Weiner’s World – March 2017


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Editor’s note: This blog was originally published in March 2017 at www.weiner-intl.com and is being reprinted here with special permission from the author.                                                                                                                               

The CPCA show held at 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 7–9, 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 co-located with productronica, electronica China, FPD and a laser exhibit which 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 robotics 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 ICs 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 become 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 productronica 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, 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 there 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 Feinberg 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. Its 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. 

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