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34 The PCB Magazine • December 2014 PWB manufacturers in Taiwan, Korea, China and other Asian countries are very optimistic. Their sales forecast for the next few years shows no signs of weakening, and they continue to in- vest in capital improvements for manufacturing capacities. Let's review some trends from the Japanese PWB market, and the appropriate action plan for next year. Figure 2 shows monthly shipments from PWB manufacturers in Japan over the last three years, and Figure 3 indicates the percent change from the same month of the previous year. Shipments continued to decline; however, the rate of decline is slowing and actually de- creased when comparing month over month. Figure 3 shows positive growth in volume but a negative growth in revenue. This tells us that volume has stabilized, but prices are lower. Jap- anese PWB manufacturers have cut prices to se- cure business; this race to the bottom cannot continue. Several manufacturers dropped out of the race to the bottom, and probably even more will exit this low-margin, cutthroat market. The downturn in business for the Japanese PWB industry can be blamed on a domino ef- fect. The rigid circuit board segment relied heavily on business from domestic electronics companies such as Panasonic, Sony and Sharp. Unfortunately, these electronics giants contin- ue to lose market share, and the downturn in business directly impacts the PWB industry. The manufacturers in the flex circuits seg- ment have a customer list for both domestic and overseas markets. The domestic custom- ers did not evolve with new market trends for consumer products. In the past few years, they saw a steady decline in business for flat-panel TVs and other mobile products (another dom- ino effect). Japanese manufacturers are still the main supplier for digital cameras, but digital cameras are going the way of the VCR; the busi- ness trend looks bleak. Flex circuit manufactur- ers are the main suppliers for Apple's iPhones and iPads, and they should keep this business stream as long as they remain competitive with Taiwanese manufacturers. JAPAN'S PWB MARkET—2015 continues Figure 1: an estimation of PWb production in Japan for 2014, 2016 and 2018. (Source: JPca/dKn research).

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