FPC is a flexible printed circuit board that is made of polyimide or polyester film as the base material. Compared with traditional PCB rigid boards, it is characterized by high production efficiency, high wiring density, lightweight, thin thickness, and folding, which is more in line with the requirements of the downstream electronics industry for intelligence, portability, and thinness. Besides, it can be widely used in aerospace, military, mobile communications, notebook computers, computer peripherals, PDA, digital cameras and other fields.
The main raw materials in upstream of the FPC industry chain include flexible copper-clad laminates (FCCL), cover films, components, shielding films, steel sheets, electroplating additives, and dry films. Midstream is FPC manufacturing. Downstream is all kinds of applications including display or touch modules, fingerprint recognition modules, camera modules, etc. The final applications include consumer electronics, communication equipment, automotive electronics, industrial control medical, aerospace and other fields.
Cater to innovation direction
As consumer electronics is pursuing miniaturization and lightweight, FPC is also developing towards high density, ultra-fine, and multi-layered in order to adapt to the trend of downstream industries. The circuits and apertures used to connect electronic components on FPC need to meet finer dimensions requirements.
At present, in terms of FPC product process capabilities, the world’s leading FPC manufacturing companies can achieve a line width of 30-40μm and an aperture of 40-50μm and further development towards a line width of 15μm or less and an aperture of less than 40μm.
Except for the aperture, based on factors like production costs and technical requirements, the additive method would replace the subtractive method as the mainstream FPC circuit preparation process. The subtractive method is to add an anti-corrosion layer on the design circuit of FCCL in advance as protection. Then, remove the copper foil outside the design circuit through the corrosion process, and form the circuit pattern required by FCCL.
Demand for FPC is stimulated
FPC is widely used in communications, consumer electronics, automotive electronics, industry, military, aerospace and other fields. It’s reported that, in 2019, the global FPC output value is mainly concentrated in the fields of communication electronics and computers, of which communication electronics accounted for 33%, and computers accounted for 28.6%.
In the future, with the increasing volume of consumer electronic products such as communication electronics, electric vehicles, and wearable devices, the market demand for FPC will increase gradually. In 2019, the global FPC market size is about 13.8 billion US dollars. It is estimated that the global FPC market size will reach 28.7 billion US dollars in 2025, with a 6-year CAGR of 13%.
- Wearable devices market
The rise of emerging markets for wearable devices has boosted the continuous expansion of the FPC’s new incremental market. In recent years, with the gradual popularization and upgrading of AI and other technologies, emerging consumer electronics products such as TWS headsets, VR/AR, smart watches or bracelets, and smart wearable devices have developed rapidly. It’s reported that the global shipments of wearable devices reach 534 million units in 2021 with a year-on-year increase of 19.99%.
FPC is featured with think and flexibility, which becomes the preferred connection device for wearable devices. With the vigorous development of the wearable device market, the FPC industry is expected to become one of the biggest beneficiaries.
- Automotive electronics
The performance of FPC itself is highly compatible with new energy vehicles. FPC has the characteristics of lightweight, simple structure, and easy line connection. It plays a good line carrier role in connecting automotive electronic components. With obvious advantages in safety, assembly efficiency and battery life, the FPC connection solution has become the absolute main force solution in power batteries for passenger vehicles.
With the increasing intelligence of automotive vehicles, the demand for electronic components in lighting systems, display systems, power systems, battery management systems, and sensors has increased.
As a traditional circuit carrier, the automotive wiring harness is relatively bulky and has a complex connection method, which cannot comply with the development trend of the continuously increasing electronic components in new energy vehicles. However, automotive FPCs are used in new energy vehicles with strengths like lightweight, simple structure, and convenient line connection, which is widely used in the automotive industry.
In 2018, the automotive FPC market size reached 5.3 billion yuan with an increase of 8.4% year-on-year. The main growth drivers of the market come from the increase in the degree of automotive electronics and the increase in the penetration rate of new energy vehicles. From 2016 to 2022, the annual growth rate of FPC for automotive vehicles remains between 6% and 9% for a long time. By 2022, the market size of FPC for automobiles is expected to grow to 7 billion RMB.
Grasp competitive advantages
In 2021, the global FPC market size is 18.2 billion US dollars, and it is expected to reach 28.7 billion US dollars in 2025, with an average annual compound growth rate of 12.06%. In recent years, with the accelerated upgrading of downstream terminal products and the increasing brand concentration, higher requirements have been placed on FPC manufacturers’ mass production capacity and technology R&D capabilities.
Leading FPC manufacturers to rely on their existing technology and scale advantages to actively carry out technology R&D and capacity expansion for achieving a new round of revenue expansion. The trend of large-scale and centralized FPC manufacturers is becoming more and more obvious, and the industry has entered the stage of oligopolistic competition.
The growth speed of FPC manufacturers from Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan province of China has overtaken those in European and American countries. Since the Chinese FPC enterprises start late, there is still a certain gap in their comprehensive competitiveness compared with international leading companies. However, Chinese FPC companies such as DSBJ have developed rapidly and continuously narrowed the gap with FPC companies in other countries in terms of scale and technical strength.
FPC companies in China strengthen industrial chain cooperation to improve supply chain security. In terms of upstream raw materials, flexible copper clad laminate (FCCL) is the most important substrate for the production of FPC, which is accounting for 40%. All processing steps of FPC are completed on FCCL. Global FCCL production capacity is mainly concentrated in Japan, the mainland of China, Taiwan province of China and South Korea, of which mainland of China accounts for 21%.
With the continuous release of domestic FCCL production capacity, FPC companies in mainland of China have gradually used substitution from China to replace other FPC upstream raw materials. Besides, reduce the volatility of FPC prices through stable supply and enhance the stability of FPC localized supply.
IBE Electronics Co., Ltd. established in 2005, is an OEM / ODM service provider focusing on the research and development of laser ranging, new energy, medical devices, automotive electronics, industrial control, consumer electronics, etc. We have our own professional R&D team and equipment providing PCB and PCBA services, which include flexible PCB, rigid PCB and flex-rigid PCB and so on. Any further information or any questions can contact us.