The three-day JPCA 2015 show was held starting June 3 at Tokyo Big Sight.
The trade show is an international event and attracts customers, vendors and manufactures who are affiliated with the electronics industry. Japanese electronics and circuit board markets remain in a slump that began in 2008. This show provides me an opportunity to discover any new market trends or new technologies.
The floor size for the exhibition was almost the same as last year, but attendance increased. There were several exhibitors that reserved space last year but bowed out this year -- mostly material and equipment suppliers. A few rigid board manufacturers did not show up either, but there was increased presence from flexible circuit manufacturers. There was also an increase in vendors and manufacturers from other countries. Typically, these companies would not reserve booths but send their technical staff to discover any new products or technologies. However, this year they reserved booths and sent sales teams to market and promote their new technologies and products.
There weren’t any industry-shattering new products; however, there were a few new technologies aimed at specific applications. Many companies are gearing a lot of their research toward wearable electronics in hopes of attracting some business opportunities in this fast growing segment.
Elastic (stretchable) circuits are one of these new technologies in the wearable electronics category. Raw material suppliers displayed new elastic substrates for use in an elastic electronic product. They did not disclose any information about the material’s chemistry; however, most of us think it may include a urethane base polymer compounds. A representative from an ink manufacturer explained that screen-printed thick film conductors are more elastic than metallic copper foils. Flexible circuit manufacturers presented many examples of elastic circuits for use with wearable electronic devices and medical devices.
There were a few new products with flexible circuits. A new manufacturer at the show promoted the use of an aluminum conductor circuit with a smaller weight and lower cost that targeted automobile applications. The basic idea seams very appealing; however, the auto industry has very strict quality control guidelines and most auto manufacturers are not very fast to introduce new products into their vehicles without extensive testing. I am not sure whether this new manufacturer can last through the testing stage, or even if his product will meet or exceed their guidelines.
A middle-class flex manufacturer has demonstrated extremely long double-side flex circuits (over 20 meters) with microvia holes targeting medical and scientific applications. The president for a flex circuit manufacturer spoke about a specially constructed flexible circuit. It is a four layer flexible substrate with screen-printed conductors designed for a watch style wearable e-paper displays with a flexible EL light source. There were no samples available, and played his cards close to his vest. I think he is afraid that someone may copy his idea, and he wanted this product to be established in the market. He told me his company began prototype production and they are now ready for volume production. Each technology is not very unique, but the product concept is very innovative.
A new material supplier introduced a transparent polyimide film for broad range of uses in optical flexible applications including flexible displays and light source panels. Several film manufacturers already developed transparent polyimide films, but they were prototype trials and many abandoned the trials before they even applied it to any product applications. This new supplier stuck with the concept and now has a volume production for transparent heat resistant films.
Some companies in the circuit board industry are letting the grass grow under their feet. For some of the big circuit board manufacturers it is business as usual, but the small- and mid-sized companies and even some new companies are coming up with new ideas and creating new applications that do seem practical. All it will take is one spark to start their fire.
DKN Research, www.dknresearchllc.com DKN Research Newsletter #1518, June 21st, 2015 (English Edition) (Micro Electronics & Packaging, www.dknresearchllc.com ) For the newsletter archives click here.
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