Trends of Japanese PCB makers

Trends of Japanese PCB makers

News 12 Mar 2021

Regarding the trends of PCB (Print Circuit Board) manufacturers, we have reorganized them by focusing on Japanese manufacturers based on the document materials reported by TPCA last year.  

1.PCB market

Table 1 shows the breakdown of the top 20 PCB (Rigid + Flexible) manufacturers by sales in FY2018.

There were a total of 4 Japanese manufacturers, 2 in FPC industry (3rd Japan Mektron, 13th Fujikura) and 2 in Rigid boards processing industry (15th Meiko and 16th IBIDEN).
     Table 1: PCB maker’s sales  unite: million dollars

Japan Mektron was the only Japanese manufacturer in the Top 10. In 2018, the market growth rate was about 5.9%, while Meiko (9.6%) was the only Japanese manufacturer that secured a growth rate higher than the average growth rate.

In the past, IBIDEN was the No.1 in the world of Rigid boards, but now it has dropped significantly and has been overtaken by Meiko in terms of sales.

IBIDEN is focusing on IC package substrate, and carrying on fierce competition with overseas manufacturers(especially Taiwan TSMC). However, it seems that the issue still remains unclear how will the efforts of increasing production capacity by 1.5 times from last year(investment amount 70 billion yen)change in the future? As a manufacturer with basic technical capabilities, the demand for IC package substrates is still strong, and the demand for miniaturization and multi-layering is becoming stronger, and at the same time, the demand for in-vehicle use is also increasing. In that sense as well, I would like to pay attention to the trends in IBIDEN.

On the other hand, Meiko is focusing on Vietnam, and it seems that it will start operation of the third factory last year and establish a subsidiary with a Chinese company to develop the EMS business. Also, in the past, there was a big difference in thickness and hardness between the Rigid plate and FPC, but now the glass fiber, which is the core material of FR-4, can be made thinner, and some products which use FR-4 of 60u are coming. Some parts of Rigid board are also moving to Roll To Roll, Meiko also considered double-sided tape for etching.

In terms of desinocization, Japan Mektron also built the latest factory also in Vietnam, and it would like to focus on Vietnam, we could pay attention to how it will develop in the future.

2.FPC maker sales trends
Table 2 Sales trends of FPC manufacturers (TOP15 companies 2018)

Looking only at the FPC field, 5 Japanese companies are ranked among the Top 15 companies, and it seems that Japanese manufacturers occupies major portion in the industry of Roll to Roll area.

However, Japan Mektron, which was No. 1 in the world until 2015, became No. 2 from 2017, widening the gap with ZDT (a subsidiary of Hon Hai, Taiwan). In particular, sales of ZDT are growing significantly, and there is concern that this difference will widen in year of 2020 as well. However, ZDT locates all its factories in China, and depending on the relationship between the United States and China in the future, it cannot be expected to grow as much as before.

On the other hand, Japan Mektron has its main manufacturing bases dispersed from China, Taiwan, and Thailand to Vietnam, and It’s supposed that the operation of the newest Vietnam factory is a big issue in the future. At the same time, what exactly kind of FPC will be manufactured at the existing factories in China and Taiwan in that case?

Fujikura was the third largest in the industry until 2010, but the 2011 flood in Thailand wiped out major factories. Therefore, it should be noted that despite the loss of most of the business up to that point, sales returned to pre-flood sales in 2015, and in 2018, sales increased significantly to about 1.5 times that of 2010.

On the other hand, Sumitomo Electric PC and Nitto Denko were significantly negative compared to 2017 at -9.7% and -5.2%, respectively, despite the fact that many overseas manufacturers were positive. In particular, Sumitomo Electric PC was No. 4 in the FPC industry in 2015, but in 2018 it dropped significantly to No. 7.

On the other hand, Murata's significant growth depends on Metro Circ using LCP. The final customer is Apple, and Career in Taiwan has also started manufacturing FPCs with LCP, and we would like to pay attention to the sales trends of these two companies in the future.

There are problems in high-frequency characteristics in the conventional PI film bases fields and cannot be used under communication speeds and high lifts such as 5G, how far can existing technologies swallow the new technologies that can be further multi-layered in LCP application?
Among overseas manufacturers, sales of MFlex (China), Flexium (Taiwan), and BHFlex (Korea) increased significantly. MFlex was originally an American company with a large deal with Apple, but was acquired by Suzhou Dongshan Precision Manufacturing (DSBJ) in China in 2016. It is presumed that sales increased significantly due to the relationship between Chinese capital and Apple. Flexium manufactures FPCs with manufacturing bases in Taiwan (Kaohsiung) and China (Kunshan), and has Apple as its main customer. BHFlex (Korea), like Flexium, is a new FPC maker with similar percentage, both were founded in 1999.


I still like to see that Japanese PCB makers do their best, but the main battlefields are China, Vietnam, Thailand and the Philippines. I think the ability to collect local information is important. Table 3 summarizes the major overseas manufacturing countries.
Table 3 The main overseas manufacturing points of Japanese maker
Name China Vietnam Thailand Philippines others
Japan Mektron Taiwan
Sumidenko PC
Tamura Seisaku
IBIDEN Malaysia
 Among these, Murata Seisaku is LCP-based and specializes domestic manufacturing.  |pvc duct tape

Technology trends

Demand for circuit boards is wide-ranging, and products and manufacturing technologies that meet each application are required. Among them, there is still room for consideration regarding improving product yields and shortening/automating manufacturing processes.

It takes time and money to develop a new technology and build a new factory. The point is how quickly we can provide products that incorporate new technologies into the market in a timely manner. In this sense as well, we believe that the demand for the removable adhesive tape we have developed will continue to grow, and we will continue to be involved in improving its functionality.

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