This week in the PCB industry
by Philip Stoten
Aug 17, 2004
The summer is coming to a close and from anecdotal evidence the market is continuing its recovery.
Conversations this week have led me to believe the industry shares a cautious optimism, the levels of caution and optimism, relating largely to geographic regions. You know the story, more optimism in Asia and more caution in Europe and USA.
Kingboards results, as well as other company news from Asia, lead to the conclusion that China is the real powerhouse for growth. No surprises there. Global players active in Asia and elsewhere also seem to be enjoying the recovery more than those in located only in Europe and the USA.
News of Multek's acquisition of Sheldahl is further evidence, if it were needed, of the importance of flex in the future of PCB manufacturing. Partly due to the need for flexible circuits in many of today's consumer good, and partly due to the potential of the RFid market, a potential that no-one should be ignoring.
In Europe caution seems to be playing as big a part as optimism, although news of expansion at Graphic and growth at Circatex are all good news for the UK industry in particular, bookings for the coming EPC show in Koln, Germany are less positive.
Conversations with many potential exhibitors has led me to believe that optimism has not yet reached a level that will lead them to spend their marketing dollars in the region. Most say they will attend, and many are keen to take part in the excellent conference program, but far too many are taking a wait-and-see attitude to booking space. Perhaps a few more good weeks of sales will lead to a rush of companies booking late, I would not be surprised.
All too often it seems that marketing is cut completely rather than scaled back. I often wonder if it would not be better to take a small information stand - where people can meet and discuss business in comfort, over a beer, or a good cup of coffee ? rather than not exhibit at all, wandering the aisles hoping to bump into the odd client and then having to explain why you are not taking part.
What I am advocating scaling back rather than quitting completely, after all a single equipment sale would easily cover the cost of ten or twenty square metres and a modest stand build, particularly if you are going along anyway.
Conference attendance too has suffered over recent years. Now, more than ever, the industry should be getting together to develop technology and resolve problems. We have the opportunities of RFid and growth in consumer electronics to consider, we have the lead ban just around the corner in 2006 and of course we have the constant drive to get faster, better and more complex technology into smaller and smaller spaces. All this tells me that conferences and seminars are more important than ever and that numbers should be rising not falling.
Cost of travel is all too often used as an excuse not to attend. Well here is an example, my flight from the UK to Koln in October to visit EPC2004 was just ¬£35 return (that's around 50 euro $60). And that's direct, without a Saturday night stay over.
Hopefully I'll see a few of you there?