EPTE Newsletter: The Printed Circuit Industry in 2019

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The year is flying by. The first quarter is close to completion, and 2019 is a distant memory. Analyzing business trends and forecasting is difficult enough without adding a wild card into the equation, specifically the coronavirus. For this reason, I decided to provide a snapshot of the industry before the COVID-19 outbreak and look at trends moving forward.

A slowdown for consumer electronics began during December 2018. Global shipments for semiconductors and printed circuit production in Taiwan declined sharply and continued over the next few months. The industry noticed a rebound during the second quarter of 2019 but declined again during the last quarter of the year.

Printed circuit shipments in Taiwan grew by 1.48% in 2019. Rigid board shipments increased by 1.99%, and flex circuits increased by 0.15% for the year; this was a relatively small increase compared to the previous year. Volume declined during the last quarter of 2019, and industry forecasts showed a continued slowdown for 2020.

The hardest-hit segment was flexible circuits, but the rigid board segment was also down. The primary applications for flex circuits are mobile devices that include smartphones and tablet PCs. Sales for both of these products were down during the last couple of years. The data from Taiwanese circuit board manufacturers indicates another decline, and volume for the next few months is expected to fall.

Printed circuit shipments in Japan declined by 7% in 2019 compared with the previous year. This is the first negative growth since 2016. Module substrates grew negligibly by 1.1% in 2019, rigid circuit boards decreased by 6.5%, and build-up boards the core products of the industry grew by 0.1%. The primary applications for build-up boards are used by domestic manufacturers for cellular phones, so its contribution to the industry is significant.

Total shipments for flexible circuits in Japan shrunk by 26.9% during 2019 compared to the previous year. That is a significant loss; more than one-fourth of the market disappeared in one year. The majority of the demand comes from mobile devices by foreign manufacturers. We can speculate that a few Japanese flex manufacturers lost some of their customers to their competitors in Taiwan and Korea.

North America had a relatively strong year in 2019; revenue increased by 7.8% during 2019. This is much larger than their peers in other industrialized countries, and industry booking indicates more positive growth during the year (this was before the COVID-19 outbreak). Unfortunately, January shipments from the industry in 2020 posted a decline, and forecasts are pessimistic for the rest of the year.

The global electronics and circuit board industries are reeling from the coronavirus ripples. Hopefully, this will pass soon and we can all get back to business as usual.


1. NIT (technical college in Nagoya, Japan) 2/14

Developed a rechargeable fuel cell system. An organic molecule, AQDS-H2, generates H2 by irradiation of solar light.

2. KST World (venture company in Japan) 2/19

Co-developed the world’s smallest full-color laser module with Fukui University in Japan (size: 11 x 4.3 x 3 mm) and will start volume production this year.

3. Nippon Shokubai (specialty chemical supplier in Japan) 2/19

Developed a carbon/zinc hybrid secondary battery. Since it uses stable materials, it is non-flammable and safer. It has 100 times longer life compared with traditional lead-based batteries.

4. Trina Solar (solar power module supplier in China) 2/27

Will commercialize double-sided solar power-generation panels, Duomax V, with 500W generation with a 21% conversion rate.

5. TSMC (semiconductor manufacturer in Taiwan) 3/3

Agreed with STMicroelectronics to cooperate for the supply of GaN-based power semiconductors. The first samples will be released during the second half of the year.

6. Toshiba (electric and electronics company in Japan) 3/2

Developed a manufacturing process known as TsRF11 for silicon-on-insulator (SOI). It will be valuable to produce semiconductors for 5G smartphones.

7. Tokyo University (Japan) 3/5

Developed an organic electrolyte solution with multiple functions for lithium-ion batteries instead of carbonate esters. It will make the life longer and energy density higher.

8. Sanyo Kasei and APB (specialty chemical supplier in Japan) 3/5

Will have an 8 billion yen fund for the project of developing an all-solid polymer-based lithium-ion battery. Many big firms gathered for the project.

9. Nikkei BP (business media in Japan) 3/6

Has been reporting how valuable the combination of iPhones and iPads has been for deaf people during natural disasters.

10. DNP (printing company in Japan) 3/6

Developed an evaluation method for the glaring on the surface of the LCD panels.

11. Kyocera and Sony (electronics companies in Japan) 3/9

Developed a musical toothbrush with Lion Co., a toothpaste supplier in Japan. The music propagates directly to teeth and bones.

12. Panasonic (electronics company in Japan) 3/9

Developed a distance measuring device with high resolutions. The device detects 1~10 cm resolutions at a distance of 250 meters.

Dominique K. Numakura is the managing director of DKN Research LLC. Contact haverhill@dknreseach.com for further information and news.




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