Compact PCBA in spotlight

Compact PCBA in spotlight

By Global Sources

PCB assembly suppliers in Taiwan are emphasizing environment-friendly, thin and lightweight designs to meet requirements in electronics products. All comply with RoHS directives and adopt lead-free manufacturing techniques. For a more compact and slim structure, companies use SMD components as small as 0204 to fit portable devices. Some enterprises, including Orient Semiconductor Electronics Ltd, provide passives in 0201 configuration in BGA and µBGA packages, and ICs with a pitch of only 0.28mm.

Aside from bolstering R&D initiatives, makers are improving technical support and aftersales service to boost competitiveness. A number of suppliers offer new product information or NPI check, which covers feature verification and correction at the initial design stage, allowing a faster time-to-market. As the line is highly customized, companies also maintain long-term cooperation with clients to fulfill their requirements. While most attributes are buyer-specified, mainstream models adopt single- or double-sided and multilayer boards with fewer than seven levels. The components integrated may include resistors, coils, inductors, transistors, diodes, terminal blocks, crystals, oscillators and an array of ICs.

Manufacturers are likewise setting up offices in overseas markets to serve customers better. Universal Scientific Industries Co. Ltd, for instance, has established branches in mainland China, Mexico, the US and the UK. The supplier also has a return merchandize authorization team.

Taiwan-made PCB assemblies are employed in a range of applications from home appliances to industrial equipment. Many enterprises, however, cater mostly to the consumer electronics, computer and communications segments because of the island’s thriving ICT line. For the first sector, the major adopters are LCD control boards, LED backlight units, and digital and portable electronics devices. For the PC field, there are motherboards, laptops, netbooks, HDDs, graphics cards, thermal modules and peripherals, while the communications category has xDSL equipment and LAN/Ethernet cards.

The type of PCB, components and processing techniques used are the main price differentiators. The last includes solder paste printing, surface mounting or DIP manual assembly, reflow oven procedure and testing such as AOI.

Currently, quotes are between $5 and $90, with models in small orders valued higher.

There are more than 200 suppliers in Taiwan, including publicly listed and small and midsize private enterprises. Although the industry requires a huge capital investment in manufacturing equipment and generates low profit margins, makers are optimistic of better sales in coming months. They believe the appreciation of the yuan and rising labor costs in the mainland would encourage buyers to source from Taiwan.

To address increasing outlay, many are adopting vertically integrated production. HannStar, for example, has cooperated with Global Brands Manufacture Ltd by buying 40 percent of the latter’s stock shares. Companies also maintain a good relationship with material providers to secure favorable rates. To ensure stable supply, some cooperate with more than two upstream vendors for each component.


Value-added services emphasized

Many suppliers in Taiwan position themselves as EMS providers, offering one-stop-shop solutions that range from material and component sourcing to final assembly of finished goods. As EMS does not highlight branding and marketing, makers such as Orient have no in-house brands and instead serve as a backup system for major customers. The company’s services include PCB layout and assembly, design for manufacturability and testability, function and reliability tests, and systems integration. Orient also offers COB, SIP and flip-chip direct semiconductor integration. It provides adhesive and underfilling services such as anisotropic conductive film and hot bar Bonding. The maker’s US-based subsidiary Spargtron allows NPI check and quick-turnaround prototyping, while the production facilities in the mainland and Taiwan help reduce costs.

The company’s PCB assemblies come with rigid, flexible and rigid-flex boards, fitted with any type of connectors. Complex manufacturing techniques are conducted on request, in addition to other services such as aqueous cleaning. Most materials and components are sourced locally, except for gold wire and chemical compounds, which usually come from Japan and South Korea.

At Global Brands, PCB assembly services contribute about 75 percent to total sales. Products are applied in HDD, solid state disk and LCD control boards, ADSL devices, graphics and LAN/Ethernet cards, motherboards and LED backlights. The maker’s in-house capability covers SMT assembly, tooling, plastic and systems integration, and NPI service. It has 88 SMT, 35 hand-insertion testing, 18 packaging, 37 tooling, two painting and four printing lines.

Universal, meanwhile, derives 28 percent of its revenue from EMS. Unlike other manufacturers with an expanded product range, the company concentrates on niche applications such as smart handheld devices, POS systems, and wireless communication and automotive electronics equipment.

A subsidiary of the Ase Group, a global leader in IC packaging and testing, Universal positions itself as a total solutions provider of ICT products. The company’s value-added services therefore include IT systems for product database, material planning, quality management and traceability. The maker owns advanced equipment such as high-speed screen printer, module mounter, 5D X-ray inspection machine, and devices for design quality assurance and failure analysis.

Universal’s PCB assemblies have a board thickness of 0.4 to 2.5mm and dimensions of up to 610x460mm. Models come in two to 18 layers and various chip packages, including BGA, CSP, flip-chip, QFP and QFN. Chip components are compact, with most adopting 0402, 0201 and 01005. The base material can be FR-4, BT, CEM-3 or ceramic. Products are used in LCDs and panels, LED backlights, inverters and converters.

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