Tokyo Big Sight last week hosted the largest trade show for the printed circuit industry.
Related show events held concurrently included the 30th Advanced Electronics Packaging Exhibition (JIEP Microelectronics Show), the 18th Jisso Process Technology Exhibition (JISSO PROTEC), the Large Electronics Show 2016 and the Wire Japan Show 2016. The Japanese circuit industry is having a down year, and I was concerned that there may be a lack of interest for this year’s show. My concern was not warranted -- more than 750 companies and organizations reserved booths, and more than 13,000 registered guests attended the show each day!
I spoke with industry analysts and executives from electronics companies during the three -day show. Not many of them were optimistic about the future of the printed circuit industry. All agreed that the Japanese electronics market continues to consolidate and they need to seek other business opportunities as soon as possible. I think this was a big reason why attendance and participation increased at the JPCA Show.
There were a few differences between this show and shows from previous years. There were more than a hundred universities and institutes that reserved space and displayed new technologies. In previous years, most of the presentations from students working the booths were very academic; however, this year their products were one or two steps away from practical applications in the market. Their products and technologies caught everyone’s attention, and the open seminars were very active with standing room only. Audiences paid close attention to the market trends, new technology trends and new product introduction (NPI).
Many companies that were staples during previous shows were no where to be found; replacing them was companies from other countries. The Taiwanese Printed Circuit Association (TPCA) reserved a huge booth and acted like a broker between Taiwanese companies and the global circuit industry. They promoted the capabilities of Taiwanese companies and guaranteed they could find partnering companies for any potential customer. There were a lot of new flex circuit manufacturers from China and the other Asian countries. I was able to review promotion data along with samples that were on display. They are competitively priced compared to their manufacturing counterparts in Japan, Korea and Taiwan. Their technologies and qualities have improved, but the need some more improvement to compete against the leading manufacturers.
There were many new technologies and products featured at the show; however, they are not innovative enough to change the direction of the industry in the short term. Many of these products will generate some new business opportunities in other markets down the road.
A couple of specialty chemical suppliers promoted a new semi-additive processes to make very fine lines as small as 2-micron line/space. These chemical companies have no plans to make the fine line circuits on their own, and are looking for suitable printed circuit manufacturers to team with.
Transparent circuits were a significant product that was featured during the show. Material companies introduced transparent and heat-resistant substrates, conductor materials; metal foils laminates and cover materials. A couple of circuit manufacturers displayed actual transparent circuits and several device companies spoke of practical applications. Most of these special devices are earmarked for medical equipment and a few already have a prototypes of business. The material costs are relatively higher compared with conventional printed circuits, however, the material suppliers claim prices will drop once volumes pick up and they can scale the business.
Flexible circuits for wearable device were a topic at the show. Manufacturers are expecting large volume demands from healthcare devices and sports science equipment. There is a domino effect for an increase in business from other affiliated industries once the demand increases. For example, material companies promoted elastic substrates with expandable conductors, and circuit manufacturers demonstrated stretchable circuits built on rubber sheets and cloths. There will be a lot of potential applications once the volume increases for wearable devices.
Many equipment manufacturers and suppliers did not attend the show. The manufacturers that replaced them introduced automatic roll-to-roll systems to use in the volume manufacturing process for flex circuits manufacturing. Unstable substrates are a problem with this type of manufacturing and require a lot of labor. This new equipment has the potential to replace a lot of manpower.
Machine manufacturers and EMS manufacturers for board assembling were very active at the show. Manufacturers promoted higher speeds, higher density, increased flexibilities for smaller components and higher productivities. These Japanese manufacturers are maintaining a leadership position in the market.
There were many more products and technologies at the show that I did not get a chance to see. I mingled and networked with many people from manufacturing reps to company owners. The show was a success, and I enjoyed myself.
DKN Research, www.dknresearch.com
DKN Research Newsletter #1616, June 5, 2016 (English Edition) (Micro Electronics & Packaging)
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