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The year 2019 is one of uncertainty for the PCB industry, when frequent global trade disputes have influenced the deployment and supply chain movement of world-leading manufacturers. By contrast, a boom of forward-looking packaging and PCB technologies in materials process applications was seen in the industry with the rise in succession of smart manufacturing and the circular economy and the forthcoming commercial operations of 5G.
Due to the push and pull of these positive and negative factors, the future trend of the industry is closely watched. With 5G as the theme, the recent TPCA Show 2019 attracted 31,926 attendees who had the chance to visit 1,432 booths erected by enterprises from 420 countries. In addition, the topics brought forth by the 57 seminars and keynote forums held at the recent IMPACT 2019 have directed the future trends of the PCB industry. The organizer found the following key extended topics:
1. Toward 5G: Squatting Lower to Jump Higher For Overall 2020 PCB Market
“Although the 2019 FPC performance left much to be desired due to the stagnant sales growth of mobile phones, thanks to the deployment and construction of 5G infrastructure, the IC substrate demand has supported the growth of the entire PCB industry,” said Dr. Jiang Xu-Gao of Prismark at the 2019 PCB Industry Summit, “despite a myriad of negative factors, the 2019 decline of the global PCB market is estimated at 1.7%, and a 3% growth mainly by HDIs, IC substrates, and FPCs is expected in 2020 due to the increase in high-frequency and high-speed products benefitting from 5G peripherals.”
2. Ongoing Aggravation Of Global Competition
Although the US-China trade war and technology war have affected the PCB industry in different aspects, and the tariff influence on PCB is small, the technology war caused by the trade war will have a greater influence on the vertical and horizontal competitions of the PCB industry. For example, Chinese enterprises can continue to increase market share through investment, acquisition, mergers, and plant expansion. In addition, while China is actively promoting 5G, local enterprises will first be benefited from the business opportunities derived, and the continuous growth of China’s PCB industry is expected. Furthermore, the continuing international trade barriers will accelerate overseas Taiwanese investors returning to and investing in Taiwan and making decisions to disperse risk and adjust production deployment. For example, world-leading Zhen Ding Technology Holding Limited has established a FPC back-end assembly plant in India with mass production estimated in the next year to deal with global changes.
3. Smart manufacturing: Another Source of Procurement Opportunities Other Than 5G
Before the 2019 TPCA Show, the world’s first PCB interface protocol, PCBECI, and the new PCB smart manufacturing roadmap were announced at the Semiconductor Equipment and Materials International (SEMI). Through three major PCB alliances (PCB A Team, Advanced FCB Automation Intelligence Alliance, and PCBECI Equipment Connection Demo Team), the industry, government, academe and research institutions realized the five landing benefits. The TPCA survey found that smart manufacturing has become the common goal of the whole PCB industry and the pre-requisite for new PCB plants in the future. A host of solutions have been displayed at the show this year, and it is estimated that this smart trend will drive the smart equipment upgrading of PCB manufacturers and stimulate business opportunities for hardware and software procurements.
4. Technology Review
Based on the foci displayed by exhibitors at the show and the pioneering technologies disclosed at related conferences this year, forward-looking topics include: fine line, high frequency and high speed, heterogenous integration, advanced chip packaging and flexible electronics, and circular economy. For example, at IMPACT drew hundreds of famous speakers in the semiconductor, PCB, and FDP fields to investigate the future trends of PCB technologies in terms of design, manufacture and application. Fine lines and fine holes, high frequency and high speed, and heterogenous integration will continue in the PCB and packaging industries.
TCPA Chairperson Maurice Lee further pointed out that the PCB industry should deal with environmental issues more proactively in the face of global resource depletion and environmental protection. Through the “Taiwan PCB Circular Economy Roadmap,” he indicated that there is still much more potential for recycling in the PCB process to achieve the benefit of “reduction, recycling and re-use,” in order to transform the PCB industry into an “eco-friendly high-tech industry.” While constant innovation is the key to breakthroughs, in addition to technology innovation, platforms and business model can likewise be innovated.
The end of 2019 is near, and although 2020 looks challenging, there is always hope. 5G is doubtlessly the key to the next growth of all industries and high frequency and high speed and smart upgrading are inevitable competitions. Apart from incessantly optimizing core technologies, how to accurately capture and see the opportunities beyond the circular economy and global competition are topics worthy of deep thinking for business owners.
At this year’s TPCA and IMPACT shows, the energy that worldwide manufacturers have invested in the R&D of new products and advanced technologies was evident everywhere. Facing the still unknown challenges and huge business opportunities of 5G, more expertise-focused shows and stages are required for enterprises to accurately enter the new market. Hence, the TPCA has signed a memorandum of understanding with the US IPC and proactively linked with professional trade shows of Taiwan’s electronics manufacturing industry to build together an international trade show platform for electronics manufacturing industries, in order to attract worldwide manufacturers to launch cooperation and create business opportunities with Taiwan’s advantages as an island of electronics manufacturers.