Editor’s note: This blog was originally published in February 2017 at www.weiner-intl.com and is being reprinted here with special permission from the author.

IPC APEX EXPO 2017 was the best in five or more years. The 60th annual meeting drew a crowd. The meetings were good. The founding Director, Ray Pritchard, and the previous president, Denny McGuirk, came back to help celebrate. Ray greeted first timers and executives of the PCB and EMS Forums as well as the crowd of more than 500 at the Wednesday evening celebration. The mood was upbeat. There were reports of new orders from Asia as well as the Americas, and news of increasing business from the show floor. IPC membership was up in all its regions to more than 4,000.

Doug Pauls, principal materials and process engineer, Rockwell Collins, was honored with the IPC Raymond E. Pritchard Hall of Fame Award. Gary Ferrari, FTG, well known and awarded leader in circuit board design circles, standards development, and a former TAEC chairman, received the Dieter Bergmann Fellowship Award. Gary named the University of Connecticut (UCONN) as the recipient of the Award’s scholarship.  UCONN is a member of the public/private consortia NextFlex.

Cao Xi, technical director at Huawei Technologies Co., Ltd. was elected as a new Board of Directors member. He is the first from his country to hold this post. China now has more than 800 IPC members, greatly attributable to the work of Dr. Philip Carmichael, President of IPC China.

Additive manufacturing got a lot of attention at the show as did robotics. The BotFactory’sdesktop Squink, hidden in a small booth with a price of just a “few” Gs, garnered a lot of attention. Founded in 2013, the company developed a variety of desktop models which can be used to print conductors, insulators, solder paste and a host of other items for prototyping or repair.

Jeff Timms, ASM’s Americas managing director enthusiastically stated that  his booth had more than 750 visitors during the first two days! He also stated that business was improving. Koh Young’s booth ran countless demonstrations throughout the show. Dr. Koh, President and CEO, seemed pleased with the apparent upturn and outlook in America.Technica’s President Frank Medina enthusiastically demonstrated DEK’s new “affordable” printer.

The IPC’s programs for PCB members appeared to be re-energized. Mike Carano’s“Advanced PCB Troubleshooting” professional development course drew rave reviews. The PCB Executive Forum’s program provided valuable pertinent perspectives, information and advice to the industry executives that attended. The evening dinner with the EMS members provided an additional opportunity to exchange ideas across the supply chain.

The PCB Executive Forum also generated a mystery as to why not one of the 150+ non-IPC members, who frequently complain about there not being benefits for them in the organization, did not take advantage of the program and the special 75% discount for a one-year membership offered to Forum attendees.

There were considerable concerns voiced about potential supply chain issues due to theDow-DuPont merger. Distributors and users alike wondered which company’s products would survive and how they would be delivered and serviced. The “electronics” sales of the two “giants” are estimated to be about $5 billion of the $80+ billion of total revenue. As a reminder, the result of the merger is expected to be three separate companies: an agriculture company, a material science company, and a specialty products company. The latter would house the electronics and electronics materials businesses.

Foxconn’s chief, Terry Gou, has refused to respond to reports of the company planning to open a large LCD panel factory in the U.S. state of Pennsylvania. The company said that issue remains under discussion.

Liu Guohong, director of the finance and modern industry research center at the Shenzhen-based think tank China Development Institute, said that it is unlikely to move its manufacturing to the U.S. in the short term, Liu said, as U.S. costs are still higher than in China.

Sakai Display Products Corp., a jointly managed company of Foxconn and Sharp Corp., will start construction of a new plant in March in Guangzhou, with an initial investment of $8.88 billion.

Foxconn also established a new research center in Shenzhen last month.

Intel continued to top all other chip companies in R&D expenditures in 2016 with spending that reached $12.7 billion and represented 22.4% of its semiconductor sales last year. Intelaccounted for 36% of the top-10 R&D spending and about 23% of the $56.5 billion total worldwide semiconductor R&D expenditures in 2016, according to the 20th anniversary 2017 edition of The McClean Report that was released in January 2017. Figure 1 shows IC Insights’ ranking of the top semiconductor R&D spenders based on semiconductor manufacturers and fabless suppliers with $1 billion or more spent on R&D in 2016.

Intel’s R&D spending is huge and exceeded the combined R&D spending of the next three companies on the list.

Chinese smartphone firm Xiaomi Inc. announced its first in-house designed chipset. The Surge S1, deployed in Xiaomi’s newest smartphone the Mi 5c, is the first chipset—which manages data flow—from the company’s wholly-owned chip research subsidiary, Beijing Pinecone Electronics.

Xiaomi was briefly the world’s most valuable startup following its last round of fundraising in 2014. It has since seen sales tumble due to competition from the likes of Huawei Technologies, Vivo, and Oppo.

The in-house chipset is one of a number of projects which Xiaomi hopes will bring users to its ecosystem and lower costs. Other projects include smart home devices and online banking. The company said it started developing the chipset just over two years ago, and that it is competitive with chipsets in the same range from market leader Qualcomm Inc.

Xiaomi said it has been granted over 3,600 patents, almost half of which are international. The figure includes the 1,500 patents bought from Microsoft Corp. last year.

The 47th NEPCON JAPAN was held from Jan. 18−20, 2017. Its scale with 2,250+ exhibitors was the largest-ever. The show had 110,234* visitors, which is also the largest number in its history. (*Including concurrent shows for automotive technology*, smart factory, wearables*, etc.)

*Automotive World and the 4th Wearable Expo shows each claimed Said to be the world’s largest in their categories.