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Multilayer PCB R&D targets high-end applications

Makers of multilayer PCBs focus on increasing circuit density for advanced electronics, including flat-panel TVs, tablet PCs and 3G phones.

Suppliers of multilayer PCBs in China are setting their sights on the high end, stepping up product development to yield boards suitable for upscale devices such as flat-panel TVs, and tablet and notebook PCs. Variants for GPS devices, e-book readers, and 3G phones and base stations are also in the pipeline, as are units for industrial control, medical electronics and defense/aerospace use. These releases are expected to augment sales from the mainstream communications, consumer and car electronics, and computer sectors. The first three currently account for more than 60 percent of the country’s total shipments.

Multilayer PCB
Shenzhen Suntak’s 61138C26 model with 26 layers has an immersion gold surface finish.

Manufacturers underscore greater circuit density, targeting to exceed 50 layers and achieve smaller than 2mil line width/spacing and 0.1mm holes. Some are planning to adopt technologies such as buried resistance and capacitance.

Shenzhen Suntak Multilayer PCB Co. Ltd, which provides 40-layer units, is scheduled to introduce varieties with 50 and 60 levels this year and in 2012, respectively. Boards from the maker have 2.5mil minimum line width/spacing, 9mm maximum board thickness and 8 to 10oz copper. In the months ahead, the supplier plans to achieve 2mil and 10mm for the first two, and 0.1mm CNC drilling and 0.08mm laser drilling hole sizes. It also hopes to start mass production of variants with buried resistance to complement the current range with buried capacitance. Shenzhen King Brother Electronics Technology Co. Ltd will develop both types this year.

In addition, manufacturers are sharpening competitive edge in terms of services and time to market to attract more buyers. They accommodate as small as 5sqm and high-volume mixed orders, and ensure a quick turnaround for samples. Shenzhen Jaleny Electronics Co. Ltd can produce 4 to 6-layer trial models within 48 hours and double-sided versions for half the time. Shenzhen Zhiboxin Circuit Board Co. Ltd can complete OEM prototypes within 24 hours. Shenzhen Suntak concentrates on high mixed and low-volume orders. The company guarantees respective delivery lead times of five, six and eight days for 4, 6 and 8 to 10-layer printed boards.

Other enterprises provide additional services. Shenzhen King Brother offers SMT, PCB assembly, electronic component sourcing and finished product assembly.

In line with “green” initiatives, businesses are working to comply with the national government’s Clean Production Standards for the Printed Circuit Board Manufacturing Industry. The regulation covers board-making processes and equipment, use of resources and energy, pollutants prior to the end-of-pipe treatment, waste recycling and environmental management conditions.

The goal is to reduce water consumption by 41.3 million cubic meters, wastewater containing heavy metal discharge 217,800 cubic meters and solid waste with heavy metal discharge 72,600 tons by the end of next year. Recycling 12,000 tons of copper is also included.

The Ministry of Environmental Protection is defining the discharge standards for electrical pollutants.

China’s robust electronics industries provide a huge and captive application base for PCBs, helping makers nurture the line. Local PCB demand continues to grow, projected to reach $22.2 billion and represent about 42 percent of the worldwide total by 2014. It is driven by the national government’s Consumer Electronics Subsidy Program, 3G network construction and trinetwork integration.

The steady upturn in recent years has attracted key international players to set up PCB factories in the country. These include Unimicron, Nippon Mektron, Ibiden, TTM, Semco, Tripod, Kingboard Chemical, Fujikura, Young Poong and CMK. Although this intensified competition, it facilitated the transfer of global production capacity, which bolstered the local industry further.

China is now the world’s largest manufacturing base for PCBs, accounting for more than a third of worldwide sales. Last year, the country’s total output value hit $19.7 billion from $16.4 billion in 2009, according to the China Printed Circuit Association or CPCA. Exports contributed $11.8 billion. Annual growth will reach 9 percent in 2009-14, surpassing the global industry’s 5 percent based on estimates by Prismark.

The line is supported by 1,000 suppliers, nearly all of which offer multilayer versions. At Shenzhen Zhiboxin, the ratio is about 40 percent for the type. China Circuit, Zhuhai Founder and Shenzhen Shennan are among the major local players in the PCB line.

About 90 percent of the manufacturers are based in the Pearl River and Yangtze River Delta regions. Large concentrations can be found in the provinces of Guangdong, Jiangsu and Zhejiang, and Shanghai. In the first, the key locations are the cities of Shenzhen, Guangzhou, Dongguan and Zhuhai. Companies export about 50 percent of their multilayer printed board output mainly to Europe, the US and Asia.

Multilayer PCBs
Taiwan: Multilayer PCB suppliers expand to niche applications
Hong Kong: HDI variants, 20-layer units explored
Product gallery

Multilayer PCBs

Multilayer variants dominate the PCB line in China, accounting for about 50 percent of aggregate revenue. In terms of output, the category reached approximately 99 million square meters last year, surging 15 percent YoY, said CPCA. With expanding applications, a two-digit increase will be sustained in the years ahead.

Products from China suppliers have four, six, eight, 10, 12, 14, 18 and 20 layers, with some companies capable of up to 50. The first three make up the mainstream selection and are widely used in communication devices, consumer and car electronics, and computers and peripherals.

At Shenzhen Sunshine Circuits Technology Co. Ltd, 4, 6 and 8-layer types dominate output, while it is the first two for Finest Printed Circuit Board Ltd and Shenzhen Zhiboxin.

In terms of minimum line width/spacing, the options are 2, 2.5, 3, 3.5 and 4mil, with the majority of units in 3mil. The hole sizes are 0.1, 0.15, 0.2 and 0.25mm. Board thickness ranges from 0.4 to 10mm, depending on the number of layers. For the surface finish, there are mainly ENIG, OSP, ENIG+OSP, gold finger, flash gold, HASL, and immersion lead, gold and silver.

Prices are expected to increase by 5 percent this year due to a similar trend in raw material and labor costs and the appreciating yuan. Outlay for copper, gold, silver and tin has been in an upturn since 2010. The first will average $4.45 per pound or $9,812.25 per ton this year, up by 24 percent from an earlier estimate according to Morgan Stanley. Gold exceeded $1,400 per ounce, 29 percent higher than last year, and will remain in an upward trend in coming months. Expenditure for fiberglass yarns and fabrics is also climbing.

As a result, the cost of copper-clad laminates is projected to rise further after surging by 15 to 40 percent in 2010. The key material in the production of multilayer PCBs, it represents 30 to 50 percent of total outlay. Despite the adjustments, supply has been stable.

Makers source CCLs, copper foil and granules, pre-impregnated fibers, tin lead bars, gold salt and chemicals from mainland China and Taiwan companies. For the first, they turn mainly to Nanya, Kingboard, Iteq, EMC, Shengyi and Goworld. Enterprises also accommodate buyers’ requests for specific material providers. Finest uses solder masks from GreenCure and Taiyo to suit clients’ requirements.

Manufacturers expect labor outlay to keep rising as well. In Guangdong, the average minimum wage will be nearly 19 percent higher this year.

Taiwan: Multilayer PCB suppliers expand to niche applications

Taiwan makers of multilayer PCBs are broadening the line’s application base to widen market reach and boost sales. Cost challenges in main markets LCDs, mobile phones and memory modules are denting profit margins with suppliers unable to implement price markups despite climbing production spending.

To penetrate niche categories, companies are offering customization services. Many are targeting the telecom sector, particularly smartphones, base stations and xDSL devices. They are also eyeing the medical, industrial and automotive segments.

To support this bid, large suppliers are developing high-end PCBs as well. Tripod Technology Corp. is focusing on any-layer HDI boards for upscale smartphones such as the iPhone 4.
Despite increased emphasis on other applications, makers continue to sustain their mainstream selections, which include units with four, six, eight, 10 and 12 layers. These use mainly CEM, FR-4 and aluminum substrates. All releases comply with RoHS requirements.

Multilayer PCBs can be sourced from more than 200 suppliers, all of which offer rigid boards. Over half are experienced manufacturers with factories in mainland China. The others, particularly those new in the line, focus on design rather than production capability. Their services cover sampling and prototyping for small orders. When volume exceeds capacity, these companies subcontract to partner facilities.

Enterprises with operations in the mainland that face rising labor costs invest in automation to keep prices competitive. Some team up with other vendors to cut down production expenditure.

Hong Kong: HDI variants, 20-layer units explored

Hong Kong multilayer PCB manufacturers are enhancing production capability for HDI variants. Makers are investing in advanced mechanical and laser drilling equipment to match growing demand for higher-density and smaller microvias. Some claim to have achieved a minimum hole size of 0.1mm.

Suppliers in the territory offer a range of multilayer PCBs to suit various requirements. Many carry models with up to eight layers. At least 10 companies can provide between 10 and 30-level telecom and backplane boards. Products with more layers are mostly rigid and rigid-flex forms. Flexible counterparts have up to six layers.

Several manufacturers have strengthened in-house prototyping to cut time to market and costs. The strategy also addresses buyers’ IPR concerns.

Many can likewise provide PCB assembly, OEM, SMT and other complementary services.
Hong Kong has 50 PCB suppliers, some specializing in single- and double-sided types. Most are capable of multilayer boards.

Small and midsize homegrown makers, joint ventures and branches of North America, Japan, Taiwan and mainland China companies constitute the pool. The majority of them have factories in the mainland’s Guangdong and other provinces. The rest is based in Hung Hom, Shatin and the industrial districts of Kowloon and the New Territories. Capacity ranges from 5,000 to more than 100,000sqm per month.

Onpress Printed Circuits Ltd designs and makes multilayer and HDI boards with up to 20 layers, 6 to 8oz heavy copper and buried vias. The products have HASL, lead-free HASL, ENIG, flash or thick gold, selective gold plating, OSP, selective OSP/HASL, or immersion tin and silver surface finish.

ANS Industrial Co. Ltd offers upscale high-precision rigid and rigid-flex PCBs with up to 30 layers. The boards have 0.4 to 6mm thickness, 0.15mm via hole and aluminum core. These use an HASL, lead-free HASL, selective or immersion gold, silver and tin, carbon print, gold finger, OSP, flux coating, or peelable mask and LPI surface finish.

Finenet Electronic Circuit Ltd’s selection consists of impedance control units and varieties with up to 12 layers. The boards have blind vias, 0.4 to 3.2mm hole thickness and 6oz copper. These can be produced using punching, routing, V-cut and bevel profiling techniques. The surface finish options include HASL, lead-free HASL, flash gold, Entek, and immersion gold, tin and silver.

Multilayer PCB
Product gallery

Allwei Technology Co. Ltd

Model: Round
Description: Two layers; FR-4 with 1oz copper base; ENEPIG surface finish; red solder mask; white silk-screen; 2mm board thickness

Multilayer PCB

ANS Industrial Co. Ltd
(Hong Kong)

Model: 6-Layer PCB
Description: Up to 30 layers; Nelco-brand Tg>170 high-CTI, halogen-free FR-4 with 1/2 to 6oz base; lead-free HAL, flash/selective gold, immersion gold/tin/silver, carbon print, gold finger, Entek OSP, flux coating, peelable mask, ENIG, solder mask plugged hole surface finish; 4mil minimum line width/spacing; 0.25mm minimum hole diameter; 0.2mm minimum, 2.4mm maximum board thickness (double-sided); blind/buried vias; RoHS

Multilayer PCB

Finenet Electronic Circuit Ltd
(Hong Kong)

Model: 4-Layer Automotive PCB
Description: Up to 12 layers; high-Tg, FR-4, FR-2, CEM-1, CEM-3 base; HASL, lead-free HASL, flash gold, immersion gold/tin/silver, Entek, carbon ink, peelable solder mask, gold finger surface finish; 5mil minimum line width/spacing; 0.3mm minimum hole diameter; 0.4 to 3.2mm board thickness; punching, routing, V-cut, bevelling profiles

Multilayer PCB

Finest Printed Circuit Board Ltd
(mainland China)

Model: F111P269A
MOQ: None for first, 5sqm for repeat orders
Delivery: 15 days
Description: 12 layers; Tg170 FR-4 with 1oz copper base; ENIG surface finish; green solder mask; 4mil line width/spacing; 203.2x254mm board size; 1.6mm board thickness; for Bluetooth communication devices

Multilayer PCB

Onpress Printed Circuits Ltd
(Hong Kong)

Model: 10-Layer Electroplated
Description: Up to 16 layers; 1/3 to 4oz copper base; HASL, lead-free HASL, ENIG, flash/thick gold, selective gold plating, OSP, selective OSP/HASL, immersion tin/silver surface finish; buried via; 22x26in maximum board size

Multilayer PCB

Shenzhen Jaleny Electronics Co. Ltd
(mainland China)

Model: JLY501
MOQ: 0.22sqm
Delivery: 15 days
Description: 12 layers; FR-4 with 2oz copper base; OSP surface finish; 4mil minimum line width/spacing; 0.25mm minimum hole diameter; 3mm board thickness; for telecom devices

Multilayer PCB

Shenzhen King Brother Electronics Technology Co. Ltd
(mainland China)

Model: 8-Layers HDI-a
Delivery: 10 days
Description: Eight layers; FR-4 S1000-2 base; immersion gold surface finish; 3.8mil minimum line width/spacing; 0.1mm minimum hole size; layers 1 to 2 and layers 7 to 8 blind vias; 226x146mm board size; 1mm board thickness; RoHS

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Note:This article 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.

All price quotes in this report are in US dollars unless otherwise specified. FOB prices were provided by the companies interviewed only as reference prices at the time of interview and may have changed.

Disclaimer: All product images are provided by the companies interviewed and are for reference purposes only. Those product images featuring products with trademarks, brand names or logos are not intended for sale. We, our affiliates, and our affiliates' respective directors, officers, employees, representatives, agents or contractors, do not accept and will not have any responsibility or liability for product images (or any part thereof) which infringe on any intellectual property or other rights of a third party.

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