Taiwan's electronics manufacturers gear up for touch panels
Jun 18, 2007
With 3i (Wii, Wimax, and iPhone) consumer electronics products taking the world by storm, major manufacturers in Taiwan, including the Hon Hai Group, Compal Electronics, Uni-President Group, Chi Mei Group, and CMC Magnetics, are preparing to ride this rising tide by securing a foothold in the global market for capacitive touch panels.
According to the Technology Research Institute (TRI), a Taiwan-based market survey organization, the global market for iPhones alone will amount to US$2.69 billion this year and grow to US$2.97 billion in 2009.
The growing popularity of such products is expected to boost global shipments of touch panels to 95 million units in 2010, and the Hon Hai Group (to cite one prominent example) has joined forces with its affiliate, the Innolux Display Corp., to form a task force for the development of these products.
The technologies involved, mostly film-on-glass and capacitive touch technologies, are owned by American and Japanese manufacturers; but some of the related patents are about to expire, and such suppliers as Eco Touchsystems of the United States and Nissha Printing Co. of Japan plan to release some of the secondary technologies or add more names to their list of suppliers. This will open up cooperation opportunities for Taiwanese manufacturers.
Taiwanese firms have already been working on the development of capacitive touch panels for a long time, and some of them-eTurboTouch Technology, Inc. and Wintek Corp., among others-even own patented technologies of their own.
A capacitive touch panel traditionally has three major components: a touch panel, a touch controller, and a utility. The panels are classified into four types by functional principles, including resistive, capacitive, surface acoustic wave, and optical. Most manufacturers prefer to turn out capacitive touch panels, because they are relatively hard to scratch and break.
Eyeing the Greater China market
Besides making complete panels, some Taiwanese suppliers are zeroing in on the Greater China market for the touch controllers and utilities used in capacitive touch panels. These suppliers include Everskill Technology Co., ELAN Microelectronics Corp., and PENPOWER Technology Ltd.
But they are looking all over the world for business. Everskill is working for Elo, mainly by turning out indium tin oxide (ITO) conductive glass for touch panels. ELAN has worked hard on the development of touch controller chips, and hopes to link into Apple's supply chain. ELAN has gained ownership of related technologies through the acquisition of K-tech (a subsidiary of Japan's KOA) and the touch-panel department of Switzerland's Ligitech, and may gain leverage with Apply by suing it for patent infringement in regard to the iPhone's multi-touch function. ELAN expects to start delivering touch controller chips in the second half of this year.
PENPOWER, which concentrates on software integration, has joined with ELAN to develop the market for commercial smartphones, with PENPOWER providing the core system-business card recognition (BCR)-and ELAN using the system in its IC chip design. Shipment of these chips now amounts to one million units per month.
Four other leading local manufacturers of ITO conductive glass-Wintek, Applied Vacuum Coating Technologies, GemTech Optoelectronics, and RITEK-are concentrating on the production of advanced ITO capacitive touch panels.
Wintek, an established maker of resistive touch panels, has moved into capacitive touch panels and ITO conductive glass, becoming the first domestic supplier with an integrated touch panel supply chain. It plans to become a supplier of these panels to large enterprises, with shipments to begin in the third quarter of this year.
Applied Vacuum Coating Technologies recently boosted its capitalization to NT$2.1 billion and plans to build a new production line for ITO conductive glass for capacitive touch panels this year. GemTech has upped its production of ITO conductive glass to 700,000 units per month.
RITEK, for its part, will spin off a new subsidiary, by the end of August, that will take over its ITO conductive glass production lines.
source & copyright: CENS