PCB | November 21, 2008

“Next PCB mass production to disappear in Europe is automotive”

The European PCB market is shrinking for everyday. During the late 1990, several big companies were mass producing cellular phone boards using microvia technologies - companies such as AT&S, Aspocomp, Photo Print Electronics, Multek, Microser, SAT/Sagem, Lares-Cozzi, Philips Evreux. As the customers transferred production to China, one after the other quit making cell phones boards in Europe.
Today Aspocomp is near extinction, Photo Print Electronics (PPE) was bought by Wurth Electronics, Multek transferred its cell phone board production to China, Lares-Cozzi shrunk in size and is now owned by a Russian company. Philips’ PCB plant was bought by Aspocomp, Microsers plant in Madrid got sold to Tyco PCB and then to an investment bank, which closed it down.

When AT&S's major client Nokia transferred production to Romania and close down its plant in Bochum, Germany, AT&S was forced to adjusted its workforce and further reductions were expected. The European cell phone board production is in very small quantities. According to Dr. Nakahara, the next big PCB production that will leave Europe for Asia is that for the automotive industry. A recent example for this is the German PCB manufacturer Ruwel who recently purchased the Lantek plant in China, to keep its existing customers. Dr. Nakahara concludes that Ruwel, Fuba and Schweizer electronic - the three largest European PCB manufacturers for the automotive sector, will face the same fate as AT&S. Companies only have to look at the price difference between China and Europe.

PCB manufacturers in Europe will have to concentrate on a quick-turn, high-mix/low volume, prototyping and military/aerospace, industrial electronics and - to some extent - the medical industry, to stay in business.

Dr. Hayao Nakahara is president of N.T. Information - a consulting company dedicated to the PCB Industry, and also member of IPC Technology Market Research Council for World PWB output.

Image source: Aspocomp


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