Printed circuit board (PCB) market was still a blue ocean, with South Korean companies strong in areas such as semiconductors, the chairman of Korea Printed Circuit Association (KPCA) said.
KPCA chairman Baek Tae-il said he was shocked to learn that there was a general perception in South Korea that the PCB industry was declining, when he took over to helm the association in 2019.
Baek, who is also president of local PCB plasma equipment company Jesagi Hankook, stressed that South Korea still had strong competence in areas such as semiconductor package boards and multi-layer boards.
For semiconductors to perform optimally, packaging technology that connects them to board was needed, the chairman said. This technology is developed in collaboration between PCB companies and local chip giants Samsung Electronics and SK Hynix, as well as equipment and material companies, he said.
Semiconductor packaging technology for 7-nanometer semiconductors were still being developed in these collaborations, Baek said.
It will be difficult for Chinese PCB companies to catch up to their South Korean counterparts in semiconductor packaging as they lack experience, the chairman said. Chinese PCB companies were expanding market share mostly through low added value PCBs, the chairman said.
South Korea PCB industry was equal in technology sophistication to Japan, Baek said. The biggest difference is whether there is bold investments into the sector, he said.
Japanese PCB companies such as Ibiden and Shinko Electric Industries actively invest in new technologies, Baek said. Ibiden manufactures products with new technologies as offers to them to large customers such as Apple first, the chairman said. South Korean PCB companies Samsung Electro-Mechanics and LG InnoTek in recent times were also increasing spending on semiconductor package boards, he said.
Ibiden and Shinko of Japan, Unimicron and Kinsus Interconnect Technology of Taiwan, and Samsung Electro Mechanics, LG Innotek and Daeduck Electronics of South Korea are some of the companies that focuses on manufacturing semiconductor package boards.
Baek stressed that the PCB industry also contributes heavily to job creation in South Korea. Per 500 billion won sales, a semiconductor company would create 300 jobs, while a PCB companies will create 2,000, the chairman said.
On the recent polarization of the PCB industry, Baek said companies needed to beware of complacency and continue to seek to make smaller and longer lasting products that require fewer production steps to manufacture. There are Korean companies that reduced the unit price of PCBs and supplying them to China, the chairman said.