Weiner’s World: March 2016
Editor’s note: This blog was originally published in March 2016 at www.weiner-intl.com and is being reprinted here with special permission from the author.
Sellers of equipment at the Shanghai CPCA event complained of continued poor business. This was especially evident amongst those selling to firms building boards for phones and other portables devices as indicated below. However, not all reports were bad. Major fabricators such as Wu's in China, not dependent upon HDI or flexible products, stated that they were "satisfied" with their current business levels.
Taiwan-based Chin-Poon Industrial, a major supplier of automotive circuits, saw its net profits increase 11.8% over 2014 to a record high $61.13 million in 2015. It also improved its gross margin improved to 14.7% from 13.6% last year.
Are there too many "apples"?
Flexible PCB maker Flexium Interconnect revenues dropped 46.2% on month and 7.71% on year to a 19-month low of $26.91 million in February. Its revenues for the first two months of 2016 were down 6.46% from last year. Flexium expects its capacity utilization rate to stay flat at 50–55% in the first quarter of 2016. Career Technology's revenues fell 3.5% from a year earlier in February 2016, which marked the seventh consecutive month of on-year revenue decreases. Career Tech‘s February revenues $23.5 million, its lowest since February 2014. The company's cumulative 2016 through the month were down 16.7%. FPCB maker Zhen Ding Technology Holding also reported revenue decreases for the month. Down 41.1% on month and down 5.8% year-on-year to a 24-month low.
IPC APEX EXPO in Las Vegas had one of the best first days in years in spite of the relatively poor physical layout and the positioning of the meeting rooms. Many unrecognizable (new) faces were seen wandering the expanded exhibit spaces checking out the latest in robotics as well as the usual product improvements, and attending conferences and committee meetings. 3D printing appeared to be finally garnering more attention at the IPC. Perhaps that will spur additional funding for R&D amongst IPC members to develop the materials and equipment needed to make it commercially viable.
The multi-show combination in Shanghai showed weakness in the poorly attended CPCA exhibits, strength in the strongly attended SEMICON China show and conference, interest in the relatively small FPD (flat panel display) exhibits, not much new in productronica China, and special interest in electronica China's automotive/sensor component presentations. A number of those who attended and exhibited at CPCA said that they should have attended the IPC APEX EXPO event instead, and would have done so had it not been for the other concurrent events at Shanghai. Several others chose to exhibit at SEMICON rather than the CPCA, as they had done in the past, and said they would remain at that show as SEMICON seems to have begun to shift more focus towards packaging and its supply chain.
A good working model for the future?
I had an opportunity to have a chat with SEMI president and CEO Denny McGuirk during this month's trade show trip to Shanghai. He provided some interesting insight as to SEMI's current position and future, his views on trade associations, and SEMI's direction. He views SEMI as the place where the entire electronic supply chain can meet and interact. He pointed out that SEMI is now called just that: SEMI—not the Semiconductor Equipment & Materials Institute. He stated that the next target industry to bring into SEMI's family would be MEMS. He stated that SEMI is truly a global organization and that all regional unit presidents report directly to him. Denny also pointed out that it is important to note that SEMI's board is composed entirely of CEOs and Chairmen of enterprises currently active in the industry. This allows them to commit, on the spot, their corporations to decisions made during board meetings.
Nearly 150 guests attended IEC's (International Electronic Components) 50th anniversary celebration party held by the company President Shawn Stone at the SLS Las Vegas Hotel & Casino during IPC APEX EXPO.
Sales figures reported by Germany's printed circuit board manufacturers in January 2016 were 7.5% lower than those reported for January 2015.
XMC, a contract chip maker owned by the Chinese government, will break ground before the end of the month in Wuhan for the first Chinese-owned plant dedicated to producing the most widely used memory chips. $24 billion will be invested in the project leveraging its partnership with U.S. flash memory maker Spansion (now part of Cypress Semiconductor). The venture will primarily use money from a national fund to support the semiconductor sector that China established in recent years. The new factory will produce both flash memory and DRAMs. XMC said that the $24 billion will be invested in three stages: the initial factory focusing on NAND flash-memory production; a second facility for DRAM chips; and a third stage devoted to supplier operations. The first product is expected to become available in 2017.
A major enabling process breakthrough at MIT's School of Engineering—I wonder how fast this one will become commercially viable?
MIT researchers have created the thinnest and lightest solar cells ever made. Just one-fiftieth the thickness of a human hair, and capable of producing up to six watts of power per gram, the prototype cells have the potential to add solar power to everything from paper-based electronics, all manner of mobile devices and exceptionally lightweight wearables. The power-to-weight ratio is where these new cells shine. They produce an output 400x greater per kg than standard glass-covered solar cells. The researchers used the common flexible polymer parylene for both the substrate and the coating, and DBP (dibutyl phthalate, an organic material and a commonly used plasticizer), as the main light-absorbing layer. The entire process is performed at room temperature without the use of any solvents. The substrate and the cell are simply produced on a carrier in a vacuum chamber using standard vapor deposition processes. Both the substrate and the protective top coating are “grown” at the same time, sealing the fragile photovoltaic layer from harm early in the manufacturing process.
SEMI China researched the packaging and assembly industry segment and observed a total of 147 semiconductor packaging and assembly related companies, representing, by revenues, 96% of the semiconductor package manufacturers in China. Most companies are concentrated in the Yangtze River Delta area, covering Jiangsu, Shanghai and Zhejiang provinces, and in the Pearl River Delta area of Guangdong province. Sixty-five percent of all packaging companies in the SEMI China research are located in Jiangsu, Guangdong or Shanghai.
This large base for packaging and assembly, which includes discrete, power, and LED packaging companies, results in China being the largest regional market consuming packaging equipment (with $800 million sold in 2015 and a similar amount or higher estimated for 2016). For packaging materials, China is the second largest market globally—second only to Southeast Asia—and total packaging material sales are expected to reach $4.4 billion in 2016. (Source: SEMI China)
Taiwan-based PCB companies produced 1.8% more circuits in Taiwan and China in 2015 than in 2014. The value was $17.3 billion.
Atotech announced the inauguration of its new RM 50M Asian chemical production plant in Penang, Malaysia. The new facility has a full production capacity of 12.000 t/a per single‐shift operation. The expansion is aimed at supporting the company's large customer‐base in the region developing next generation electronics goods.
Asahi Glass has commercialized a new cover glass for fingerprint sensors used for security access of mobile devices such as smart phones and tablets. Toppan Printing has developed a new photomask for the next generation of EUV lithography processes in chip manufacture. It minimizes unnecessary reflections.
Gene Weiner is president of Weiner International Associates. To contact Gene, click here.