi, Denny Stalzer, George Morse, Sam Altschuler, George Messner, Howard Manko, Bert Isaacson, Irv Ireland, Dimitry  Grabbe, Jerry Shore, Al Weiss, Jim Carlson, Ivan Jones, Dave Radovsky, Gerry Lordi, Dr. J. Lee Parker, Werner Engelmeier, Don Dinella, Gerry Ginsberg, Bill  DeForest, Bill Rothschild, Bernie Alzua, Arnold Fleury, Joe Canizero,  Lincoln Low, Clyde Combes, Jerry Henrikson, Bill Parker, Stark  Roberts, Hugh Medford and scores of others  -  to name a few. How many do YOU recall?

 

I still communicate frequently with the first chairman of the IPC's  TAEC committee. Can you guess who he is? I'll give you a hint. He is a  member of the IPC's Raymond E. Pritchard Hall of Fame. Still don't know? He is the most senior of the IPC Ambassadors. Give up? It is Bernie Kessler!

 

 The Department of Commerce (DoC) will make a special presentation at  the IPC Excutive Forum at IPC APEX EXPO next month Brad Botwin, Director of Industrial Studies in the Commerce  Department's Office of Technology Evaluation responsible for  developing surveys and analyses and implementing programs designed to  ensure a technologically superior and competitive defense industrial base capable of meeting U.S. economic and national security requirements and Mark H. Crawford an  analyst with the U.S. Department of Commerce's Bureau of Industry and  Security, Office of Technology Evaluation who performs assessments of  industrial sectors supporting U.S. defense programs and U.S. critical  infrastructure will update their presentation and results of the PCB  survey they conducted with NSWC Crane at the IPC PCB Executive Forum  in San Diego February 13. It is expected to also include some  interesting information on "trusted sources".

 

We are also watching what changes or support our industry will get  from the new administration. How will our government support  rebuilding or solidifying our remaining printed circuit industry? Does  it recognize its position in national defense? Do our members of  Congress maintain members on their staffs that can understand the  industry and its role in defense, health, and the automotive industry?

 

Will the diverse agencies and laboratories of Army, Air Force and Navy  cooperate, share information, find common areas of need and share  common successes and data? Will they share their information with the  Department of Commerce? Will the DOC reciprocate? Are they looking too  far ahead, e.g., to electronic systems for 2030 and 2040 to pay  attention to issues with today's PCB platforms? Do they think that  there is no problems in securing domestic PCB's? Have they drilled  down deeply enough to recognize that a common but critical material,  copper foil is no longer produced in the U.S. except for one facility that is owned by a Japanese company?

 

One industry icon says, "On advancing PCB technology and performance  per se, I think the shortest linkage from the industry to the  government agencies is NIST."

 

 IPC President and CEO John Mitchell has been elected to serve on the National Association of Manufacturers' (NAM)  Council of Manufacturing Associations (CMA) Board of Directors. The Council of Manufacturing Associations (CMA) is made up of more than  260 manufacturing trade associations that work together on behalf of  manufacturing in the United States.

 

TTM Technologies celebrated the grand opening of its RF (Radio  Frequency) Center of Excellence in Stafford Springs, CT with government officials, TTM leaders, employees and guests participating in a ribbon cutting ceremony. This RF center of excellence in Stafford Springs specializes in RF  related PCB products to better support Aerospace & Defense as well as  other customers.

 

Taiwan makers ship over 61 million large-size TFT-LCD panels in 4Q16

 

Taiwan-based makers shipped a total of 61.37 million large-size (9-inch and above) TFT-LCD panels during the fourth quarter of 2016, decreasing  1.5% on quarter but increasing 2% on year, according to Digitimes  Research. TV panels accounted for 30% of shipments, notebook-use units for 31.6%, LCD monitor-use units 21.1% and tablet-use units 14.3%.

 

Innolux shipped 11.18 million TV panels, 10.25 million notebook-use  units, 5.99 million monitor-use units and 2.49 million tablet-use units. AU  Optronics shipped 7.21 million TV panels, 9.17 million notebook-use  units, 6.97 million monitor-use units and 3.37 million tablet-use units.  Chunghwa Picture Tubes and HannStar Display shipped 2.51 million and  380,000 tablet-use panels.

 

Shipments in 2016  declined 2.3% for the year. (Digitimes Research)

 

Toshiba to sell off most of its chip operations

 

Toshiba has decided to sell most of its semiconductor chip operations to focus on its flash memory business. The operations to be put up for  sale include the division that handles system large-scale integrated  circuits, which are used in a wide range of products including  automobiles and home appliances. Toshiba hopes to rebuild its image by  concentrating on flash memory, which has been a cash cow for the struggling company. A tender has already started for some of the chip  operations it plans to sell, according to sources.

 

Toshiba plans to build a new flash memory plant with the U.S.  chipmaker SanDisk  on a site next to its existing plant in Yokkaichi, Mie Prefecture. The cost, to be split between the firms, will exceed $3.4 billion. The  company has already announced plans to stop making white LEDs and CMOS  image sensors, with the latter business to be sold to Sony. (Japan  Times)

 

In case you missed this last month  it seems that a very populous  country with half the circuit board manufacturing capacity in the  world has vowed to spend up to $200 BILLION to buy their way into  world semiconductor leadership.

 

China's state-backed National IC Investment Fund is to shift its  investment focus to the Chinese chip designing sector from the chip manufacturing sector. The fund has committed to investing about $10B  in China's semiconductor industry since its creation first year. About  60% of the investments have been allocated to building semiconductor wafer fabs.

 

As a result, China's 12-inch wafer capacity is expected to surge from 373,000 wafers per year to 620,000 wafers per year over the next three  years. The fund is to shift its focus to China's fabless chip design  and chip packaging and testing sectors from chip manufacturing, and  would also inject capital into Chinese design houses to improve their  innovative capabilities and to help them clinch overseas merger-and-acquisition deals. (Taipei Times)

 

China's economic growth for 2016 was 6.7% the target range of between  6.5% and 7%.

 

Apple is said to be considering moving some of its iPhone production  to the United States. Taiwanese iPhone producer Foxconn is considering  a $7 billion joint investment in a display production facility, the  company's chairman told reporters. Apple has a "ton" of offshore money  that could be repatriated for new facility investment if tax rates are lowered. According to the Nikkei Asian Review, Foxconn Chairman Terry  Gou said "Apple is willing to invest in the facility together" with  his company because it needs display panels for its products. The  plant could create 30,000 to 50,000 jobs.

 

But Gou said U.S.-made iPhones would likely cost more than those  produced at Foxconn's Zhengzhou, China facility, which churns out more  than 100 million iPhones per year. "In the future they may be paying some $500 more for U.S. products, but those do not necessarily work better than a $300 phone,"  Gou told reporters.

 

Note: This last statement by Ghou coupled with past performance of not  going forward with a number of announced facilities in various parts of the world is why I have a "wait and see" attitude about future Foxconn plants.

 

February 2017

 

IPC APEX EXPO 2017 was easily the best in the last 5 years. The 60th annual meeting drew a crowd. The meetings were good. The founding Director, Ray Pritchard, and the previous President, Denny McGuirk came back to help celebrate. Ray greeted First Timers and Executives of the PCB and EMS Forums as well as the crowd of over 500 at the Wednesday evening celebration. The mood was upbeat. There were reports of new orders from both Asia as well as the Americas, and news of increasing business from the show floor. IPC membership was up in all of its regions to a total of more than 4,000.

 

Doug Pauls, principal materials and process engineer, Rockwell Collins, was honored with the IPC Raymond E. Pritchard Hall of Fame Award. Gary Ferrari, FTG, well known and awarded leader in circuit board design circles, standards development, and a former TAEC chairman received the Dieter Bergmann Fellowship Award. Gary named the University of Connecticut (UCONN) as the recipient of the Award’s scholarship.  UCONN is a member of the public/private consortia NextFlex.

 

Cao Xi, technical director at Huawei Technologies Co., Ltd. was elected as a new Board of Directors member. He is the first from his country to hold this post. China now has more than 800 IPC members, greatly attributable to the work of Dr. Philip Carmichael, President of IPC China.

 

Additive manufacturing got a lot of attention as did robotics. The BotFactory’s desktop Squink, hidden in a small booth with a price of just a “few” G’s, garnered a lot of attention. Founded in 2013 the company developed a variety of desktop models which can be used to print conductors, insulators, solder paste and a host of other items for prototyping or repair.

 

Jeff Timms, ASM’s Americas managing Director enthusiastically stated  that  his booth had more than 750 visitors during the first two days! He also stated that business was improving.  Koh Young’s booth ran countless demonstrations throughout the show. Dr. Koh, President & CEO, seemed pleased with the apparent upturn and outlook in America. Technica’s President Frank Medina enthusiastically demonstrated DEK’s new “affordable” printer.

 

The IPC’s programs for PCB members appeared to be re-energized. Mike Carano’s  “Advanced PCB Troubleshooting” professional development course drew rave reviews. The PCB Executive Forum’s program provided valuable pertinent perspectives, information and advice to the industry executives that attended. The evening dinner with the EMS members provided an additional opportunity to exchange ideas across the supply chain.

 

The PCB Executive Forum also generated a mystery as to why not one of the 150 plus non IPC members, who frequently complain about there not being benefits for them in the organization,  did not take advantage of the program and the special 75% discount for a one year membership offered to Forum attendees.

 

There were considerable concerns voiced about potential supply chain issues due to the Dow-DuPont merger. Distributors and users alike wondered which company’s products would survive and how they would be delivered and serviced. The “electronics” sales of the two “giants” are estimated to be about $5 billion of the $80+ billion of total revenue. As a reminder, the result of the merger are expected to be three separate companies:  an agriculture company, a material science company, and a specialty products company. The latter would house the electronics and electronics materials businesses.

 

Foxconn’s chief, Terry Gou, has refused to respond to reports of the company planning to open a large LCD panel factory in the U.S. state of Pennsylvania. The company said that issue remains under discussion.

 

Liu Guohong, director of the finance and modern industry research center at the Shenzhen-based think tank China Development Institute said that it is unlikely to move its manufacturing to the U.S. in the short term as U.S. costs are still higher than in China.

 

Sakai Display Products Corp., a jointly managed company of Foxconn and Sharp Corp., will start construction of a new plant in March in Guangzhou, with an initial investment of $8.88 billion. Foxconn also established a new research center in Shenzhen last month.

 

Intel continued to top all other chip companies in R&D expenditures in 2016 with spending that reached $12.7 billion. This was 22.4% of its semiconductor sales last year.  Intel accounted for 36% of the top-10 R&D spending and about 23% of the $56.5 billion total worldwide semiconductor R&D expenditures in 2016, according to the 20th anniversary 2017 edition of The McClean Report that was released in January 2017.  The table below shows IC Insights’ ranking of the top semiconductor R&D spenders based on semiconductor manufacturers and fabless suppliers with $1 billion or more spent on R&D in 2016.

 

2016 Rank     Company            R&D Exp ($B)      R&D/Sales  %

 

    1                Intel                  12.7                      22.4%

    2                Qualcom             5.1                       33.1%

    3                Broadcom           3.2                       20.5%

    4                Samsung            2.9                         6.5%

    5                Toshiba              2.8                        27.6%

    6                TSMC                 2.2                         7.5%

    7                Media Tek           1.7                        20.2%

    8                Micron                1.7                        11.1%

    9                NXP                    1.6                        16.4%

   10               SK Hynix              1.5                        10.2%

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Nvidia, TI and ST also spent over $1 billion each on R&D.

Source: Company reports, IC Insight's Strategic Reviews database

 

Intel’s R&D spending exceeded the combined R&D spending of the next three companies on the list.

 

Chinese smartphone firm Xiaomi Inc. announced its first in-house designed chipset. The Surge S1, deployed in Xiaomi's newest smartphone the Mi 5c, is the first chipset - which manages data flow - from the company's wholly-owned chip research subsidiary, Beijing Pinecone Electronics.

 

Xiaomi was briefly the world's most valuable startup following its last round of fundraising in 2014. It has since seen sales tumble due to competition from the likes of Huawei Technologies, Vivo, and Oppo.

 

The in-house chipset is one of a number of projects which Xiaomi hopes will bring users to its ecosystem and lower costs. Other projects include smart home devices and online banking. The company said it started developing the chipset just over two years ago and that it is competitive with chipsets in the same range from market-leader Qualcomm Inc.

 

Xiaomi said it has been granted over 3,600 patents, almost half of which are international. The figure includes the 1,500 patents bought from Microsoft Corp. last year.

 

The 47th NEPCON JAPAN was held from Jan.18 to 20, 2017. It's scale with 2,250+ exhibitors was the largest-ever. The show had 110,234* visitors, which is also the largest number in its history. (*Including concurrent shows for automotive technology*, smart factory, wearables*, etc.)

* Automotive World and the 4th Wearable Expo shows each claimed Said to be the world’s largest in their categories.

 

DKN Research stated that it was tough navigating between the trade show booths because the aisles were full with people. It is now the vogue to have related exhibitions held concurrently. This makes the exhibition bigger each year. The following events were held simultaneously:

  • 34th ELECTROTEST JAPAN
  • 9TH Light-Tech Expo
  • 18th PWB EXPO (Printed Wiring Boards Expo)
  • 18th IC PACKAGING TECHNOLOGY EXPO
  • 18TH ELECTRONIC COMPONENTS & MATERIAL EXPO
  • 7TH FINE PROCESS TECHNOLOGY EXPO
  • 3RD WEARABLE EXPO (Wearable Device & Technology Expo)
  • 1st RoboDex (Robot Development & Application EXPO)
  • 9TH CAR-ELE JAPAN (Int’l Automotive Electronics Technology Expo)
  • 8th EV Japan (EV & HEV Drive System Technology Expo)
  • 7th Automobile Lightweight Technology Expo
  • 5th Connected Car Japan
  • 3rd CAR-MECHA JAPAN (Automotive Components & Processing Technology Expo)
  • 1st SMART FACTORY Expo

The East Hall expanded its assigned show floor space 30% this year to accommodate the new exhibitors. There was a major increase in space reserved for the automobile vendors. More than half the total floor space was dedicated to car electronics or related products. 

 

The PWB section of the show was smaller this year. Many of the major circuit manufacturers did not reserve booths.  Several mid-sized manufacturers introduced upgraded technologies such as MLBs with over 100 layers and MIL certified rigid-flex. FiWLCSP and FoWLCSP have become the common technology for IC substrate suppliers. Manufacturers have developed processes to generate traces <10 microns. Specialty chemical suppliers featured competitive solutions for the semi-additive processes capable of producing 2 micron traces. Several new circuit manufacturers from Taiwan, Mainland China and other Asian countries showed technology and quality levels on a par with Japanese companies.

 

Flex circuit manufacturer’s featured new technical concepts for stretchable circuits and transparent circuits using new substrate and conductor materials. However, the ideas for application enabled products are still in their infancy and will take a few more years to commercialize.

 

Companies affiliated with assembling sections were present at the show. Manufacturers for mounting machines and soldering occupied relatively large spaces, but there were fewer companies compared with last year’s show, and most of were headquartered in Japan.  EMS manufactures had one company headquartered in Japan. They were happy to report their revenue topped over one billion dollars due to expansions in China, Vietnam and Mexico.

 

Business for the consumer electronics industry in Japan remains sluggish. Many electronics companies are still shaking the bushes looking for new business, especially from the automobile market.  ----- Dominque Numakura

 

Reports from China indicate that business slowed again after a brief spurt in December and January.

 

According to the latest IDC Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker, the smartphone market in China saw a 19% YoY growth and 17% QoQ growth in the 4th quarter of 2016. The market grew by 9% for the full year. The 4 Chinese vendors in the top five were the same as in 2015, and their share grew from 46% in 2015 to 57% in 2016.

 

"Increased dependence on mobile apps has led to consumers to seek phone upgrades, thus helping drive the large growth in 2016Q4. In lower tiered cities, there was a similar demand by consumers, which OPPO and Vivo met by aggressively pushing mid-range smartphones in these cities," said Tay Xiaohan, Senior Market Analyst with IDC Asia/Pacific's Client Devices team.

 

Here’s a quick view of what to expect from the China smartphone market in 2017:

  • Chinese vendors will continue to focus on their international expansion plans. At present, out of the top three Chinese vendors in China, Huawei is the most successful with half of its shipments coming from markets outside China in 2016Q4. We expect these vendors to increase their shipments in the international market, with India as a key target for these top Chinese vendors.
  • Chinese vendors are starting to launch phones with dual cameras and curved screens. We expect that to be the norm for most flagships in 2017. Cameras will continue to be a key focus in the marketing messages by vendors especially given the strong selfie culture in China, as exemplified by the popularity of apps such as Meitu.

 

March 2017

 

The CPCA show held as the China International PCB And Assembly Show was moderately busy even though the new venue was not quite ready (no escalators, the "water closets" not fully finished, the heat was only on for a few hours one day). The 3 day event was held from March 7 to March 9, 2017 at the Shanghai New International Expo Centre (SNIEC) in Shanghai, China. It showcased products for PCB Manufacturing, Electronic Assembly Materials and Manufacturing Services. The site, being built by the federal government, is destined to become the largest exhibition center in the world when complete.

 

SEMICON was held the following week collocated with Productronica, electronica China,  FPD and a laser exhibit was also quite busy through day 2 while Productronica was busy all three days. Little new was shown except the ability of Chinese companies to copy almost every piece of equipment and material used to make and assemble PCBs. The proliferation of exhibited motion control and robotic was amazing. Some of the Productronica exhibitors stated that they chose this show over NEPCON China to be held in Shanghai next month at the same location because it is more productive for them at half the price.

 

China’s commitment to clearly become the leader in IC’s by building 50+ 12” fab lines by 2020 was often mentioned.

 

SEMI, the global association connecting and representing the worldwide electronics manufacturing supply chain, reported that worldwide sales of semiconductor manufacturing equipment totaled $41.24 billion in 2016, representing a year-over-year increase of 13%. 2016 total equipment bookings were 24% higher than in 2015. The data are available in the Worldwide Semiconductor Equipment Market Statistics (WWSEMS).

 

Micron Technology announced that it successfully won the auction for Cando Corporation’s assets for $89.2 million.  This will beome a back-end site for Micron Taiwan. The acquisition includes the cleanroom and tools that are adjacent to Micron’s existing Taichung fab, bringing the company’s fabrication and back-end together in one location. The new back-end site is expected to begin production in August. Micron, the largest foreign employer and investor  in Taiwan, already has 300mm wafer fabrication facilities in Taichung and Taoyuan, as well as sales and technical support offices in Taipei.

 

Shanghai PhiChem Material, who recently acquired the EEMC operation of Eternal Chemical, exhibited the company’s IC packaging and surface mount potting compounds as well as a new line of solder balls.

 

The expiration of some SAC alloy patents has spawned an increase in the number of companies trying to enter the lead-free solder marketplace.

 

At the show we were told that Schmoll sold over 500 drilling systems in China in 2016. They managed to get a 10% premium over the Taiwan drilling machine makers due to its “German quality”. The Taiwan drilling system producers were said to have destroyed the pricing and in so doing virtually eliminated “foreign sources” from the marketplace.

 

It was interesting to note that there were no English language visitor guide pamphlets for Productronica, though there was one for SEMICON and for electronica China. The latter seemed to focus on the development of electric vehicles as well as connectors and other components. Productronica had a surprising number (dozens) of Chinese fabricators promoting their capabilities. Many of these were now offering new quick-turn services.

 

A Chinese court has ruled in favor of Apple in design patent disputes between the Cupertino, California company and a domestic phone-maker, overturning a ban on selling iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus phones in China, according to the Xinhua news agency.

 

Where are they now? They rose like a rocket in recent years promising astounding results.

 

They said that they would remake the industry, lower costs, produce finer features, expand capabilities, shorten process cycles, and reduce waste and waste treatment. Then they seemed to slide into oblivion claiming they needed a little more time to “tweak” their offering, or could not meet the actual needs and demands of prospective customers, or customers just did not understand what they offered, or the industry changed before they could be heard, or they were unable to substantiate their case with sufficient data to convince customers to try their system, or they said that the marketplace wasn’t quite ready for them, or the existing competition chopped prices to protect their businesses, or other new cheaper/simpler competition arose, or etc., etc., etc.

Who has withdrawn? Who is still trying? Can you name a few to go along with Rainbow, eSurface, Interdyne Systems, and Maskless Lithography?

 

Could they have succeeded if they: Understood the market better? If they were better financed?  If they partnered with other companies? If they understood  the competition better? Did they announce too soon?  Was their time to market too slow? Did they over commit? Did they forget that research does not thrive on publicity? Did they have a market entry strategy?

 

Are any new materials or equipment in the PCB supply chain (other than robots)  that are thriving and demonstrating that they are a major inflection point in the manufacture of PCBs or FPCs?

 

Times have really changed!

 

Westinghouse Electric with four half finished nuclear reactors in the U.S. filed for Chapter 11 protection. It's billions of dollars of cost overruns threatens the viability of its parent company Toshiba which itself is having financial difficulties. I remember calling on their former printed circuit facility with Dan Feinbeg in the early 70s as they were an early user of *Dynachem's Laminar® AX dry film photoresist.

*Another of our industry's companies that is a mere memory today.

 

Global Navigation Satellite System chips

 

According to a report by Markets and Markets, the GNSS chip market is expected to be valued at $5.22 billion by 2022, growing at a CAGR of 7.9% between 2016 and 2022.

The key players operating in the GNSS chip market include: Qualcomm Incorporated (U.S.), STMicroelectronics N.V. (Switzerland), Intel Corporation (U.S.), Mediatek Inc. (Taiwan), Blox Holdings AG (Switzerland), Broadcom Corporation (U.S.), Furuno Electric Co., Ltd. (Japan), Skyworks Solutions, Inc. (U.S.), Quectel Wireless Solutions Co., Ltd. (China), and Navika Electronics (India).

 

Smartphones are currently the largest users of these chips and are expected to remain so until 2021 or 2022.

 

Serbia has signed an agreement to provide financial support to Philippines-based Integrated Micro-Electronics (IMI) company for the construction of a production plant in the city of Nis. The Serbian government will provide $7,329) for each of the 1,250 employees to be hired by IMI, according to prime minister Aleksandar Vucic. IMI’s investment in the production plant will total more than $32 million when complete.

 

New consortium for panel level packaging

 

The Panel-Level Packaging Consortium has also now been formed. It’s international partners include Intel, ASM Pacific, Hitachi Chemical, AT&S, Evatec, Nanium, Süss MicroTec, Unimicron, Brewer Science, Fujifilm Electronic Materials U.S.A., ShinEtsu, Mitsui Chemicals Tohcello, and Semsysco. Together with Fraunhofer IZM as the development hub, the consortium plans to implement fan-out panel-level packaging (FOPLP), one of the newest packaging trends in microelectronics. FOPLP has a very high miniaturization potential in both package volume and package density.

 

New projects

 

Just 2 years after its founding, Dr. Malcolm Thompson, executive director of NextFlex®, America's Flexible Hybrid Electronics (FHE) Manufacturing Institute, announced the award of its largest set of contracts to date,  11 new projects totaling a  $21 million in value-to both corporations and academia to help transform FHE into a commercially viable industry. The project proposals were submitted in response to project calls issued by NextFlex, and address not only FHE product designs, but also a range of underlying technologies that will help build the sustainable supply chain, standards, and workforce essential to cost-effective, wide-scale manufacture of FHE-based products.

The recipients will cost-share $13 million of the total $21 million value of the 11 projects chosen for this latest round of awards. The contracts were awarded to the following NextFlex members and projects.

  • Auburn University - "Mechanical Test Methods for FHE Materials and Devices
  • The Boeing Company - 1) "Flexible Antenna Array Technology" and 2) "3D Patterning of Embedded FHE with High Fidelity" (#1, key partner: Georgia Tech; #2, key partner: nScrypt Inc.)
  • Lorain County Community College - "TRAIN Ohio for Micro-Electromechanical Systems"
  • Purdue University - "Ultra Flexible RFID/Sensor Systems for Inventory Monitoring" (key partner: Raytheon)
  • Sensor Films - "Implementing a FHE Prototype and Production Capability for NextFlex" (key partners: PARC, a Xerox Company, The Boeing Company, General Electric Company, Jabil Circuit, Universal Instruments, NovaCentrix, Binghamton University and the Rochester Institute of Technology)
  • Uniqarta, Inc. - "Enabling Ultra-Thin Die Assembly Prototyping at NextFlex Hub" (key partners: ON Semiconductor, Jabil Circuit, University of Massachusetts (UMass) Amherst and North Dakota State University)
  • United Technologies Research Center - "Manufacturing of Distributed, Flexible and Stretchable Asset Monitoring Sensor Networks" (key partners: Stanford University and Acellent Technologies, Inc.)
  • Universal Instruments Corporation - "Ultra-Thin Die Assembly for FHE Systems" (key partners: Binghamton University, General Electric Company, i3 Electronics and Lockheed Martin)
  • UC Berkeley - "Integration Processes for Flexible and Wearable Wound Monitoring and Therapeutic Bandage" (key partner: Jabil Circuit)
  • UMass Lowell - "Test Methods for Electrical and Mechanical Durability of Flexible/Rigid Interfaces in Multi-Axial Fatigue and Dynamic Loadings" (key partners: Raytheon, Jabil Circuit and DuPont)

 

Unimicron has decided to rebuild both innerlayer and outerlayer facilities of the former Ruwel in an industrial area in Geldern (Germany). Both plants are expected to become operational in 2018.

 

Terry Gou, the founder of Taiwan’s Foxconn Technology Group, said he is “very serious” about bidding for Toshiba Corporation’s memory chip business. Toshiba plans to sell some or all of the operation to shore up its balance sheet and is soliciting bids from financial and strategic investors. With Toshiba’s memory unit, Foxconn would be able to bring together display and memory technology, as well as assembly and supply, under one roof.

 

From Taiwan

 

PCB maker Chin-Poon Industrial saw its net profits increase 25.9% on year to a record high $81.63 million in 2016. PCB and FPCB supplier Zhen Ding Technology Holding has reported net profits of NT$3.456 billion (US$113.35 million) for 2016, decreasing 55% from a year earlier. Taiwan’s flexible PCB and handset component supplier Ichia Technologies reported revenues of $16.268 million for February, up 23% on month and 45% on year. (Source: Digitimes).

 

From Japan

 

Murata has commercialized the world first 0201M size ceramic chip capacitor with 100 pF for cellular phones and other mobile devices. It’s size is 0.25 x 0.125 mm.  RIKEN announced the development of a new deep UV light LED device with a high power efficiency as an alternative light source of mercury lamps.

 

Last month Princeton University announced that its researchers have drastically shrunk the equipment for producing terahertz — important electromagnetic pulses lasting one millionth of a millionth of a second — from a tabletop setup with lasers and mirrors to a pair of microchips small enough to fit on a fingertip (above). The simpler, cheaper generation of terahertz has potential for advances in medical imaging, communications and drug development. Last year we reported on a British terahertz inspection system for nondestructive inspecting of electronic packages.  The UK’s TeraView has a non destructive electro optical terahertz inspection system which can detect minute shifts in impedance changes from weak or marginal interconnects after accelerated life tests or high temperature cycle tests. It can locate BGA faults within 5 um.

 

Copper foil is not the only raw material increase expected this year according to the foreign trade departmeny manager of MeiZhou KeDing Industrial(PCB) Co,.Ltd. He states that other laminate supplies will also increase. Glass cloth is likely to rise to 7 yuan/m2 ($0.094/ft2) . Aluminum plates will go up as much as 20%. He expects shortages of CCL’s to be the norm for the next 2 or 3 years.

 

Reminder

 

The 14th Electronic Circuits World Convention will be held next month in KINTEX, Goyang City, S. Korea (April 25 to April 27) along with KPCA show hosted by the Korea Printed Circuits Association (KPCA) as well as World Electronic Circuits Council (WECC).

 

April 2017

 

China’s economy accelerated for a second-straight quarter as investment picked up, retail sales rebounded and factory output accelerated in March. Gross domestic product increased 6.9% in the first quarter from a year earlier, compared with a 6.8% median estimate in a Bloomberg survey.

 

More than 25,000 attended NEPCON China in Shanghai the last week of the month. There was a lot of activity with supply chain members reporting a good first quarter and  a high level of current quote activity. Yamaha was reported to be pushing the production and delivery of orders for more than 100 new pieces of SMT equipment. Both WKK and Transtec reported good activity for the Yamaha systems.

Optomec was one of the attention gathering exhibits in the WKK booth showing its 3D additive manufacuring capabilities for printed electronics & laser metal deposition used for 3D IC, printed solar sells, flexible electronics, organic electronics, antennae and touch screens. The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology was reported to have purchased two new Optomec systems.

 

Even though a number of Taiwan based companies reported slipping sales and profits for the 1st quarter of the year (e.g., Flexium), Wus Printed Circuit saw its revenues grow 18+% on month and 31+% on year to a 20-month high of $17.168 million in March. Flexible PCB and chassis maker Ichia Technologies reported a net loss of $2.9 million for the period stating that currency exchange losses contributed to the loss.

 

Results for the quarter ending December 31, 2016 from Shengyi Technology, the world's larget CCL producer, showed that gross margins widened from 20.53% to 21.50% compared to the same period last year, operating (EBITDA) margins now 16.49% from 14.97%. Revenues for the period were $347.3 million with net earnings of $35.8 million. Gross margins increased from 20.53% to 21.50% compared to the same period last year.

 

Will this be enough to save Toshiba?

 

Sources state that Foxconn Technology of Taiwan has told Toshiba that it is ready to pay as much as $27 billion for Toshiba's computer-chip business. The Taiwanese company, the world's largest electronics contract manufacturer and an assembler of Apple's products, used a similar strategy last year to win control of Sharp, beating out a Japanese government-backed investment fund.

 

You should have attended Brad Bourne's presentation at the IPC's Executive Forum for fabricators at IPC APEX EXPO a few months ago to get some insight as to how the following was done.

 

Firan Technology Group Corporation announced financial results for the first quarter 2017.

• Achieved record first quarter sales of $27.2M in Q 1 2017, an increase of more than 60% over Q 1 2016

• Grew Aerospace segment by 168% over Q 1 last year

• Grew Circuits segment sales by 23% over QI last year

• Gross margins increased by $3 .1 M or 83 % over Q 1 last year

• Net Income increase by 78% in Q l 2017 versus Ql 2016

• Cash flow from operations was $1.0M in Ql 2017 compared to cash usage of $0.6M in QI last year

• Completed the integration of PhotoEtch

• Continued the transition of Teledyne PCT, expect transition to continue through Q2 2017

 

"The first quarter of 2017 saw the continued benefit on the top line from the two acquisitions last year," stated Brad Bourne, President and Chief Executive Officer. He added, "With the closure of PhotoEtch complete and the planned closure of Teledyne PCT in Q2, the benefits of these acquisitions will translate to improved bottom line results as well."

 

No surprise here

 

In response to mounting concern about the shortage of U.S. workers with skills needed by electronics manufacturers, IPC – Association Connecting Electronics Industries® conducted a “fast-facts” study to learn more about the skills gap as it affects U.S. electronics assembly manufacturers. The results indicate that most companies are having a hard time recruiting qualified production workers, and an even harder time finding qualified engineers and other technical professionals.

 

A suggestion from Bernie K.

 

PCB employee shortages---- let's start dipping into the retired ranks and adjust the mindset of companies so that they can use part time --- ad hoc--- assistance on projects from elder employees with flex schedules.

The IPC once published a capability matrix for consultants.  Maybe a similar presentation would be good for retirees wanting to work on a reduced schedule.

 

From a colleague touring facilities in China

 

"I am having good time in Chongqing.  I visited the AT&S substrate plant, Founder’s high layer plant, GBM’s mother board plant, and Compeq’s HDI plant.   These are all first class plants.  Beautiful equipment and very well thought--out layouts.

I am heading to Wuhan next to see Meiko, Tripod, Unimicron, Dynamic, Wu's and Star Circuit.

Then more in Wuxi and Kunshan.

The total output by those makers amounts roughly to $2.2 billion per year close to the entire U.S. output ($2.6 billion).

Poor U.S. PCB guys, most of them have no knowledge what goes on here in China."

 

Last month...

 

...we asked where a number of the PCB supply chain  rising stars of a few years ago had gone. They were no longer evident at major industry meetings and exhibits. We got a response from one of them, the former Maskless Lithography (MLI).

 

The company was acquired a few years ago by Chime Ball (CBT), a Taiwan based manufacturer of exposure systems with thousands of “conventional” printers sold in the Far East. CBT has since lowered the costs and prices of the systems, updated the software to expand capabilities, and offer various models that provide economic offerings for fine line and/or volume applications of dry film photoresists (DFRs) as well as solder masks. CBT’s systems can now image 50um lines and spaces according to a company spokesman. The systems are sold and serviced in the U.S. by California based Technica which also sells photoimageable solder masks as well as dry film photoresists (DFRs). Twenty-three of the CBTs direct imaging systems have been sold in the U.S. to date.

 

….and a reminder

 

Thailand PCB EXPO 2017 will be held May 11-13 at Impact Exhibition and Convention Center along with Thailand LED EXPO 2017 and Thailand Energy Saving Expo 2017. The PCB show will include assembly.

 

The trend towards direct representation in the U.S. by China’s PCB fabricators is continuing.  We also continue to be inundated with promotions and sales solicitations from dozens of Chinese PWB fabricators whose  names unfamiliar to us. We thought that you would enjoy the following one:

 

"We are NOT a big PCB supplier,

Without fancy facility.

But with all organs needs,  clean and tiny, flexible and quick-response.

We are NOT a big PCB supplier,

Without long clients list.

But everyone here with us enjoy as VIP, satisfied and happy.

We are NOT a big PCB supplier,

Without glorious history.

But with modern and open management, researching and developing.

R&D team works,

More possibilities.

Contact us to go up with: -------------"

 

At the same time as Chinese fabricators are seeking new direct routes to America's markets, experienced American PCB sales managers are seeking ways to link up with Chinese companies seeking to establish a direct delivery supply chain to by-pass the "broker system"*. 

 

It was also interesting to see a large NCAB booth in the midst of a number of Chinese board-builders at Productronica (colocated with SEMICON) in Shanghai last month.

 

SelectConnect Technologies has published the white paper, “Trace Width and Space Limitations for Laser Direct Structuring.” The white paper details a study that was conducted to determine how close laser direct structuring (LDS) traces can be created and metallized without inducing over plating or bridging on PET/PBT material.

 

Still growing

 

UP Media Group announced that a record number of abstracts have been received for PCB West 2017, to be held September 12 - 14, 2017, in Santa Clara, CA. The event includes a three-day technical conference and one-day exhibition to be held at the Santa Clara (CA) Convention Center.

More than 90 abstracts in total were received for the three-day conference, the most in the 26 years of the event. Potential speakers from North America, Asia and Europe submitted abstracts to the event, which has grown every year since 2008.

 

SEMI announced that the global semiconductor materials market increased 2.4% in 2016 compared to 2015 while worldwide semiconductor revenues increased 1.1%.

 

According to the SEMI Material Market Data Subscription, total wafer fabrication materials and packaging materials were $24.7 billion and $19.6 billion, respectively. Comparable revenues for these segments in 2015 were $24.0 billion for wafer fabrication materials and $19.3 billion for packaging materials. The wafer fabrication materials segment increased 3.1 percent year-over-year, while the packaging materials segment increased 1.4 percent.

 

For the seventh consecutive year, Taiwan was the largest consumer of semiconductor materials due to its large foundry and advanced packaging base, totaling $9.8 billion. Korea and Japan maintained the second and third places, respectively, while China rose in the rankings to claim the fourth spot during the same time. Annual revenue growth was the strongest in the China, Taiwan, and Japan markets. The materials market in Europe, Rest of World (ROW) and South Korea experienced nominal growth, while the materials market in North America contracted.

 

May 2017

 

BIG NEWS!

 

China’s central bank is effectively anchoring the yuan to the dollar, a policy twist that has helped stabilize the currency in a year of political transition and market jitters about China’s economic management. The yuan weakened more than 6% against the dollar in 2016; this year, it is up roughly 1%, and the expectation that the currency will fluctuate—a gauge known as implied volatility—is around its lowest in nearly two years. The focus seen in recent weeks on stability against the dollar, whether it goes up or down, means pressure on the yuan to weaken could get dangerously bottled up, potentially bring bouts of sharp devaluation.

 

Moody’s Investors Service cut China’s sovereign credit rating, citing the peril of rising debt as growth slows. The effort to keeping up with the dollar could add to the challenge by forcing the central bank to keep burning through its foreign-exchange reserves to support the yuan. (Wall Street Journal)

 

This comes after China’s foreign-exchange reserves rose for the third straight month in April, edging up on the back of a less bullish U.S. dollar and Chinese government controls on money moving offshore, economists said. The foreign-currency reserves increased by $20.45 billion from the previous month to $3.03 trillion, according to data released by the People’s Bank of China.

 

Note: Hong Kong’s dollar has been “anchored” to the U.S. dollar for decades.

 

SEMI | FlexTech and the Canadian Printable Electronics Industry Association  have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to support each other’s programs and drive the continued development and adoption of printable, flexible hybrid, and wearable electronics (PE and FHE).

The announcement was made at CPES2017, taking place the last week of May at Centennial College’s new Conference Center in Toronto. CPES2017 is Canada’s premier conference and trade show for PE.

 

Reed Electronic Research says that the European EMS Industry is expected to reach to reach Euro 11.7 billion in 2020 up from Euro 10.8 billion in 2015. The market will increasingly focus on the Aerospace, Defense, Automotive, Medical, Control & Instrumentation, Industrial and Telecom (ADAMCIT) segments.

 

This month’s PCB Magazine continued the discussion on the difficulties of attracting, training and maintaining the needed workers for our industry, Various interviewees provided their views of the  problems that they face with recruiting and maintaining millennials to succeed the retiring grey-heads. They spoke of cultures changes, lack of training tools from their professional societies or colleges, and a host of other perceived challenges. They spoke of outreach programs. They spoke of new business models. They spoke of rapid technology shifts. They wondered how they could attract young people into a job that required following instructions rather than innovating on the fly or providing some new challenges.

 

Last month several readers of Weiner’s World suggested bringing back retires to fill the gap or assist in training. After all, isn’t 65 the new 50?

 

But, I did not see a situation analysis properly defining the problem (including management’s apparent continuing to live in the past). I did not see a clear picture of what is needed today and what will be needed in 5 years. I did not see a prediction of how much of “the process” would be automated. There was no demand forecast by product/technology type. There was no prediction of an employee’s life cycle in a particular company that recognizes that the old idea of having a career that only spanned a few jobs has become just that – old!

 

There were no innovative solutions offered to offset some of the recognized problems.

 

An interview of Shelly Phelps the human resource manager at Saline Lectronics by Davina McDonnell pointed out that, “… millennials have high expectations, low patience, and struggle when technology is limited or restricted. This generation grew up with rapid change of computer access and all forms of technology. They prefer and expect rapid change when processes do not work. They have little tolerance and patience for changes that are delayed for long durations. They would prefer to streamline and speed up the process of learning their job and don’t seem to embrace putting your time in for “moving up the ladder.” Most millennial employees have significant difficulty in going for long periods of time being disconnected from their cell phones. Hands-on training seems to work well for millennials, if sufficient time is allowed. However, the written trainings seem to pose an issue. Reading multiple documents posted on the company server, without any way to verify if they understand them, seems to leave major gaps.

 

Today the situation is becoming more critical. Unemployment is at its lowest level since the 1980s. The demand for “high-tech” and semi-skilled workers will increase after recent approvals of “the pipeline”, promised factory expansions in the automotive and other industries, and as new orders are placed resulting from the new agreements in the mid-East and elsewhere. Will industry take advantage of its retirees to help? Will that be sufficient? Will America have to “import” foreign labor to meet its new needs? WHAT DO YOU THINK?

 

Global Material Shortage Update

 

After a year of uncertainty, the global copper foil shortage is beginning to take affect for the PCB industry. Copper foil is used as the main conductor in PCB laminate; however it is also a key material used in batteries, in particular car batteries for which there is particularly high global demand. With predicted triple-figure growth rates, it is no surprise that available copper stock is being prioritized for these lucrative products. And copper mines are struggling to keep up with the growing demand - so here we are now with a global shortage of material and a serious situation that forces change.

Mark Goodwin CEO of Ventex International commented: "Our market assessment is that the copper foil shortage has resulted in approximately 2.8M sheets per month CCL global material shortage. This is approximately 2 times the total rigid demand of USA and Europe combined. We expect the situation to last at least until the middle/end of 2018. Now is the time to work closely with your material supplier to secure your supply, and to pass on the inevitable increases in cost in your finished board prices.” (Source EIPC)

 

Retrenching?

 

PCB maker Tripod Technology of Taiwan sold its factory and land in Zhejiang Province China for $10.7 million. It still has plants in Wuxi, Jiangsu Province and Xiantao, Hubei Province as well as in Taiwan.

 

PCB maker Unimicron has reported April consolidated sales revenues of $151.47 million down by 10.7% year-on-year and down by 7% from the previous month. For the year-to-date Unimicron sales were $635.89 million down by nearly 6% compared to the same period last year.

 

Board maker Zhen Ding Technology Holding reported net profits of $11.72 million for the first quarter of 2017, increasing 14.2% over a year ago.

 

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) is set to move its 7nm process technology to volume production in 2018, an improved version of the 7nm process using extreme ultraviolet (EUV) will be ready for volume production a year later, according to the company’s co-CEO C.C. Wei.

 

TSMC's manufacturing technologies are targeting four main applications - mobile, high-performance computing, automotive and IoT, Wei indicated. TSMC has already moved its 10nm process technology focusing mainly on mobile devices to volume production.

TSMC will offer its 7nm process technology for mobile products, HPC and automotive applications. The foundry has had 12 7nm tape-outs for mobile devices, and expects to finalize 7nm chip designs for HPC, Wei said. TSMC's 7nm process will meet the automotive AEC-Q100 (Grade 0) standard in 2018, according to Wei.

 

Asustek Computer will restructure in a bid to revitalize its growth momentum. It will establish ah a new business unit for gaming products. Revenue fell nearly 9% annually to $4.49 billion in the first four months of 2017.

 

Taiwan Flex has commercialized a new transparent heat resistant flexible circuit using transparent polyimide film and cover resin for LED modules.

 

Oki Cable will introduce new transparent heat resistant flexible circuits next month during the JPCA SHOW 2017 in Tokyo.

 

Hitachi Automotive Systems has developed a new 48 volt lithium ion battery with a high output density for the next generation of hybrid automobiles.

 

Going up!

 

IC Insights revised its IC market outlook for 2017 and now shows DRAM average selling prices rising 50% in 2017, NAND flash ASPs increasing 28%, and the average selling price for automotive special-purpose logic devices increasing 34%. Electronic systems that improve vehicle performance; that add comfort and convenience; and that warn, detect, and take corrective measures to keep drivers safe and alert are being added to new cars each year. Consumer demand and government mandates for many of these new systems, along with rising prices for many IC components within them, are expected to raise the automotive IC market 22% this year to a new record high of $28.0 billion!

 

Nanya Technology, Taiwan’s biggest DRAM chip supplier, stated that its chip shortage would worsen next quarter as supply cannot catch up with rising seasonal demand for smartphones and consumer electronics. The prices for mainstream DDR4 chips are still increasing in the second quarter [even in the slack season] according to company president Lee Pei-ing. “The prices for consumer electronics also look quite stable. The outlook for next quarter is also positive as the consumer electronics industry enters peak season. Chinese mobile phone companies are resuming inventory restocking again ahead of new model launches,” Lee said. (Source: Taipei Times)

For the volatile DRAM industry, slight supply constraints could prompt significant price hikes, the company added. Prices will climb 10% this quarter from the previous quarter as demand growth is expected to be 1% faster than supply according to Nanya.

 

Samsung Electronics’ plan to spin off foundry operations from the system LSI division is expected to increase Samsung’s share of global contract chip making at the expense of Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TSMC) and smaller rivals. Samsung's chip operations, consisting of memory and system LSI, will be split into three, making the foundry business an independent unit, according to the Korea Economic Daily.

 

The separation of Samsung’s contract chip making from its branded semiconductor business would remove a conflict of interest with potential customers such as Nvidia and MediaTek, and create a new threat to dedicated foundries such as TSMC, according to analysts such as Andrew Lu. (Source: EE Times)

 

The 15th China International Equipment Manufacturing Fair will be held September 1-5 at the Shenyang International Exhibition Center in Shenyang. The exhibition area will be 1,010,000 square meters! Exhibitors will be from the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Canada, the Netherlands, Spain, Italy, Russia, Japan, South Korea, Australia and China Hong Kong, Taiwan and other 22 countries and regions.

 

WOW !

 

My latest LinkedIn Post on workers for our industry got 1,066 views in the first 48 hours!

 

June 2017 

 

There will be no July 2017 column!

 

On the way back from Hong Kong last week I had the good fortune of meeting an officer of Allegro Microsystems and enjoyed a wide ranging discussion with him. One of the "take home" items was concern about an expanding shortage of rare earth metals used to make IC's for the burgeoning automotive sensor market. The second was how important the roles of partnering and consortia are in the rapidly advancing autonomous automotive electronic field.

 

While in Asia this month a number of key EMS and PCB supply chain companies told me that sales and profits this year were better than last year - so far, even though operating margins were a bit "thinner".

 

The U.S. economy is expected to grow at a 4.0% annualized pace in the 2nd quarter based on the latest data on factory activity, construction and consumer spending released this week, the Atlanta Federal Reserve's GDP Now forecast model showed.

Yet the year-on-year increase in wages remained at 2.5% with the labor market expected to hit full employment this year, there is optimism that wage growth will accelerate.

 

Acquiring, training, and maintaining employees is still a hot topic

 

The Surface Mount Technology Association (SMTA) and Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth College announced the launch of a new collaboration to provide professional development training workshops through the SMTA organization.
 
The new partnership will serve the needs of individuals seeking certifications in the area of Lean Six Sigma, Leadership, and Quality training.  In addition, the workshops will be made available directly to SMTA members, corporations and other organizations with the goal to enhance employee performance and provide management training. (I once arranged for an on-line MBA program to be offered to IPC members, but the IPC did not act on it).
 
The partnership is designed to provide program participants access to internationally renowned, industry-oriented learning and certification from one of the most prestigious educational institutions in the world through “distance learning."
Dr. Ron Lasky, Director of Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth said that professional development initiatives are applicable to building knowledge and developing the skills for career advancement that are essential, and distance learning programs provide a flexible path to do this. 

 

Further, President Donald Trump announced “Workforce Development Week.”  As such, President Trump even signed an executive order expanding apprenticeship programs. The Trump administration asked federal agencies to recommend new executive actions to promote apprenticeships and remove regulations that could be an obstacle to workforce development. Though Trump’s 2018 budget proposal cuts funding for job training programs by 40%, from $2.7 billion to $1.6 billion, the Administration hopes to foster “private-to-private partnerships” on job training through the executive order, “Expanding Apprenticeships in America”.

 

This order would virtually eliminate oversight of government-subsidized apprenticeship programs and shift certification of federally funded apprenticeship programs from the Labor Department to grant recipients. Additionally, the executive order responds to the desire of third-party groups to create more flexible apprenticeship programs and directs the Department of Labor (DOL) to allow companies, trade associations, and unions to develop their own “industry-recognized apprenticeship” guidelines, which the DOL will review for quality, and then approve. (Decades ago Dynachem subsidiary of Thiokol partnered with a junior college in Moss Point, Mississippi to develop a course and train technicians needed in a new chemical plant being built there – the program was highly successful and students received credits towards an Associates Degree). The order also directs the DOL to use available funding to promote apprenticeships, especially in sectors where apprenticeships are not currently widespread.

 

Concurrently in Congress, a bipartisan Senate bill, The Apprenticeship and Jobs Training Act, was introduced by Susan Collins (R-ME) and Maria Cantwell (D-WA). This bill aims to use tax breaks to kick-start apprenticeship programs.

 

From Dominique Numakura of DKN Research

 

This year’s JPCA show at Tokyo Big Sight was co-located JIEP 2017 (31ST ADVANCED ELECTRONICS PACKAGING EXHIBITION), JISSO PROTEC 2017 (19th Jisso Process Technology Exhibition), Large Electronics Show 2017 and WIRE Japan Show 2017.   The printed circuit industry in Japan continues to struggle. Event attendees hoped to discover the latest business trends for the Japanese circuit board industry.

 

The major assembling machine companies, YAMAHA, JUKI, Panasonic and Fuji Machine, did not showcase significant upgrades, but promoted a few small improvements such as higher speed and productivity, easier handling and higher reliabilities.  There were fewer drilling machine suppliers at the show than in previous years.  They featured new mechanical drilling systems with higher productivity and laser drilling machines for forming micro vias.

 

Equipment suppliers for the manufacture of flexible circuits did not exhibit any machines related to photolithography or pattern etching this year. Instead they featured product lines aimed at basic processes such as punching and stiffener bonding that provides higher productivity and an increase in accuracy with roll-to-roll processing.

 

Material suppliers also shifted their focus this year.  Laminate suppliers did not feature any Cu clad laminates this year.  Instead, they introduced nano-powders and nano-inks, targeting companies with newer applications.

 

Circuit manufacturers featured new technologies aimed at the growing markets for wearable devices, automobile electronics and medical devices.  The key words in these segments are stretchable (elastic) and transparent electronics.

 

In the IC world we see record investments and double digit chip sales increases this year before leveling off in 2018.

 

The latest update to the World Fab Forecast, published on May 31, 2017 by SEMI, reveals record spending for fab construction and fab equipment.

Korea, Taiwan, and China all see large investments. Spending in Europe will also increase significantly. In 2017, over $49 billion will be spent on equipment alone, a record for the semiconductor industry.  Spending on new fab construction is projected to reach over $8 billion, the second largest year on record.  Records will shatter again in 2018, when equipment spending will pass $54 billion, and new fab construction spending is forecast at an all-time high of $10 billion.

 

A new World Semiconductor Trade Statistics (WSTS) organization forecast projects annual global market growth of 11.5% in 2017 and 2.7% in 2018, followed by a slight decrease of 0.2% in 2019. Regionally, year-to-year sales increased in China 30.0% and 26.9% in the Americas.

 

A challenge to SEMI?

 

As China sets out on the Made in China 2025 plan with electronics and semiconductor technology as one of the Top 10 focus areas its new China High-end Integrated Circuit Alliance (CHICA) held its second meeting. The meeting purpose was to gather producers, institutions, research institutes and users to explore innovation, advance integrated circuit industry research, and build “architecture: - chip - software - machine - system - information service” to promote rapid development of the integrated circuit industry.

 

Its members include: Tsinghua Unigroup, Inspur, Sugon, CEC, State Grid Information & Telecommunication, Huawei, Lenovo, ZTE, Loongson, Tsinghua University, Shanghai Zhaoxin, Tianjin Phytium, Shanghai Huahong, Yangtze River Storage, SMIC, CS&S, China Standard Software, National Integrated Circuit Industry Investment Fund, Telecommunications Research Institute of Ministry of Industry & Information Technology, China Electronics Standardization Institute, Chinese Electronics Standardization Association, and the Fifth Electronic Research Institute of Ministry of Industry and Information Technology.

 

The four working focus areas of the Alliance are:

  • Become the “communication bridge” for joint high-end technology research
  • Act as the “contact link” for collaborative innovation of producers, institutions, research lnstitutes and users
  • Function as the “adhesive” for promoting construction of industrial ecological system
  • Advocate the new “important platform” for international cooperation and talent cultivation

 

A long silence and lack of response has ended

 

When I got home from Asia I received notice of the Chapter 11 Bankruptcy Case of Earth One Circuit Technologies Corporation dba eSurface. They rose from "nowhere" just a few years ago with an expensive dramatic splash at the annual IPC APEX PCB Convention and Exhibition in California. They promised to change the way that printed ciruits were made. They had a fantastic promotional blitz. They were able to demonstrate an interesting method of applying Cu to small pieces of various substrates as well as some unclad plastic sheets, but were unable to provide substantiating data that met many of their own claims, IPC specs, repeatability, solution maintenance procedures and stability, or process controls.

 

It takes MORE than standards!!!!

 

“The systematic (as opposed to technical) root cause of the material problems I faced as fab materials quality manager at Intel almost always came down to a problem in stability, where there was a change to the material the supplier didn’t think was important, a change in the processing that they didn’t catch, or a change in the incoming raw material that they didn’t detect.  Material suppliers have to accept that the customers’ definition of quality becomes their definition of quality, and the main rule is to make sure that a material that’s working does not change at all. Consistency is the key for the end user, so it must be for us as well.  A spec alone will not measure or ensure that.  It takes robust change control, process control, and incoming raw material control.” ----- Jim Mulready, VP Global Quality Assurance, JSR Micro

Amen, Jim, Amen!

 

Credit Agricole says that momentum in China's economy is robust. Its first half of the year numbers gave evidence of stable momentum that gives policy makers room to continue defusing financial risks. The manufacturing purchasing managers index increased to 51.7 in June, beating all estimates compiled by a Bloomberg survey of economists, and the 51.2 reading in May. New export orders rose to 52.0, the highest level since April 2012.

 

Materials

 

Park Electrochemical announced the consolidation of its Nelco Products, Inc. electronics Business Unit located in Fullerton, California (“NPI”) and its Neltec, Inc. electronics Business Unit located in Tempe, Arizona (“Neltec”).  When completed, all manufacturing operations at NPI will cease, except for the NPI treating operation, which will continue as part and under the supervision of the Neltec Business Unit.  All manufacturing functions, including treating, lamination, prepreg paneling, finishing, inspection, quality lab and shipping and receiving, will continue at the Neltec Business Unit location in Tempe, Arizona.  After the consolidation is complete, the Neltec Business Unit (including the continuing treating operation in California) is expected to have ongoing manufacturing capacity equal to approximately three times the current production levels of NPI and Neltec combined.

 

Shortages can help some

 

Taiwan’s Co-Tech Copper Foil could have profitable sales of more than$200 million 2017 due a continuing significant increase in car-use copper foil demand particularly that from China, as well as rising prices of copper materials. The company returned to profitability last year with a nearly quintupling of margins following five years of losses.

 

Flexible PCB maker Ichia Technologies has reported consolidated revenues of $19.9 million for May, increasing 16.51% on month and 17.45% on year. May's revenues were the company's highest monthly figures in 20 months.

 

Flexible PCB manufacturer Flexium Interconnect is expected to see its July revenues rise substantially driven by robust demand for high-end smartphones. The company is reportedly among the FPCB suppliers for the upcoming iPhone series slated for launch in September 2017. Flexium’s  revenues for all of 2017 are expected to register double-digit growth.

A monumental accomplishment, but……

 

The 2017 Roadmap from the International Electronics Manufacturing Initiative (iNEMI) is now on sale on the iNEMI website. With 28 chapters (the most ever published by iNEMI) and 2,300+ pages, this latest edition of the roadmap provides a comprehensive view of the electronics manufacturing supply chain's technology needs and challenges over the next 10 years.

Seven chapters anticipate the technology needs of key market segments by focusing on the market demands and functionality requirements of the following sectors: automotive, aerospace and defense, consumer and office systems, high-end systems, Internet of Things (IOT), medical, and portable and wireless.

The remaining 21 chapters identify technology trends, focusing on the key technology capabilities and developments anticipated and required within the electronics manufacturing supply chain to meet product needs over a 10-year horizon. The 2017 iNEMI Roadmap highlights several key technology trends impacting electronic manufacturing and its supply chain, including:

  • Growing data volume - along with secure and swift transfer, and the ability to analyze it intelligently - will be a key industry focus.
  • Security and interoperability of data, devices and users are two immediate "grand challenges" for the industry and its markets.
  • Commercialization of services, particularly software-enabled and cloud-based services, will continue to expand.
  • Emergence of new computing architectures in the high-end segment to address the complex tasks.
  • Deployment of IOT capabilities beyond consumer markets into automotive, medical and industrial applications will drive major changes in global manufacturing and end use.
  • Transition from the beginning-of-the-century vision for products completely enabled by printed electronics to products enabled by "flexible hybrid electronics" where traditional low-profile electronic components are integrated with printed components and flexible substrates.
  • Autonomous driving technologies are affecting several technologies - such as sensors.
  • Growth of perceptual and location aware computing and connectivity will continue the drive for heterogeneous system integration.
  • The need to ensure supply chain integrity and efficiency will drive changes in existing business and manufacturing models.
  • Increasing product traceability requirements from silicon to end user.


The roadmap is a global collaborative effort that involves many individuals who are leading experts in their respective fields and represent many perspectives on the electronics manufacturing supply chain. More than 500 individuals from at least 22 countries, and representing more than 350 corporations, consortia, government agencies and universities came together to create the 2017 Roadmap.

 

 

There will be no July 2017 column!

 

August 2017 

 

The IPC is planning to hold a special meeting on Automotive Electronics for senior executives during IPC APEX EXPO 2019. The meeting will be planned, produced, and conducted by the IPC’s Ambassadors. Its presentations will feature senior members of the entire Automotive Electronics Supply Chain. Executives from suppliers of materials, specialty chemicals, fabrication, assembly and test equipment, substrate fabricators, EMS operations involved in the generation of electronic packages for automotive use will be invited.  Gene Weiner, president of Weiner International Associates, has been named chairman of the event and is now seeking volunteers to serve on the event's committee.

 

Independent industry certifications: A dilemma? Many of the fabricators that produce HDI and other advanced substrates have had their own engineers develop, at great expense, proprietary processes, intellectual property, and in some cases equipment and modified chemistries to provide higher yields and lower costs. They would not want to share these with the “outside world” (certification team or competitor). This is their stock in trade! It is their added value! They would share the results (finished parts).  How would (or should) an “independent” certifying agency handle this? I wrote a full column, “The limits of Certification” that was published by UP Media’s on-line “Printed Circuit Design & Fab” ( http://www.pcdandf.com/pcdesign/index.php/current-issue/233-focus-on-business/11954-the-limits-of-certification ).  Some responses to the column are on our “Comments and Discussion” page.

 

Boeing will set up an avionics group to make aircraft controls and electronics that compete with its own suppliers such as Rockwell Collins, United Technologies, and Honeywell International. It has already started work and aims to produce systems for military, civil and space vehicles into service after 2020, capturing more of an avionics market worth hundreds of millions of dollars a year. Boeing said its systems would be lower-cost, higher-quality alternatives to existing products, and would deliver more post sales services revenue to Boeing. The aim is to "further drive cost down and value up for our customers," Boeing Chief Executive Officer Dennis Muilenburg said in an internal statement to employees.

We also just learned that United Technologies (UTC) is nearing the closing of a more than $20 billion deal to buy Rockwell Collins. This merger would make UTC an even more dominant supplier in the aerospace business.

Meanwhile Boeing, could begin absorbing smaller avionics and electronics companies. Honeywell would be a likely candidate.

These moves will reverberate  throughout  the aerospace supply chain causing major challenges to a number of suppliers of circuit boards, parts, sub-assemblies and EMS services!

 

Isola USA has hired Evercore Partners, an investment bank, to restructure its approximately $525 million debt load, as competition from Asia squeezes its profits, according to people familiar with the situation according to sources. Isola’s earnings have faced sharp declines after stiff competition from bigger and more deep-pocketed rivals such as China’s Cu-clad laminate maker Shenghyi Technology. These have made it harder to compete on price in a fragmented, low-margin market. Sources state that the company has seen its annual profit fall from $100 million three years ago to a projection of about $45 million for 2017.

 

EarthOne Circuit Technologies Corporation “dba eSurface ” has surfaced again with a petition to change from a eorganizing chapter 11 filing to a chapter 7 filing. Meanwhile another company headed by a previous company president is reported to have been established to sell/license the former company's metalizing process. A former investor is also reported to be investigating the possibility of requesting the Department of Justice to review the actions of the company and its former officers and directors based on "information" provided by a former employee who stated the process was never reliable or repeatable. The investor claims that they purposely misrepresented the failed technology to prospective investors while paying themselves high salaries.

 

Japan

 

Mitsui Metal Mining will increase the manufacturing capacity of electrically deposited copper foil by 20% in its Malaysia plant in order to meet growing demand for materials used by the flexible circuit industry.

 

Rivals team up to invest in American manufacturing.

 

Toyota and Mazda will form a JV to build a $1.6 billion assembly plant in the U.S. This will create several thousand jobs!

 

Asahi Denka, a plating company, has started the supply of ultra-thin double sided copper clad polyimide films with 0.2 micron thick conductor layers for thin flexible circuits.

 

Hitachi Automotive Systems has agreed to form a joint venture with Honda Motors for the development and manufacture of electric motors for the electric vehicles.

 

Toppan Forms has established a 4 micron printing capability with silver ink for "see through" devices such as touch sensor panels. This follows a similar announcement by Tanaka Industries a year or so ago.

 

Arakawa Chemical has co-developed with AIST a new AD (Aerosol Deposition) process. It enables the ultra-thin coating of ceramic materials onto plastic substrates.

 

China

 

The mood amongst the PCB industry merchant market fabricators is so-so. HDI facilities are buried with orders. Other shops can use more work. Yet, still others are seeking specific acquisitions in the U.S. for QTA - coupled with assembly if possible.

 

NEPCON South China opened in Shenzhen August 29. There were 15,700 attendees on the first day and more on the second day.and yesterday was more then that but the final number was not released yet.   Nothing really new was reported but there were more and more robots erforming fabrication and assembly jobs.  Nearly 600 companies occupied more than a record 480,000 square feet. Held in conjunction with the Shenzhen Circuit Sourcing 2017 (CS Show) and Automotive World China (AWC), the event also had seminars and technology conferences in partnership with the Surface Mount Technology Association (SMTA) and the SMTA China South Chapter.

 

Quick recovery

 

Typhoons Hato (August 23rd) and Pakhar (August 27th) passed through Zhuhai, China where a number of Multek’s factories are located. Power was lost in the area. While Multek's infrastructure sustained some minor damage, partial operations had resumed over the weekend and all remaining operations were on-line at the end of the month. Employees, especially those in our Zhuhai factories, worked around-the-clock to enable such a fast and full recovery.

 

Bouncing back

 

Singapore's factory output inexpectedly grew 21% last month compared to july 2016. The gowth was primarily due to a surge in electronics manufacturing based on strong global demand for semiconductors and equipment. Electronics was the top performer, with output soaring >49% over July 2016 according to Economic Development Board data.

 

Chips

 

According to the SEMI Material Market Data Report, Taiwan’s semiconductor materials consumption was $9.8 billion in 2016 − the world’s largest. Global semiconductor manufacturing equipment billings reached $13.1 billion in Q1 2017, exceeding the record quarterly high set in Q3 2000.

 

Mid-year Forecast at the annual SEMICON West exposition.

SEMI reported that worldwide sales of new semiconductor manufacturing equipment are projected to increase 19.8% to total $49.4 billion in 2017, marking the first time that the semiconductor equipment market has exceeded the market high of $47.7 billion set in 2000. 7.7% growth is expected next year, resulting in another record-breaking year totaling $53.2 billion for the global semiconductor equipment market.

 

In 2017 South Korea will lead in growth with 68.7%, followed by Europe at 58.6%, and North America at 16.3%.

 

Europe

 

Two European research institutes will collaborate to develop innovative, next-generation microelectronics technologies to spur innovation in their countries and strengthen European strategic and economic sovereignty.

Leti, a research institute of CEA Tech in Grenoble, France, and the Berlin-based Fraunhofer Group for Microelectronics, Europe’s largest R&D provider of smart systems, will initially focus on extending CMOS and More-than-Moore technologies to enable next-generation components for applications in the Internet of Things, augmented reality, automotive, health, aeronautics and other sectors, as well as systems to support French and German industries.

 

Research and Markets has announced the availability of its new report the "Global and China Photoresist Industry Report, 2017-2021".

The global photoresist market size has maintained an AAGR of 5.8% since 2010, exceeding 7.5 billion in 2016 and expected to surpass $10 billion in 2021. Japan, the United States, and Germany supplied more than 60% of the world's photoresists in 2016. The photoresist industry in China, a late starter, had market of about RMB5.85 billion in 2016. This is forecasted to double in 2021.

Globally, photoresists are primarily divided into PCB photoresist, LCD photoresist, and semiconductor photoresist. In China photoresist is primarily consumed in PCB field in China, while TFT-LCD/semiconductor photoresists are largely imported due to higher technical barriers.

The global photoresist market is said to be virtually monopolized by JSR, TOK, Dow Chemical (acquired by Rohm & Haas in 2009), Fujifilm, Shin-Etsu Chemical, Dongjin Semichem, and Eternal Materials, with JSR and TOK holding a combined 50% or so of the global photoresist market.

The Chinese photoresist market is controlled by foreign companies. PCB photoresist is chiefly supplied by the China-based plants established by foreign companies, mostly Japanese/South Korean/Taiwanese ones; TFT-LCD photoresist is mainly provided by TOK, Dow Chemical, Dongjin Semichem, and Everlight Chemical; semiconductor photoresist is still at the stage of R&D and trial production locally, with representative firms including Kempur Microelectronics, Suzhou Ruihong Electronic Chemical, Weifang Suntific Microelectronic Materials, etc.

The report states that trhere are 8 Key Chinese Photoresist Companies. Companies featured in the report include:

- AsahiKasei ,Changzhou Tronly New Electronic Materials Co., Ltd., Chimei, Dongjin Semichem, Dow Chemical, Eternal Materials, Everlight Chemical, FUJIfilm, Hitachi Chemical, JSR, and Kempur Microelectronics Inc.

 

 

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