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Editor’s note: This blog was originally published in February 2016 at www.weiner-intl.com and is being reprinted here with special permission from the author.

PhiChem will host an open house for key executives to preview its new 45,000 square meter global headquarters and R&D center in the Baoshan district of Shanghai during SEMICON China 2016, CPCA 2016 and productronica China 2016.

PhiChem, a public company known as China’s leading supplier of UV curable coatings for fiber optic cable is also building a strong reputation with its printed circuit fabrication and SMT products, 99.999% pure Al2O3 for the manufacture of synthetic sapphire, and a new line of products for the manufacture of LEDs and flat panel displays. Chairman Dr. Jinshan Zhang stated that the company will provide transportation from the show and return mid to late afternoon on Wednesday, March 16.

The IPC Ambassador Council is planning to produce an Executive Forum in conjunction with IPC APEX EXPO 2017 in San Diego in February 2017. Designed for senior executives and owners of printed circuit fabricators and their suppliers, the program will focus on helping the smaller enterprises succeed in the face of rapidly changing technologies and mega-mergers of fabricators and supply chain organizations, as well as the relocation of supply chain sources. All participants in the industry are invited to attend, whether or not they are members of IPC! 

Readers of this column are invited to submit their program suggestions to: gene@weiner-intl.com.  

Moving Forward: Collaboration on Future Products in the Printed Electronics Field

IPC has become a partner of NextFlex, America's flexible hybrid electronics manufacturing institute based in Mountain View, California. This new public-private partnership is part of the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation (NNMI) whose goal is to establish the U.S. as the global leader in flexible hybrid manufacturing. IPC has already published five standards on printed electronics materials, processes, terms and definitions and its Printed Electronics Committee is working on six additional standards.

Expanding Focus in the Future: Filling a Void?

SEMI launched the European Semiconductor Integrated Packaging and Test (ESiPAT) Special Interest Group (SIG). The SIG represents SEMI members who have semiconductor packaging, assembly, test manufacturing, or design activities in Europe. The purpose of the SIG is to foster collaboration among companies and to collectively raise the profile and reinforce the semiconductor back-end industry in Europe. Activities will include: mapping and reporting capabilities and capacities of European SiPAT members; identifying gaps in the European back-end supply chain relative to other regions; and building project consortia and bidding for European funding. Additional chapters in North America and Japan are currently under development.

This week I noted that Northeastern University (Boston) will promote its Center for High-rate Nanomanufacturing at Flex 2016 in Monterey next month. The Center supports and participates in corporate and federally sponsored research in advanced materials, electronics and sensors at two of its locations. Last week I drove by the College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering, which is part of the SUNY Polytechnic Institute in Albany, NY.  Earlier in the week I attended a meeting at a small but very high-tech company in Chicagoland that engages the University of Pennsylvania for segments of its R&D program. It brought back memories of my days at Dynachem and MacDermid when we used to send samples to a local university to be SEM-scanned to aid in troubleshooting a problem or evaluating an R&D result during the period when we were too small to afford our own scanning electronic microscope.  

Does anyone know how many such university sites there are? Is there a central listing of them? This would most certainly be of great help to the smaller enterprises that need aid in developing, testing, and establishing a database for their next generation products. It would seem to be something that various trade associations should develop and maintain for its members.

The Big Get Bigger and Margins Will Get Thinner

China-based Suzhou Dongshan Precision Manufacturing's (DSBJ) $610 million acquisition[1] of MFLEX (Multi-Fineline Electronix) could spark a price war later this year amongst flexible circuit makers according to pundits quoted in Digitimes. Acquiring MFLEX will allow DSBJ to pursue Apple business now held by such flexible circuit makers as NOK, Fujikura, Sumitomo, Zhen Ding Technology Holding, and Flexium Interconnect. The deal is expected to be completed in the third quarter of this year pending stockholder and regulatory approvals by China and the U.S.

From Japan

Panasonic has founded a JV in China, Panasonic Automotive Energy Dalian, to make secondary automotive batteries.

Apple has announced plans to build a 15,000 square meter R&D center in Yokohama. It was reported that Apple made a deal with Japan Display to build a $1.4 billion factory dedicated to smartphone displays.

Ibiden is reported to be in a major push to take some of the Apple board business away from Unimicron, Unitech and Compaq. If Ibiden is successful it will most likely produce the boards in its Malaysian facilities.

Nippon Mektron has also reportedly recently lowered its prices recently to challenge Zhen Ding Technology and Flexium Interconnect for their shares of Apple's business.

Sumitomo will establish a new subsidiary in Cambodia, Sumitomo Manufacturing Cambodia Co., to provide local EMS support for the ASEAN market.

Ebara will invest $60 million in a new Kumanoto Prefecture plant to increase its semiconductor equipment manufacturing capacity.

NEPCON JAPAN recap—a growing trend: Teaming up for efficiency, strength and success

The 45th NEPCON Japan, comprised of six components—INTERNEPCON JAPAN, ELECTROTEST JAPAN, IC PACKAGING TECHNOLOGY EXPO, ELECTRONIC COMPONENTS & MATERIALS EXPO, PWB EXPO and FINE PROCESS TECHNOLOGY EXPO—had 2032 exhibitors and more than 83,000 visitors. It was held concurrently at the same venue with AUTOMOTIVE WORLD—Asia’s leading exhibition for automotive technologies; WEARABLE EXPO—World’s largest exhibition for wearable device and technology: and LIGHTING JAPAN—Advanced technology for LED/OLED technology and products.

In a special program created to support young engineers, industry giant Takashi Kawamura, chairman emeritus of Hitachi, spoke about "The Will Power Which Made Hitachi's V-sharpe Recovery Possible." Or as I like to say, "Keep your eye on the ball and focus, focus, focus." And, to quote Dan Feinberg during the turn-around he led, "There are no sacred cows!"

Congratulations to IEC on its 50th Anniversary!

International Electronic Components (IEC) founded by Sam Eidel and Jim Stone, will celebrate its 50th anniversary at IPC APEX EXPO on March 15. Shawn Stone, Jim's son, took over in time to steer the distributor of PWB materials, specialty chemicals and equipment through the turbulent times and major market shifts of the past few decades. IEC was the first to bring a major copper-clad laminate line to Canada from Taiwan, establishing the country's first facility to cut laminate sheet, and to tool and package prepreg with CNC and other automated equipment. It provided dry film photoresist and electroless copper plating systems for the fabs "north of the border." In 1998 Shawn formed IEC USA with Chuck Williams and has since expanded coverage with seven warehouses across North America and laminate conversion facilities in Chicago, Santa Clara, and Toronto. IEC is the first supply chain company to import UL-approved photoimageable solder masks from China.

IPC launched a new website and stepped up activities to recruit new members for its Political Action Committee (IPC PAC). The IPC PAC's mission is to grow so that it can support pro-manufacturing candidates who share the IPC's views on key policy issues.

In the face of falling film usage for phototools due to the rapid increase of direct imaging, Agfa Materials (Belgium) promised to continue the production and the support of its films. Agfa expects that during the next five years none of its silver phototooling film volume will decline to a non-profitable level. A company spokesman said, "We can guarantee the supplies." The company also committed to providing 12-months’ notice if it plans to discontinue any particular film.

The first half of 2016 will continue to be a challenge for those in the electronics manufacturing markets. Slowing economic growth in China and weaker emerging markets are lowering sales of products ranging from TVs to personal computers to smartphones. This bodes ill not only for major OEMs, but also members of their supply chains. Reports from China indicate spotty business from the PCB suppliers of materials and equipment. This bodes ill for not only the suppliers, but also for the broader industry.

How does one buy a company in Japan where the culture has usually dictated that companies not sell out to foreigners? It’s easy. Just bid more than twice as much as the domestic competition. That's what Foxconn did to move ahead of competitive bidder Innovation Network Corp. of Japan (a publicly backed concern) to move into prime position to take over Sharp. It just took $5.5 billion. (Foxconn's annual sales are $125 billion). The deal will provide a major step in vertical integration for the manufacture of smartphones, tablets, TVs, etc.

The December 2015 sales figures for German PCB manufacturers were 3.4% less than those of December 2014.

SEMI expects 2016 capex to remain on a par with 2015 spending even though the short term economic outlook remains cloudy. North American semiconductor equipment makers posted approximately $1.23 billion in sales for January, about 0.1% less than January 2015. 

References

1. An investigation on the adequacy of price and procedure relating to the transaction was announced shortly after the merger announcement.

 

Gene Weiner is president of Weiner International Associates. To contact Gene, click here.

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