Taiwan is the production center for global consumer electronics, and the circuit board production in Taiwan is considered the barometer for the electronics industry. Performance for most of the major printed circuit manufacturers in Taiwan is mixed; there are some bright signs, and there are some areas that need improvement.

Business was slow in 2015 for Taiwanese circuit manufacturers because of the global recession that impacted sales of personal computers. Taiwanese manufacturers produce almost 90% of the world’s PCs. A recent slowdown in smartphone sales also had a negative impact. Circuit board manufacturers were down in sales in the first three quarters in 2016. However, the PC market has been rebounding during the second half of 2016, sales increased and circuit board manufacturers posted positive results compared to the previous year.

Shipments during the first four months in Taiwan did not follow historic trends. February shipments for Taiwanese manufacturers typically decrease during the Chinese New Year vacation (the festival lasts 15 days), and increase the following month. However, February shipments did not decline remarkably this year, and revenue increased by more than 15% compared to the same month last year. The remarkable rebounding in sales during March did not happen; shipments were almost the same compared to the same month last year.

Sales for the Taiwanese circuit board industry typically grow during the second quarter, but this year April shipments declined. This is not the normal sales trend—both rigid board manufacturers and flex circuit manufacturers posted a decrease in shipments, and the decrease for flex circuit manufacturers was much larger in terms of percentage. The bulk of business for flexible circuit manufacturers in Taiwan comes from the smartphone market. Taiwanese flex manufacturers supply circuits to Apple and its EMS providers, as well as manufacturers in Mainland China and Korea. This data suggest the global market for smartphones has slowed down continuously. Mainland China is the largest market for smartphones, and analysts provided pessimistic forecasts for 2017.

It’s tough to predict accurately where the electronics market and printed circuit industry will finish up for 2017. The trends for most of the year are mixed. I am very optimistic that 2017 will finish in the black! However, I would like to advise to pay more attention on the market data of the circuit board industry in Taiwan.

Headlines of the week

1. Taiwan Flex (Middle class flex circuit manufacturer in Taiwan) 5/12

Has commercialized a new transparent heat resistant flexible circuit using transparent polyimide film and cover resin for LED modules.

2. Sumitomo Forestry (Timber material supplier in Japan) 5/12

Has started the operation of biomass power generation utilizing timber tips in Tomakomai, Hokkaido. The company plans to expand the capacity to 200MW by the end of 2019.

3. Toppan Forms (Major printing company in Japan) 5/11

Will build a new manufacturing plant in Shizuoka Pref. for the volume production of IoT relating products such as ID cards IC labels.

4. Murata (Major component supplier in Japan) 5/15

Has commercialized a new SMT-type capacitor series with 10pF ~ 1500pF for power supply modules. The height from board surface is less than 2.5 mm.

5. Sony (Major electronics company in Japan) 5/16

Has commercialized a new high-speed CMOS image sensor “IMX382.” It processes one thousand frames per second.

6. Asahi Denka Laboratory (Circuit material supplier in Japan) 5/22

Has commercialized new transparent flexible laminates with high heat resistance for transparent flexible circuits.

7. Kyoto University (Japan) 5/22

Has co-developed a gateway device for small size IoT devices based on the global standard, Wi- SUN FUN.

8. Hitachi Automotive Systems (Device manufacturer in Japan) 5/22

Has developed a new 48V lithium ion battery with high out put density for the next generation mild hybrid automobiles.

9. Shimazu (Major analytical equipment manufacturer in Japan) 5/22

Has developed a new testing device that measure temperature and carbon dioxide level same time in the working engine.

10. Tokyo Gas (The largest fuel gas supplier in Japan) 5/23

Has developed a new process technology to optimize the efficiency the fuel cell device to 65% for home use generators.

11. Oki Cable (Middle class flex circuit manufacturer in Japan) 5/26

Will introduce new transparent heat resistant flexible circuits during the JPCA SHOW 2017 held in Tokyo Big Sight from June 7.