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Eco-friendly, compact PCB assemblies in spotlight

Taiwan makers of PCB assemblies are riding development trends in the electronics industry while enhancing aftersales and value-added services to strengthen competitiveness.

PCB assembly suppliers in Taiwan are emphasizing environment-friendly, thin and lightweight designs to meet requirements in electronics products. All comply with RoHS directives and adopt lead-free manufacturing techniques. For a more compact and slim structure, companies use SMD components as small as 0204 to fit portable devices. Some enterprises, including Orient Semiconductor Electronics Ltd, provide passives in 0201 configuration in BGA and µBGA packages, and ICs with a pitch of only 0.28mm.

PCB assembly
Universal offers PCB assemblies for tire-pressure monitoring systems.

Aside from bolstering R&D initiatives, makers are improving technical support and aftersales service to boost competitiveness. A number of suppliers offer new product information or NPI check, which covers feature verification and correction at the initial design stage, allowing a faster time-to-market. As the line is highly customized, companies also maintain long-term cooperation with clients to fulfill their requirements. While most attributes are buyer-specified, mainstream models adopt single- or double-sided and multilayer boards with fewer than seven levels. The components integrated may include resistors, coils, inductors, transistors, diodes, terminal blocks, crystals, oscillators and an array of ICs.

Manufacturers are likewise setting up offices in overseas markets to serve customers better. Universal Scientific Industries Co. Ltd, for instance, has established branches in mainland China, Mexico, the US and the UK. The supplier also has a return merchandize authorization team.

Taiwan-made PCB assemblies are employed in a range of applications from home appliances to industrial equipment. Many enterprises, however, cater mostly to the consumer electronics, computer and communications segments because of the island’s thriving ICT line. For the first sector, the major adopters are LCD control boards, LED backlight units, and digital and portable electronics devices. For the PC field, there are motherboards, laptops, netbooks, HDDs, graphics cards, thermal modules and peripherals, while the communications category has xDSL equipment and LAN/Ethernet cards.

The type of PCB, components and processing techniques used are the main price differentiators. The last includes solder paste printing, surface mounting or DIP manual assembly, reflow oven procedure and testing such as AOI.

Currently, quotes are between $5 and $90, with models in small orders valued higher.

There are more than 200 suppliers in Taiwan, including publicly listed and small and midsize private enterprises. Although the industry requires a huge capital investment in manufacturing equipment and generates low profit margins, makers are optimistic of better sales in coming months. They believe the appreciation of the yuan and rising labor costs in the mainland would encourage buyers to source from Taiwan.

To address increasing outlay, many are adopting vertically integrated production. HannStar, for example, has cooperated with Global Brands Manufacture Ltd by buying 40 percent of the latter’s stock shares. Companies also maintain a good relationship with material providers to secure favorable rates. To ensure stable supply, some cooperate with more than two upstream vendors for each component.

Value-added services emphasized
Mainland China: Enhanced lineup, services buoy PCB assembly sector
Product gallery

Value-added services emphasized

Many suppliers in Taiwan position themselves as EMS providers, offering one-stop-shop solutions that range from material and component sourcing to final assembly of finished goods. As EMS does not highlight branding and marketing, makers such as Orient have no in-house brands and instead serve as a backup system for major customers. The company’s services include PCB layout and assembly, design for manufacturability and testability, function and reliability tests, and systems integration. Orient also offers COB, SIP and flip-chip direct semiconductor integration. It provides adhesive and underfilling services such as anisotropic conductive film and hot bar bonding. The maker’s US-based subsidiary Spargtron allows NPI check and quick-turnaround prototyping, while the production facilities in the mainland and Taiwan help reduce costs.

The company’s PCB assemblies come with rigid, flexible and rigid-flex boards, fitted with any type of connectors. Complex manufacturing techniques are conducted on request, in addition to other services such as aqueous cleaning. Most materials and components are sourced locally, except for gold wire and chemical compounds, which usually come from Japan and South Korea.

At Global Brands, PCB assembly services contribute about 75 percent to total sales. Products are applied in HDD, solid state disk and LCD control boards, ADSL devices, graphics and LAN/Ethernet cards, motherboards and LED backlights. The maker’s in-house capability covers SMT assembly, tooling, plastic and systems integration, and NPI service. It has 88 SMT, 35 hand-insertion testing, 18 packaging, 37 tooling, two painting and four printing lines.

Universal, meanwhile, derives 28 percent of its revenue from EMS. Unlike other manufacturers with an expanded product range, the company concentrates on niche applications such as smart handheld devices, POS systems, and wireless communication and automotive electronics equipment.

A subsidiary of the Ase Group, a global leader in IC packaging and testing, Universal positions itself as a total solutions provider of ICT products. The company’s value-added services therefore include IT systems for product database, material planning, quality management and traceability. The maker owns advanced equipment such as high-speed screen printer, module mounter, 5D X-ray inspection machine, and devices for design quality assurance and failure analysis.

Universal’s PCB assemblies have a board thickness of 0.4 to 2.5mm and dimensions of up to 610x460mm. Models come in two to 18 layers and various chip packages, including BGA, CSP, flip-chip, QFP and QFN. Chip components are compact, with most adopting 0402, 0201 and 01005. The base material can be FR-4, BT, CEM-3 or ceramic. Products are used in LCDs and panels, LED backlights, inverters and converters.

Mainland China: Enhanced lineup, services buoy PCB assembly sector

Mainland China suppliers of PCB assemblies continue to focus on industrial applications as the consumer electronics segment remains the turf of international players. They are also maintaining a diverse selection to cater to a wider customer base.

Most serve the medical, instrumentation, automotive, aeronautics, transportation and security fields, and some have penetrated the LED lighting category because of the high market potential.

To compete better overseas, makers are enhancing services further. Aside from accepting low-volume, mixed orders, they allow flexibility in material procurement. Clients may either provide the components or have the companies source the materials. Many enterprises prefer the latter for a faster development time and lower costs since they have established relationships with component vendors. In addition, suppliers offer one-stop turnkey manufacturing solutions. Forefront Electronic Technologies Co. Ltd’s services, for instance, range from material acquisition, PCB fabrication, case/enclosure production and board assembly to programming, system testing, packaging and shipping. The maker also handles designing and prototyping of various mechanical parts.

For improved capability, suppliers are obtaining more surface-mount machines. Currently, the mainland has over 70,000 such equipment in about 30,000 production lines. This year, approximately 10,000 units will be imported. Targeting to raise its annual capacity for PCB assemblies to 10 million, Abo Electronics Shenzhen Co. Ltd is planning to purchase at least five SMT and three DIP lines in the months ahead.

In terms of R&D, manufacturers are developing models with smaller form factors in response to the miniaturization trend in the electronics industry. They are able to launch 0201 SMD components, and even units in 01005 configuration.

For ICs, makers can turn out versions with 0.4mm pitch. The packaging options include EQFP, PQFP, FBGA, UBGA and MBGA. Products comply with RoHS.

Prices of PCB assemblies from the mainland increased in 2010 due to component shortage, higher labor costs and the yuan appreciation. The upward adjustment is expected to persist this year, but most companies will limit it to 5 percent to remain competitive.

There are more than 1,000 suppliers in the line. Most are located in the Pearl River and Yangtze River Delta regions, and the Bohai Bay Rim Economic Region. The collective output of these areas make up over 80 percent of the country’s total.

Among the major players are Daya Bay Guanghong, Shenzhen Sea Star and Shenzhen Zowee.

Related reports:
Electronics industry mold-making services: High-grade molds on spotlight
Aluminum-base PCBs: Aluminum-base PCB makers underscore high-performance variants
PCBs: Shenzhen secures main hub status with expanding PCB output

PCB assembly
Product gallery

Abo Electronics Shenzhen Co. Ltd
(mainland China)

Model: T506
MOQ: 1 unit
Delivery: 14 days
Description: Coin phone main board; CEM-1, CEM-3, FR-1 or FR-4 base; OSP, HAL, immersion tin or gold surface finish; 3.9mil minimum line width/spacing; 0.2mm minimum hole diameter; 0.5 to 3mm board, 0.5 to 3oz copper thickness

PCB assembly

Eolane Technology (Suzhou) Co. Ltd
(mainland China)

Model: ETK0001
MOQ: 1 unit
Description: Automotive type; three LEDs for rearview mirror; 15x14x120mm; 4.32g

PCB assembly

Forefront Electronic Technologies Co. Ltd
(mainland China)

Model: PCBA01
MOQ: 5 units
Delivery: 50 days
Description: Intelligent attendance recording system board; FPGA configuration with built-in 2MB flash memory; immersion gold surface finish; 0201 minimum size; AOI, X-ray inspected; CE, RoHS, UL

PCB assembly

Moko Technology Ltd
(mainland China)

Model: MK01B01
Description: One to 22 layers; PCB fabrication, component sourcing, box build; SMD, through-hole or BGA configuration

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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