Innovative demands from various end-user verticals including telecommunications, automotive, medical and industrial packaging are expected to fuel robust growth in the flexible printed circuit board (PCB) market. Flex has become the technology of choice for advance packaging, which includes both multichip and 3D.
According to research by Frost & Sullivan, the worldwide flexible printed circuit board markets earned revenues of over $7,3 billion in 2007 and estimates this to reach $16,4 billion in 2014.
¡°The physical advantages of flexible circuits are projected to be the primary factors that increase demand in the years to come, as flexible board becomes the enabling technology to achieve desired size, shape, weight or functionality in an electronic device,¡± says research analyst Ashwin T Ananthakrishnan. ¡°With high density interconnection (HDI) becoming more mainstream, it is anticipated that the growth of flexible circuits will also be hastened.¡±
The ability of FCPs to reduce package size, package weight, assembly time and assembly cost, while increasing system reliability, has found great favour in the handheld wireless electronics segment. The increased demand for laptops, notebooks, personal computers, cellphones and personal digital assistants (PDAs), coupled with the growing adoption of hard disk drives in digital music players, set top boxes and gaming consoles, are encouraging the use of flexible circuits in electronic applications.
Over 35 different companies vie for the global market space, which makes for high competition in the flexible PCB market. Most of the Asian manufacturers play a dominant role.
¡°Japan is the largest contributor to the flexible PC (FPC) board market, but confines high-technology PCBs in-house, while outsourcing only known technologies to low-cost regions,¡± notes Ananthakrishnan. ¡°The lack of experience of FPC manufacturing outside Japan impedes the development of FPCs in other geographic regions.¡±
As manufacturers in North America and Europe achieve greater expertise with the technology, they will prevail over the challenges posed by Japan and other Asian manufacturers. Ongoing consolidation of Tier 1 PCB companies acquiring Tier 2 and Tier 3 companies also supports and benefits the market, as the capacity to offer both rigid and flexible PCBs becomes a key differentiator for success.
¡°Factors like the convergence between rigid and flexible PCBs and the reduction in the organic growth across end-user verticals are likely to hamper the growth of flexible PCBs in the latter half of 2014, while at present the flexible PCB market has a lot of growth potential across verticals,¡± says Ananthakrishnan. ¡°In addition to this, developments and innovations across various verticals accelerate the growth of this market immensely.¡±