Rebuilding Bridges While Breaking New Ground

The announcement of cooperative activities in their fall programs by the IPC and the SMTA is hopefully just a forerunner of things to come under the leadership of the IPC’s new president John Mitchell. It was an excellent first step in repairing the damaged relationships between the two organizations. This was followed by the news release that the two organizations will continue to partner by hosting a High Reliability Cleaning and Conformal Coating Conference Nov. 13-15 at the Crowne Plaza Hotel-O’Hare in Chicago.

The revitalization of the IPC has become evident with the declaration of its inaugural IPC Electronic System Technologies Conference, to be held in Las Vegas May 20-23, 2013. The event will bring together the entire electronics industry — from printed board materials to component packaging and semiconductor design to complete systems. Interesting thoughts. Dr.Senol Pekin, Intel Corporation, will be general chair of the event.

We learned of further signs of consolidation, shifting in manufacturing bases, and cooperative activities while attending the TPCA-IMPACT event in Taipei October 24-26. The new MOU between the JPCA and TPCA will provide booth space for TPCA members at the JPCA show at JPCA member prices as part of a new reciprocal relationship.

ITRI continues to work with domestic companies in the development of new processes and materials to meet the REAL impending roadmap requirements of 10, 15 and 30 micron lines and spaces for oncoming 3D and other packages.

In general, bare board production remained at a depressed level in China while continuing to decline in Japan. Nan Ya Plastics spoke of copper-clad laminate sales of “about 25% less” than last year. Japan was reported to be no longer the dominant source of flip chip MLBs or MLB-flex circuits. Taiwan owned fabricators (in Taiwan and on the mainland) were forecast to become #1 in the manufacture of microvias in 2013. Japan’s Cu-clad laminate production in 2011 was stated to be only 50% of that of 2000 (in square meters).

Chinese mobs attacked 100 Japanese factories due to the squabble between Japan and China over the Diaoyu Islands which were returned to Japan by the U.S. after World War II. It is still a “ticking time bomb” according to China. The United States has stated that in the event of conflict, the islands are covered by the mutual defense treaty between Washington and Tokyo. The chairman of Panasonic recently visited its still inoperative Chinese factory damaged by the recent attacks. Japan’s industry is now actively seeking “other locations” for its present and future “offshore” manufacturing sites. The Philippines will most likely be one of the beneficiaries of these recent events and flare-ups.

China’s customs departments are “delaying” the processing, inspection,  and clearing for delivery imported equipment and spare parts from Japan. This negatively affects Chinese as well as Japanese and other companies operating on the mainland.

We saw few, very few, Westerners at the TPCA show as many companies discussed the new technologies and accelerating growth and conversion of automotive electronics from ceramics to high temperature epoxies (organic substrates) – from China and Taiwan to Thailand. We wonder how this meshes with the stated wishful thinking of Americans talking about reshoring production. It is evident to us that without major investment in facilities and technology to actually produce parts there will be little reshoring of note. America has not yet begun to do what is necessary to compete in the next electronic interconnect arena.

KCE Chairman Ongkosit said that there is high local PWB demand in Thailand for automotive and other applications. He also iterated that Japan is building a lot of factories there. He stated that the U.S. “is gone” as a supplier to Thailand’s electronic industry. He bemoaned the lack of after sales service and the difficulty of obtaining new materials there. KCE has had to train its own employees to provide the services normally expected of  suppliers – but the pipeline difficulties (and opportunities) still exist. He explained that Thailand is at the hub of the ASEAN market and offers great opportunities for those wishing to set up there.

Ongkosit stated that the country’s Board of Investment offers 8 years tax credits to new ventures there. It also does not tax imported materials used in production.

Wondering. Why has Foxconn backed down from its highly publicized commitment to build a fully automated factory? Was it concerned about further labor unrest? Did the threat of losing some of Apple’s business to a different EMS company stall the plans? Has the slowdown in China’s rate of increase in its GNP give it pause? What do you think?

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About Gene

Gene Weiner has spent his entire career -- spanning more than 50 years -- in the printed circuit and semiconductor industries. He spent the early part of his career in R&D as a student technician at MIT Lincoln Laboratories, then became employee no. 4 at Shipley, and later vice president of sales and marketing at Dynachem and president of New England Laminates. He has been a consultant to leading materials, circuit board and semiconductor companies for several years, and sits on the board of Wong’s Kong King International and the MBA advisory board of the Malcolm Baldridge School of Business at Post University. He was inducted to the IPC Hall of Fame in 2006.