Analysis of PCB special electronic chemicals industry
Overview of the market development of electronic chemicals for PCB
PCB-specific electronic chemicals are essential raw materials in PCB production. Many key processes such as chemical immersion copper, electroplating, and copper surface treatment in the PCB manufacturing process require the use of a large number of PCB-specific electronic chemicals.
Driven by the growth in demand in terminal fields such as 5G communications, computers, consumer electronics, and automotive electronics, the PCB industry will face a broader market space and demand scale, which will drive the upstream PCB chemicals market to increase.
Affected by the global industrial transfer and the development and growth of China’s PCB industry, China’s PCB output value continues to increase. In 2021, China’s PCB output value will reach US$43.6 billion, accounting for 8.1% of the global PCB output value in 2000, rising to 54.2% in 2021, with a 10-year compound annual growth rate of 7.1%.
The development of China’s 5G communications, automotive electronics, consumer electronics, industry 4.0 and other industries will promote the continuous increase of PCB output value in the future. It is expected that China’s PCB output value will reach 54.6 billion US dollars in 2026.
China’s PCB-specific electronic chemicals industry started relatively late. At first, Chinese enterprises mainly entered the market through products such as bath cleaning agents, defoaming agents, etching, film stripping, and tin stripping with relatively low technical difficulty. In the follow-up, chemicals used in important processes such as browning, copper immersion, electroplating, and chemical nickel gold will be gradually developed.
In the special chemicals for common double-layer PCB and multi-layer PCB, Chinese manufacturers have a certain market share. For special chemicals used in high-end PCBs such as high-frequency and high-speed boards, HDIs, rigid-flex boards, semiconductor test boards, and carrier boards, China’s overall technical level still has a certain gap compared with the international advanced level.
Since the performance of PCB-specific electronic chemicals can to a certain extent determine the advantages and disadvantages of PCB products in terms of integration, continuity, signal transmission and other characteristics and functions, high-end PCB manufacturers are more cautious about the choice of PCB-specific electronic chemicals supply. So high-end PCB-specific electronic chemicals have been occupied by brands from Europe, America, Japan and other places for a long time.
With the development and expansion of China’s PCB industry and the demand for localized substitution, in recent years, China’s PCB-specific electronic chemicals companies have continued to increase investment in research and development, established research and development centers, and recruited high-level technical personnel. The level of production technology has been improved. Effective boost.
At the same time, some enterprises conduct customized development according to the needs of PCB manufacturers, realize innovation and improvement of product formulations, and introduce products into high-end PCB manufacturers, gradually breaking the monopoly of foreign- funded enterprises on high-end PCB-specific electronic chemicals. In 2021, the output value of PCB-specific electronic chemicals in China will be about 14 billion RMB.
China’s industry competition pattern
Enterprises in the three regions of America, Europe and Japan took the lead in the R&D and production of PCB, and the corresponding research and production of PCB-specific electronic chemicals also started earlier. International giants such as Atotech, DowDuPont, MacDermid, Chaote and JCU entered the Chinese market earlier. Relying on their rich technology accumulation, advanced production equipment and strong financial strength, they occupied most of the market share and dominated the high-end market.
China’s PCB-specific electronic chemicals started relatively late, and the technology and service level of most PCB-specific electronic chemicals companies still lag behind well-known brands. The product applications are mainly ordinary double-sided and multi-layer boards. Through in-depth cooperation with PCB manufacturer, some enterprises continue to innovate and improve formulas, and have patents and core formulas to introduce products into large PCB manufacturers in the world , and the “import substitution” effect is gradually reflected.
The future development trend of PCB special electronic chemicals industry
Increased PCB production capacity in China expands PCB-specific electronic chemicals market
With the continuous upgrading and application expansion of 5G communication, artificial intelligence, cloud computing, smart wear, smart home and other technologies, PCB is the key electronic interconnection of electronic products, and the vigorous development of downstream application industry drives the continuous growth of PCB demand.
At present, there are still many products with low technical content in the PCB products produced in China, and there is still a certain technical gap compared with Europe, America, Japan, and Taiwan, China. Therefore, Chinese PCB enterprises are constantly expanding high-frequency and high-speed boards, HDI , Rigid-flex board, high-end PCB production capacity of carrier boards.
With the rapid development of Chinese PCB enterprises in terms of business scale, technical capabilities, and financial strength, the production capacity of high-end PCBs will be further expanded in the future, which will promote the expansion of China’s high-end PCB-specific electronic chemicals market.
Sino-US trade friction accelerates the import substitution process of high-end PCB special electronic chemicals
Since 2018, trade frictions between China and the United States have increased. The United States has included some Chinese high-tech enterprises on the entity list and imposed tariffs on some products. The Sino-US trade friction has prompted Chinese enterprises to increase their emphasis on core technologies and the independent and controllable industrial chain, increase research and development efforts, and speed up the process of independent and controllable key technologies.
Due to the high technical threshold in the field of PCB special electronic chemicals, the special electronic chemicals used in high-end PCB manufacturing have long been monopolized by international giants such as Atotech, DowDuPont and JCU. Affected by factors such as Sino-US trade frictions, Chinese high-tech enterprises actively promote the “localization” of core raw materials in the upstream supply chain to achieve “independent controllability” and ensure the security of their own industrial chains.
As the products and technologies of China’s PCB-specific electronic chemicals enterprises become more and more mature, the pace of import substitution will be further accelerated in the future, and China’s advantageous enterprises with products with import substitution capabilities have ushered in rapid development opportunities.
The demand for PCB production drives the replacement of electronic chemicals
With the change of downstream industries, the product structure and manufacturing process of PCBs have undergone great changes. In terms of product structure, electronic products have more prominent requirements for high-density PCBs. In the next five years, packaging substrates, high-end HDI boards, and high-level multi-layer boards will grow faster than other categories.
In terms of manufacturing process, manufacturers have higher requirements on the degree of automation, production environmental protection, and product qualification rate.
Communication technology promotes the sustainable development of the electronics industry
As of the end of June 2022, China has built over 1.7 million 5G base stations. Due to the higher frequency of 5G, the signal coverage of base stations is smaller than that of 4G base stations, so the construction density is greater, and a large number of supporting small base stations will be built. At the same time, 5G base stations mostly use high-frequency/high-speed PCBs, and the total PCB demand for antennas/RRUs/BBUs is about 3-4 times that of 4G base stations.
At the same time, 5G communication will promote the rapid development of consumer electronics, automobile intelligence, and home appliance intelligence, such as communication equipment, mobile phones and wearable devices, and promote the sustainable development of the electronics industry, thereby driving the rapid growth of demand for electronic chemicals.
The PCBs required for 5G communication are usually high-frequency, high-speed multi-layer boards, HDI, multi-layer flexible circuit boards, etc. The demand for high-end special electronic chemicals is expected to further expand.
Cleaner production will become an important direction of industry technology development
In recent years, China ‘s requirements for environmental protection have continued to increase, and the environmental protection requirements of the PCB industry have also continued to increase. “Electronic Industry Water Pollutant Discharge Standard”, which clarifies the water pollutant discharge limit and stipulates that “the production of printed circuit boards contains any pollution from total lead, total cadmium, total chromium, hexavalent chromium, total arsenic, total nickel, and total silver.
The sewage is classified and collected, specially managed and delivered, and pretreated by quality.” The wastewater pollutants in the PCB and PCBA production process mainly come from special electronic chemicals, so it does not contain the above elements, and the formulation technology of medicine that can reduce wastewater has become the focus of research and development of PCB electronic chemical enterprises, and cleaner production has become an important direction for the development of industry technology.