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TPCA releases the 2019 Technology Roadmap of Taiwan PCB Industry after surveying and gathering the industry leaders' technical indicators. The Roadmap reflects the technology leadership of Taiwan's PCB industry and the gap between Taiwan and its competitive countries. The Roadmap also enables the industry to review the gap between the technology level among its members and the entire industry.
TPCA has been publishing the Technology Roadmap of Taiwan PCB Industry since 2013, and regularly updates the information by investigating the advanced technologies and trends every two years. The 2019 new version has made great adjustments due to technology development of the end products with the SLP (substrate-like PCB) and COF (chip on film) being added to the roadmap. At the beginning, only Apple adopted the SLP, but mobile phone giants Samsung and Huawei have followed Apple in using SLP, driving the PCB vendors to invest in the production of SLP. Moreover, with the launch of foldable mobile phones from Samsung and Huawei, it also changes the trend in mobile phone FPC (flexible printed circuit) to COF (chip-on-flex) substrate and more and more vendors are getting involved.
During the process of investigating Taiwan's PCB technology roadmap, TPCA had also examined the technical deficiencies of the PCB industry, and found that there are still technical bottlenecks to be overcome in four major aspects, including reliability, 5G materials, manufacturing processing and equipment requirements. Technical deficiencies of each aspect are briefly introduced in the following table.
Aspects: Demonstration of Technical Deficiencies
Reliability: PCB plays the role that carries many electronic components. If the PCB fails, the electronic components on board will also be disabled. Hence, while product design tends to be light and compact, the total cost of the electronic components is getting higher and higher. As for PCB, high reliability becomes an important indicator of technical threshold.
PCB Materials: In order to cope with the high frequency and high speed requirements of 5G, the development of PCB materials will focus on lower dielectric constant (Dk) and dielectric loss (Df), low humidity to prevent excessive water absorption and quality uniformity, hence preventing signal loss of terminal products after commercialization of the 5G service. Taiwan is still not capable in self-supply of this kind of material, and it is expected to be a new opportunity for the Taiwanese electronic material industry if developed properly.
PCB Manufacturing Processing: Due to the evolution of product styles, materials conversion, application requirements of the end products and limitations of equipment, there are still many problems in manufacturing and processing. If the processing problem cannot be overcome, besides resulting in low production efficiency, the bad scrap rate may also increase.
PCB Equipment: While miniaturization becomes a trend in product design, the precision requirements of the equipment are enhanced at the same time. Facing technology development in the future, equipment suppliers still have a lot of room for improvement in high-precision repair equipment, AI application in smart manufacturing and elevation of automation level.
Table Created by TPCA
When viewed from the perspective of technical deficiencies at the present stage, each aspect mainly corresponds to the current 5G application. 5G generates huge business opportunities, from hardware business opportunities that are generated by base station construction in the early stages, followed by 5G smart phones. In the long-term, huge business opportunities can be derived from various 5G applications including automobiles, industrial control, agriculture, and so on. As for PCB vendors, PCB for antennas, power amplifiers and cabinet communication backplanes of the base stations are their major markets. After 2020, the related FPCB that is driven by 5G mobile phones will be more impressive. In order to produce the high-frequency/high-speed boards for the 5G environment, besides materials support, manufacturers also have to equip processing capabilities to meet the requirements for heat dissipation design, precision fine lines and impedance matching of the thin board, all kinds of technical deficiencies are expected to be overcome by the vendors and enhanced continuously.
TPCA routinely releases the Technology Roadmap of Taiwan PCB Industry and summarizes the technical deficiencies of the vendors. Besides reflecting the technological leadership of Taiwan's PCB industry, it also enables the vendors to inspect the technology level and enhance the deficient technologies that are shown by the roadmap indicators. Information on technical deficiencies is also an important reference for academic and research units to plan future technology development projects. It has substantial benefits in promoting technology cooperation between academe and industry, and enhancing the overall technology level of Taiwan's PCB industry.