FPCB was originally applied in HDD and ODD, witnessing considerably robust development; and the FPCB market was dominated by Japanese manufacturers before 2003. However, the popularity of camera phone in 2003 breathed new life into FPCB sector for manufactures in Chinese mainland, Taiwan and South Korea, ending the history of Japan as a dominant player in the market.
In 2005-2006, FPCB market embraced its first boom; in 2007, a cut-throat bargain competition took the stage; in 2007-2009, the average price of FPCB saw downward mobility for consecutive three years, a fall of more than 50% accumulatively. Subsequently, nearly one hundred small firms were forced to shut down, resulting in FPCB industry on a healthy growth track.
In addition, the FPCB downstream market was expanding to mobile phone, laptop computer, LED Light Bar sectors. In 2010, the FPCB industry turned a new leaf, with the market value hitting USD8191 million, up 21% over 2009.
For mobile phone, the functional modules are largely connected by FPCB. An additional FPCB is needed for one new functional module. Especially for the smart phone featuring complex internal structure and variety of functions, it demands massive FPCB. In 2011, touch screen became the standard configuration of a smart phone, sending the unit price of FPCB higher due to the more demanding technologies of FPCB required.
People’s pursuit for ultra-thin electronics is the driving force for the growth of FPCB market. And the popularity of tablet PC constitutes another engine. In 2012, Intel launched its hit product, UltraBook, a move which is also expected to promote the FPCB market. In 2011, the FPCB market size surged by 17% to USD9.569 billion, with the targeted figure in 2012 hitting USD10.68 billion, up 12%. Technologically, 2L has replaced 3L and become the mainstream.
Japanese corporations have maintained the position as a leader in FPCB market and, have long been dominating HDD and ODD FPCB market for almost two decades. Japanese manufacturers boast steady quality, massive capacity as well as production bases all across the globe.
Apple is the largest FPCB purchaser worldwide, with procurement approaching USD2 billion in 2011. Its products, including iPod, iTouch, iPad, iPhone and laptop, all need large quantities of FPCB. In the world, 6 FPCB suppliers are approved by Apple, including Japan-based NIPPON MEKTRON, SUMITOMO ELECTRONICS, FUJIKURA, America-based M-FLEX, Taiwan-based FLEXIUM and South Korea-based INTERFLEX.
Suffering triple blow of 311 Earthquake, Thailand flooding and appreciation of yen, Japanese enterprises, especially NOK, outperformed its counterparts in other countries. Except NOK, Japanese corporations don’t place FPCB as their core business. FUJIKURA once would reduce the scale of its FPCB business. But in 2011, the iPad fever injected more confidence into Fujikura.
Among the South Korean manufactures, Samsung and LG are the leading players. For Samsung, Smartphone and tablet PC businesses have seen burgeoning growth, bringing huge profit to FPCB suppliers including Interflex which was approved by Apple. Additionally, Taiwan-based ZDT, affiliated to Honhai, developed so fast that has become one among the global top 10 PCB manufacturers after five years of development.
Moreover, there are Career, which relies on Mainland China’s manufacturers and HTC, and Ichia, which is largely reliant on Nokia and HTC. Furthermore, MFS, a Singapore holding company with the production base located in Changsha, Hunan province, has VIP customer HGST which was took over by Western Digital Corp.
For the FPCB manufactures in Mainland China, they are characteristic of very small scale and laggard technologies and, hard to gain recognition from foreign leading manufacturers. However, benefiting from the huge mobile phone industry in China, Chinese FPCB companies have seen substantial growth, with representative ones including BYD, Three Golds, ZTE XINGYU FPC, KINWONG, JINGCHENGDA, NETRON SOFT-TECH, JIAZHIHONG and ZHUHAI TOPSUN.