Flexible PCB manufacturers sustain product upgrades, output expansion
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  • Companies focus on matching the miniaturization requirement in key portable electronics applications.

    China suppliers of flexible PCBs continue to emphasize greater circuit density, spurred by climbing demand from the strong mobile electronics sector. They improve production methods to realize tighter line width and spacing to meet requirements in more-advanced but thinner devices. Makers such as Xiamen
    Ruidi Electronic Co. Ltd can churn out up to 1.4mil units, breaching the local sector’s previous 1.6mil minimum. By hole sizes, the smallest achieved are 0.4mm in punching and 0.1mm in mechanical drilling. The Wuzhu Circuit Group can reach the latter. In terms of layers, manufacturers are steadily increasing yield for multitier types to expand their selections dominated by single- and double-sided variants. At present, they have 3 to 8-layer models.

    The rise in overall turnout is expected to be about 12 percent this year, with the majority of companies elevating utilization rates. Some are more optimistic and are bolstering capacity further. Wuzhu Circuit plans to be able to handle up to 70,000sqm monthly in 2Q14 from 50,000sqm. Flex Plus (Xiamen) Co. Ltdconstructed an additional factory with an area of 7,500sqm.

    Fueling these developments, in particular, is the smartphone and tablet PC markets. The first device requires eight to 12 flexible PCBs, and the latter between 10 and 16, presenting a huge opportunity based on their worldwide shipments. The handset category is projected to touch 1.7 billion units in 2017, posting 18 percent CAGR between 2013 and 2017, according to IDC. Tablet computers will reach 270.5 million units in 2014 and 386.3 million units in 2017.

    Local flexible PCB makers also take advantage of wide adoption in other communication and telecom products. They expect to continue benefiting from the consumer, automotive and medical electronics, instruments, defense and aerospace fields. In addition, companies anticipate a broader application base, with ultrabooks and LED products as future markets.

    Another factor driving suppliers to bolster the line is rivalry with foreign businesses in China. Although a minority in terms of number, the latter makers dominate the country’s flexible PCB segment, accounting for about 80 percent of production value and the bulk of volume.

    Domestic enterprises accommodate small and mixed orders and emphasize comparable quality and competitive pricing, eyeing the category’s steadily climbing share of China’s PCB output value.

    Flexible PCBs will hit $5.7 billion in 2017, representing almost 20 percent of the industry’s total from about 16 percent at present. The line will realize nearly 11 percent CAGR in 2012-17, surpassing the global level estimated at 8percent, according to Prismark. By the end of the period, local turnout will be 25.8 million square meters from 14.9 million square meters in 2012.

    There are about 400 suppliers of flexible PCBs in China, two-thirds of which are homegrown operations. The foreign-invested companies include key industry players Nippon Mektron, Sumitomo, Fujikura, M-Flex, ZDT, Nitto Denko, Interflex and Career. The local counterparts are Shenzhen Danbond, Zhuhai Topsun, Shenzhen Jingchengda and Shenzhen Zhongxing Xinyu.

    Most manufacturers are in the provinces of Guangdong, Jiangsu and Fujian. The first plays host to about 70 percent of the pool.

    China is the world’s largest hub for the category with production value share exceeding 30 percent.

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