DIP jacks and sockets continue to dominate output, but the miniaturization trend is driving the line toward compact profiles.
Spurred by the spreading miniaturization trend in electronics, suppliers of jacks and sockets in China are shifting R&D focus to SMD units although DIP versions continue to dominate production. The latter configuration represents more than 60 percent of the total for the line, but this is expected to diminish in coming years. At Dongguan Bsun Electronics Co. Ltd, the output share of SMD types will surge to 70 percent from 50 percent by end-2011. For some makers, the category will even exceed 80 percent of shipments in the months ahead.
|Dongguan Bsun’s model PJ-0209A 2.5mm stereo SMD jack has less than 0.03ohm contact resistance.|
Companies attribute the development to increasingly compact mobile phones, MP3/MP4 players and gaming devices, which are fueling demand both locally and abroad.
The aggregate requirements of the first two take up over 60 percent of China’s jack and socket yield. With the boom in these applications, particularly mobile phones, steady growth is assured.
Fueling the industry further is the domestic adoption of a unified interface announced by the China Communications Standards Association in late 2009. The guideline, which was approved by the Ministry of Information Industry, mandates the use of the same kind of jack and socket, thereby expanding the category’s market base. Under it, small and portable electronics have to utilize 2.5mm units, and computers and various entertainment terminals 3.5mm versions. This extends to 3G phones approved by China Mobile.
At present, more than 50 percent of handsets produced in the country comply with the standard. The measure translates to cost savings because it spares mobile phone manufacturers from redesigning interfaces and earphones. In terms of capital, this means an estimated $290 million saved annually based on shipments of 100 million mobile phones, according to China Electronics News. Moreover, the scheme has a “green” advantage as users need not discard earphones with each device acquisition, reducing electronics trash.
To attract more orders, some suppliers are also boosting the output of 6.4mm jacks and sockets in response to climbing requirement in special audio devices, including musical instruments. The type accounts for about 30 percent of Dongguan Bsun’s shipments.
Companies are likewise looking to diversify to no-halogen variants in coming months to widen profit margins. Together with gold-plated models, these constitute the upscale category in China. Both are priced about 10 percent higher than midrange models.
Enterprises are likewise eyeing 100 percent RoHS compliance as another sales-boosting measure.
The portable electronics, computers and mobile communications sectors have been spurring more than 10 percent output growth in China’s jacks and sockets industry in the past several years. The same rate isexpected by end-2011 as many local makers increase their manufacturing volumes to meet rising domestic and international demand.
Dongguan Winweal Industry Co. Ltd will boost yield for all products by 20 to 30 percent by year-end. Its current capacity for jacks and sockets is 5 million units per month. The expansion bid may persist until 2013.
To achieve higher efficiency, some enterprises have installed new equipment. Dongguan Bsun acquired fully automatic manufacturing and testing machines to bolster capacity by 20 percent in the months ahead. In addition, it recruited about 400 personnel early this year to have a 1,000-strong workforce.
Because of these, jacks and sockets now have a 10 percent share of mainland China’s combined output of connectors and switches. About 600 suppliers pursue the line, with two-thirds homegrown and the rest funded companies mostly from Taiwan and Hong Kong. More than 90 percent of these operations gather in the Pearl River and Yangtze River Delta regions, attracted by the comprehensive industry chain there. The largest concentration is in Guangdong province in the former, playing host to half of local and invested ventures. Shenzhen and Dongguan are the key locations.
Nearly all manufacturers export their products. About 60 percent of the mainland’s yield is sent to North America, Europe, East Asia and the Middle East.
Despite the financial crisis and its aftermath, the majority of exporters were able to maintain an average shipment growth exceeding 10 percent.
This year and next, the projected rate is 15 percent. This is as makers such as Kwanda Industrial Co. Ltd increase share of exports. The supplier is targeting 15 percent from the current 10 percent of output by end-2011. Its key destinations abroad are Europe and North America.
At present, the mainland accounts for 20 to 30 percent of the global shipments of jacks and sockets, ranking it among the world’s largest manufacturing hubs for the line.
|The model EJ-2518-1 jack from Dongguan Winweal boasts 3 to 20N insertion/withdrawal force.|
The mainstream selections from China companies consist of 2.5, 3.5 and 6.4mm jacks and sockets in mono, duo and stereo options, and DIP and SMD configurations. Stereo varieties dominate, with more than 50 percent share of total deliveries.
Regardless of type, products have thermoplastic housings, gold- or nickel-plated copper alloy contacts and UL94V-0-rated polyester insulators. They have a withstand voltage of 250 or 500VAC, insert/withdraw cycles of 5,000 to 10,000 times and actuation force of 3 to 25N.
Dongguan Bsun’s PJ-0209 SMD model is a 2.5mm stereo jack boasting 250VAC withstand voltage, less than 0.03ohm contact resistance, more than 100Mohm insulation resistance, 5,000 times insert/withdraw cycles and 5 to 25N attenuating force. The company’s selection is widely used in mobile phones, MP3 and MP4 players, gaming and audio devices, and computers. All are RoHS-compliant and UL-listed, and carry CE and TÜV approval. Kwanda’s line conforms to RoHS, UL, VDE and CSA requirements.
To improve their selections, manufacturers continue to concentrate R&D efforts on miniaturization, low contact resistance, high withstand voltage and long life span. They are also preparing to produce multifunction models such as those that integrate microphones in the jack on an OEM/ODM basis. Only Apple has the technology at present.
Enterprises continue to emphasize customization, accommodating buyers’ specifications on materials, sizes and colors. In fact, OEM and ODM orders constitute more than half of shipments for the majority of local operations. Dongguan Winweal counts Sony, JVC, LG and Microsoft among its major customers. With over 20 R&D personnel, it can design a new jack based on buyers’ specifications within a week, and is working on shortening this to five days. Aside from OEM and ODM projects, the supplier has its own product development objectives such as reducing component size and extending life span past 10,000 times.
The main materials used in making jacks and sockets are copper, plastic and gold. They collectively account for more than 70 percent of manufacturing outlay. Most makers source them locally, including from China-based foreign-owned ventures. The last is the typical choice for high-end models to ensure stable performance and high quality, although some manufacturers also turn to large homegrown companies for the inputs. Regardless of source, RoHS-compliant materials are employed.
The supply of materials has been stable, but costs climbed by at least 20 percent in 2010. To remain competitive, some makers kept prices at current levels for existing customers while raising it slightly by only about 5 percent for new ones. Others adjusted their quotes to maintain profit margins. Dongguan Winweal increased its prices by 10 percent, and is considering another round of adjustment of 5 to 10 percent in coming months. This is because manufacturers predict the upward cost trend, which extends to labor expenditure, may persist until year-end.
Local companies also offer other kinds of electronic components such as switches, connectors and power plugs. Jacks and sockets represent 10 to 60 percent of their total yield. At Kwanda, the category accounts for about 20 percent of the monthly capacity of 30 million units. The rest of the supplier’s lineup consists of switches, power plugs and RCA connectors.
Kwanda will maintain the current production ratio while increasing total capacity by more than 10 percent in the next two or three years.
Jacks and sockets from Taiwan suppliers are for niche applications such as high-end audio systems to steer clear of competition in the mainstream. XLR, RCA and 6.4mm headphone units dominate output. These exhibit low contact resistance and noise, and usually come with gold-plated terminals to ensure sound quality.
To guarantee the high grade of their selections, makers implement multiple QC steps such as in-house and third-party inspection. They recruit skilled on-line technicians as upscale variants usually require manual processes, particularly soldering.
Jacks and sockets are mature products so mass manufacture is key to boosting sales. This is the reason most Taiwan suppliers have set up factories in mainland China.
At present, 90 percent of makers are from the connectors industry, leveraging advantage in use of the same equipment for their products. These include sampling and surface-mount machines. Manual assembly lines are also shared.
Some companies pursue the connectors as a service category. Hung Ta Enterprise Co. Ltd, a major player in electronic components for audio systems, also turns out jacks and sockets as a one-stop-shop package.
Lih Sheng Precision Ind. Co. Ltd, meanwhile, is one of the few enterprises dedicated to the line. It offers various jacks for A/V devices, including sound mixers, karaoke machines and other electronics with an added audio function. The supplier said price competition is fierce.
A/V and telephone jacks and sockets constitute Hong Kong’s range. The first type is extensively used in DVD and MP3 players, computers, and other audio and multimedia devices. It is shipped mostly to OEM/ODM customers in mainland China and overseas. Telephone versions, on the other hand, are mainly supplied to telecom operators and sales agents.
To ensure they meet the performance reliability requirements of buyers, makers in the territory invest heavily in testing equipment such as life testers and inductively coupled plasma optical emission spectrometers. Coordinate measuring machines and other precision apparatuses are also included. In addition, raw materials adopted are sourced from local, Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Germany and US suppliers.
To enable fast design turnaround and high-volume production, companies use CAD/CAM systems, profile projectors, and wire-cutting, electrical-discharge, grinding, CNC and reel-and-tape packing machines. The majority of them carry out nearly all manufacturing processes, including mold making and electroplating, in-house.
There are at least 15 suppliers of jacks and sockets in the territory. Most have 20 or more years of experience in the line, boasting expertise in through-hole and SMD types, and horizontal and vertical mounting styles. Those offering A/V types also turn out related lines, including USB connectors, and DC power and RCA jacks. Makers of telephone variants have faceplates and patch panels in their catalogs.
Dragon City Industries Ltd provides connectors, jacks, sockets and terminals in 2.5, 3.5 and 6.3mm models. It has a low minimum order requirement.
At See-Plus Industrial Ltd, the selection consists of mono and stereo 2.5 and 3.5mm earphone, and 6.4mm microphone jacks. SMD power and RCA jacks, and various types of switches are also on the list.
In addition to jacks and sockets, Technik Industrial Co. Ltd manufactures related electronic components in its two ISO 9001:2000- and 14001:2004-compliant factories in Dongguan, Guangdong province in the mainland. The facilities have a combined production capacity of 20 million units per month. Alcatel, Flextronics, NEC and Robert Bosch are among the supplier’s clients.
Dragon City Industries Ltd
Hung Ta Enterprise Co. Ltd
Kwanda Industrial Co. Ltd
Lih Sheng Precision Ind. Co. Ltd
Tai Chung Electronic Component Parts Co. Ltd
Technik Industrial Co. Ltd
Note: This article "Jack and socket R&D shifting to SMD variants" was originally published by Global Sources, a leading business-to-business media company and a primary facilitator of trade with China manufacturers and India suppliers, providing essential sourcing information to volume buyers through our e-magazines, trade shows and industry research.
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