One down, on to the next! The second major Japanese electronics event of the year was held at Tokyo Big Sight starting Jan. 27.

The three-day exhibition opened only two weeks after InterNepcon Japan, and I was concerned with attendance since many people visited that show, and enthusiasm for visiting another show may be low.

My concerns were unfounded: the large floor of East Hall was filled to capacity with presentation booths, and attendance was at record levels and equaled that of InterNepcon.

The exhibition can be divided into three segments - Smart Power, Functional Materials and Printing. The Smart Power segment recently became very popular in Japan because the market for electric power supply is now an open market. Previously, only nine electric power companies were allowed to supply power. Now the market is open to companies to produce and supply locally generated renewable energy. The deregulation of this industry is an attempt to curb the high costs of electricity. There were many new companies at the show presenting smart meters and other technological advances aimed at residential electric services.

Companies that presented products from the Functional Materials segment took up almost half the exhibition floor space. Functional materials can be subdivided into two categories: Nano Materials and Neo Functional Materials.

Many exhibitors in the Nano Materials segment promoted the next generation of materials that promised radical performance (according to them) with many application opportunities. The promoting companies were mainly chemical and material manufacturers, and a few universities and R&D organizations such as AIST and RIKEN. Foreign companies from Germany, Spain, Italy, Czech, Switzerland, Belgium, Finland, Iran, Canada, the US, Iran, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand and Korea also participated in this segment. Companies from Germany and Taiwan were very aggressive in promoting a venture capital partnership for some cutting-edge materials such as organic semiconductor products. Most of these materials are very progressive and remain on the drawing boards.

I did not discover any earth-shattering breakthrough from the Neo Functional Materials category, but there were many improvements in miniaturization and hybrids that are ready for volume production. There were some on display that are used in some applications. For example, a Japanese paper manufacturer displayed the world thinnest and lightest paper produced by a traditional Japanese process. It is almost transparent (more than 80%), very soft and flexible, but lacks mechanical strength. The exhibitor explained they were looking for new applications for these traditional materials. A few practical applications immediately came to mind (I will share this once I have all my ducks in a row).

The second improvement in the Neo Functional Material category I discovered centered upon UV-LED devices. LED point UV light sources are already commercialized, and a couple of manufacturers introduced a new line light sources and area light sources to use as an alternative device for the UV light tube. The new devices have higher intensities with a longer life, but they are more expensive. Once their production costs are lowered and savings are passed along the distribution pipeline, these companies will take over the market.

The third segment that had representation at the show involved Printing. The printing category can be subdivided into three areas - Printable Electronics, Printing Technologies, and 3D Printing. There was nothing new for all three categories, but there were small improvements made to existing products and technologies.

One example of an improvement in Printable Electronics was the introduction of a large sized floor heater produced by a screen-printing process. Yamagata University displayed the recent progress from organic semiconductor devices produced by a printing process. Ishi-Hyoki, an equipment manufacturer in Japan displayed the latest Ink Jet Printer.

The Printing Technologies segment showcased various printing technologies for non-flat surfaces assuming actual applications. These are mostly transfer processes combined with traditional printing technologies. They looked very practical but they not available for general uses.

Last, the market for 3D printing is getting bigger and bigger every year. Two major equipment suppliers, MUTOH and Stratasys, built huge exhibition booths to displays and demonstrations latest models of 3D printers. Both companies presented improvements for both hardware and software. Their booths were very popular and many visited to see the recent progress. As popular and dramatic as 3D printing is, there are still some difficulties to use this technology in every application.

I really enjoyed this show. It was great to see some creative ideas for future business. I also impressed from the tenacity of the Japanese manufacturers who showed up and participated in the show even though most are still suffering from the long recession.

Dominique K. Numakura, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

DKN Research,

DKN Research Newsletter #1604, Feb. 14th, 2016 (Micro Electronics & Packaging)

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Headlines of the Week

1. AIST developed an optical I/O technology for easy connection of optical fibers and optical integrated circuits.

2. Hiroshima University and Panasonic codeveloped terahertz wireless telecommunication technology, capable of up to 100 GHz/sec. with new silicon CMOS ICs.

3. Toshiba has begun operation of a solar power generation station, a JV with Tokai Univ. in Kanagawa Prefecture. It generates and consumes electric power locally.

4. Sumitomo will found a new subsidiary, Sumitomo Manufacturing Cambodia Co., for EMS business in ASEAN area.

5. Toshiba will downsize its hard disk drive business. It will terminate supplies to personal computers and shift resources to its SSD business.

6. Panasonic founded a JV, Panasonic Automotive Energy Dalian Co., Ltd. in China for the manufacturing of the automobile secondary batteries.

7. Yokokawa Electric organized a new business unit called Industrial Knowledge to expand its high-level cloud solution business.

8. Mitsubishi Electric developed a laser sensor device for PM2.5, dust level in the air. It also detects pollen in the air with a high sensitivity. It could be valuable in China.

9. Ebara will invest 6.8 billion yen to build a plant in Kumamoto Prefecture to expand semiconductor manufacturing equipment capacity.

10. Hitachi Automotive Systems will conduct a field test of the automatic driving system in Ibaraki Prefecture with Clarion, a major automobile audio company in Japan.

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