Another federal energy investment has gone South — no, make that West.

Lithium ion batteries have been in the news again following Boeing’s highly publicized Dreamliner battery difficulties. China’s Wanxiang Group has received clearance from the US Committee on Foreign Investment to acquire the assets of America’s battery maker A123 for $257 million. The bankrupt A123, which makes batteries for electric cars and grid storage, was the recipient of $130 million of clean energy federal grants. The Wanxiang Group is an auto parts conglomerate.

Shen Tsai-Sheng of one of the world’s largest PCB makers, Unimicron Technology, stated that utilization rates of Unimicron’s HDI board, PCB, and flexible PCB (FPCB) production will fall below 75% of capacity in the first quarter of 2013, down from 85% to 95% in the 4th quarter of 2012.

Huawei sold 10.8 million smart phones in the 4th quarter of 2012 to become the world’s 3rd largest seller. Samsung was first with 63.7 million and Apple was 2nd with 47.8 million. ZTE, another China maker, shipped 9.5 million units in the last quarter of 2012.

Will the “bounce” last? China’s economy has bounced back. A return to accelerating growth in the fourth quarter 2012 breaks seven straight quarters of declining growth and draws a line under concerns that the world’s second largest economy is heading for a hard landing.
To engineer the rebound, China’s government turned again to boosting credit and investment spending. But beneath the surface, there were also signs a rebalancing toward consumption may be underway.

ASL had its second best year in 2012 and forecasts sales at least as good in 2013. The number one IC lithograph projection printer supplier in the world, headquartered in Holland, has about 80% of the market for advanced exposure equipment (including for 300mm wafers).

An interesting note from the massive CES (Consumer Electronics Show) in Las Vegas this month was the seemingly widespread appearance of nanotechnology coatings to “moisture proof” just about anything.

Updated PWB charts showing use of build up boards and thin PWBs by application in Japan are now available. These have been created and maintained annually by Masamitsu (Matt) Aoki. Several have been published in the Printed Circuit Journal of Japan. Write to us if you would like a copy.

Back to the Future. The “Assembly Processes for Lead Free and Tin-Lead” free BUZZ session at the IPC Apex event in San Diego Feb. 19 chaired by Raymond E. Pritchard Hall of Fame member Don DuPriest has been renamed BZ2 Hall of Famers: Roundtable Discussion. It’s format will be an “open-end” panel discussion by Hall of Fame (HoF) members related to all aspects of the electronic interconnect industry.  The panel, including Bob Neves, Dan Feinberg, Jack Fisher, Vern Solberg, and myself will field questions from the audience ranging from technology, to business, to future changes and requirements, to reshoring. Chairman DuPriest will provide surprise gifts to audience members that ask questions.

New “Kid on the Block.” Taiwan’s MediaTek, which introduced its first chipset in 2011 in a Lenovo phone, has in 18 short months captured 50% of China’s market for smartphone chips. Its chipsets are reported to have greatly reduced the cost and time for manufacturers to introduce new phones to the marketplace.  As a result, the top five producers in China during the third quarter Coolpad, Huawei, Lenovo, Samsung and ZTE. Apple was 6th with just 8% of the market. MediaTek offers guidance on hot to build a phone with its chips. as a result its chips are showing up in new brands in emerging markets in Latin America and India.

Nissan will assemble its new Leaf electric motor in the USA this year for the 2013 Nissan LEAF car to be built in Smyrna, TN. Currently all of Nissan’s electric motors are put together in Japan.