Global Market of PI (Polyimide) Films for FCCL (Flexible Copper Clad Laminate): Research Findings 2019
Yano Research Institute (the President, Takashi Mizukoshi) conducted a survey on the global market of electronics films employed for components or secondary materials of various types of displays and FPC (flexible printed circuits), and found out the trends by product segment and by market players, and future perspectives. This press release reports the global market size of PI films for FCCL, and the outlook of low-dielectric films for circuit boards.
Global market of PI (polyimide) films for FCCL (flexible copper clad laminate) based on the shipment volume at makers in 2019 is expected to attain 217,300,000 square meters (105.8% of the previous-year size), or 4,800 tons (106.7% of the preceding-year weight).
Those PI films that can keep their mechanically, electrically and chemically superior characteristics even in ultra-low temperature (-269 degree Celsius) and super-high temperature (400 degree Celsius) have conventionally been employed mainly as insulator films for FCCL which is used for FPC (flexible printed circuits) or for the base substrates of TAB (Tape Automated Bonding) and antennas. However, as the markets related with 5G have started being launched, circuit makers have begun requiring even more excellent materials especially in low moisture absorption and in electrical properties than PI films. This led them to consider adopting LCP (liquid crystal polymer) or fluorine. All such materials have advantages and disadvantages in terms of characteristics, performance, easiness in handling, supply system, and pricing, so that they have not determined which to use as de facto standard at this time.
Improved PI Films Closer to LCP in Loss Tangent and Water Absorption Started Being Implemented
PI films have been extensively used as FCCL substrates for FPC, TAB, and COF (Chip on Flexible). PI films (general grade) employed as an insulation layer of an FPC and other circuit boards have characteristics of 1% or more of water absorption rate, 0.01 of dielectric loss tangent (10 to 28GHz), which can be used without any problem in a 4G networking, but can bring about lower speed and smaller capacity caused by transmission loss in 5G where faster and larger-capacity communication is used.
On the other hand, LCP films, the competitive material, can satisfactorily work in 5G because they hardly absorb water (water absorption rate 0.02 to 0.04%) and standardly mark 0.002 of loss tangent. However, FCCL makers opt to employ PI films because of their history of developing and optimizing the manufacturing processes as well as the facilities for PI films subject to be the standard material for insulation. Therefore, they prefer not to change the facilities and processes even in 5G.
PI film makers have strived to respond to such demand by improving PI resins as far as at the phase of molecular designs to make them closer to LCP films in water absorption and loss tangent. While pilot projects for such PI films have been in progress, some have started being implemented since 2019.
Low-dielectric films for circuit boards, represented by FCCL, have conventionally been compared between PI and LCP, i.e., between existing materials. However, as various 5G markets are to be launched, product evolutions will not be limited in the areas of automobiles, house appliances, and industrial machinery, but also in changes in social infrastructure (including medicine, transportation, and education), workstyle reform, and Smart City, which can lead to one large industry, involving the whole social system. Therefore, the market of high-frequency, low-dielectric insulator films used for antennas, sensors, and transmission circuits are expected to grow at exceptional scale.
In order for the film to be de facto standard, totally balanced performance is required to make up a circuit board. Therefore, not only the performance to suppress transmission loss, i.e., dielectric loss tangent, relative dielectric constant, water absorption, and size stability, but also all other factors should be considered, such as adhesiveness with copper foil that constitutes a conductive layer, adjustment of thermal expansion coefficients according to each metal layer, and bendability that enables efficient wiring within limited space, which can simplify manufacturing processes, improve trust toward the circuits, and to give more freedom to users for wiring designs.
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