Weiner’s World


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

Is this analogy correct? Printed circuits or packaging = buggy whips or transportation

My June trip to Hong Kong did not stir any optimism in my outlook for the printed circuit industry's future. The first discouraging sign was the empty stores in the shopping arcades of major hotels. The second was the oft repeated statement by hotel management and local businesses that this year's "June shoppers" did not come, and discounts galore were available from hotels and shops. Then came the real news. Distributors to the EMS and PCB companies (other than those involved with automotive boards) were singing the blues. Sales have dropped dramatically and stayed down during the previous quarter. Statements of improvements in SMT equipment sales based upon customer activity and pent up buying needs have not yet begun to materialize.

The way that I see the problem relates to overcapacity for fabricators in the consumer segment of devices with flat panel displays—mobile and otherwise—as well as a decline in notebook PCs, TVs and other household and portable electronic devices. Additional culprits include the improved packaging designs as well as more powerful chips replacing multiple ICs—both requiring less board real estate.

For more on this topic, see Dan Feinberg's remarks on our Comments & Discussions page.

Continued consolidation throughout the board's supply chain further exacerbates the situation. What happens when there is just one or two of each type?

Future packages for automotive, medical and other advanced systems will require increasingly small feature sizes on smaller substrates.

My sentiments exactly

Brian Shore, chairman and CEO of Park Electrochemical, states in his company's 2016 annual report explaining the positioning of Park as a niche company for the future, "...there is no future in mediocrity other than a future on the garbage heap of companies which thought ‘OK’ performance would be good enough."

Those of you that know me also know that I, too, have long espoused niche market positions, as well as provided exceptional service to each and every customer. I have always considered a customer with a problem as my number one priority—and opportunity!

While in Hong Kong, as a member of the Advisory Board of Post University's MBA program at the Malcolm Baldridge School of Business, I couldn't help but notice the promotion of a 9-month senior executive program delivered mostly in Hong Kong by faculty from Stanford University and industry experts from such firms as Goldman Sachs and McKinsey. The flagship executive program was being offered by Stanford Rock Center, a joint initiative between Stanford law School and the Graduate School of Business at Stanford University.

I also noticed an article in the business section of the June 22 edition of the South China Morning Post stating that Tesla was close to forming a partnership with the Jinqiao Group to build a production facility in the metropolitan Shanghai area. Each side plans to invest nearly $4.6 billion in the venture.

China's central bank stated that it will grant "privileges" to some overseas companies "in the future" in a move seen as giving more options to investors. The People's Bank of China is considering allowing foreign companies to issue shares on the mainland as part of a drive to reform the convertibility of the yuan and open up the country's capital market.

Mark Crawford, a senior trade and industry analyst at the U.S. Department of Commerce, will share findings September 2016 on the aggregate production, employment, financial status, and R&D activities of some 200 PCB manufacturers surveyed by the government this year at PCB West in Santa Clara, California. (Source: UP Media)

Omron in Japan has developed a new wiring process on molded housings with inkjet printing. The new process will eliminate traditional printed circuits for some applications.

China now dominates a biannual ranking of the world’s 500 fastest supercomputers, called the Top500. China has the world’s fastest machine for the seventh consecutive time as well as the largest number of computers among the top 500.  The new fastest supercomputer in the world uses Chinese-made microprocessor chips instead of chips from Intel.

Over 43,000 visitors are expected to attend SEMICON Taiwan 2016 September 7−9 at the TWTC Nangang Exhibition Hall in Taipei. The event has added new pavilions for Okinawa (Japan), Philippines and Singapore. Industrial theme pavilions include: Automated Optical Inspection (AOI), Chemical Mechanical Planarization (CMP), High-Tech Facility, Materials, Precision Machinery, Secondary Market, Smart Manufacturing and Taiwan Localization. The Taiwan semiconductor equipment and materials market is expected to remain the world’s largest, with equipment sales projected to reach $10 billion next year.

Donguan Shengyi Electronics Ltd. has become the first Chinese company to earn certification as a qualified manufacturer to the IPC 6012 and A-600 standards.

PCB maker Apex International reported revenues of $23.43 million for May, up by 12.56% on month and 13.44% on year. Accumulated revenues for the first five months of 2016 totaled NT$3.309 billion, up 8.38% on year. (Source: Digitimes)

Chin-Poon, whose sales to the automotive industry surpass 70% of turnover, expects 2016 sales to beat those of 2015. Production lines at its plants in Taiwan, China, and Thailand are expected to run at full capacity for the entire year.

TRULY printed circuits by Xerox: a tool to combat counterfeiting

Xerox® Printed Memory adds intelligence to objects by printing thin circuitry on a flexible substrate. The printed non-volatile memory can store up to up to 36 bits, which translates to 68 billion distinct data combinations. Data is preserved until overwritten within a 10-year span. Everything from lot codes and serial numbers to expiration dates and geographic codes can be stored on it. The tiny printed memories can be used at labels on products to protect brand names. The company states that already exploring printed electronics with more advanced capabilities.

IP protection in China? Better late than never?

Beijing's intellectual-property regulator has ordered Apple to stop sales of iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus phones in the city, ruling that the design is too similar to a Chinese phone. Some mobile-phone stores in the city said they stopped selling the two models months ago, switching to newer models. Apple is reported to soon end production of both models. The two iPhone models infringe on a Chinese patent for exterior design held by Shenzhen Baili for its 100C smartphone, the Beijing Intellectual Property Bureau wrote in a statement on its website dated May 19.  (Source: Wall street Journal)

The new Huawei P9 smartphone leverages the Chinese telecom giant's in-house system-on-chip (SoC) design with a Kirin 955 integrated apps processor and modem from HiSilicon—a Chinese fabless chip company fully owned by Huawei. Built on a 16-nanometer FinFET process for superior levels of scalability, the Kirin 955 is an octa-core processor with integrated CAT-6 LTE modem. The octa-core processor is especially useful for advanced tasks, which is when the faster set of four cores kicks in after the lower-power set of cores has been deployed. Overall, the P9's capabilities broadcast Huawei's new strengths in unmistakable fashion. Huawei is the only other handset original equipment manufacturer aside from Samsung to possess apps processor and modem capabilities in-house. But Huawei does Samsung one better in having built an integrated apps processor and LTE modem—only the third entity to do so after San Diego-based Qualcomm and Taiwan's MediaTek.  (Source: Andrew Rasswiler, IHS).

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

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