Taiyo America Adapts Knowledge from PCB Market to Printed Electronics

January 2014

Reprinted by Permission, Printed Electronics Now, David Savastano, Editor

There are synergies between the printed circuit board (PCB) and printed electronics (PE) industries, as both fields produce miniaturized electronic components. It is no surprise that PCB manufacturers would be interested in the PE field.

Taiyo America is one company that has successfully made the jump from the PCB to the PE market. Formed in 1990 to service the North American PCB market for Saitama, Japan-based Taiyo Ink Mfg. Co., Ltd., Taiyo America initially imported Taiyo’s liquid photoimageable (LPI) dielectric coatings (solder mask) and conductive products. As Taiyo’s LPI products gained acceptance throughout the industry for their ease of processing, there became a need to establish a strong sales and technical service team locally, and in 1995, Taiyo America began production in Carson City, NV.

"In the years since, we have continued expanding market coverage to include South America, Europe, Australia, Israel, Turkey and South Africa, while hiring numerous experienced sales and technical service members to meet the needs of the PCB industry," said Josh Goldberg, marketing specialist for Taiyo America, Inc.

After the PCB market crash in 2001, Taiyo America invested in more R&D in order to focus on the quick turn business that had become dominant in the North American PCB market. 

"We designed products for individual customer needs and then streamlined them for greater market acceptance," Goldberg said. "Taiyo America introduced some of the PCB industry-leading solder mask products for LPI and LDI (Laser Direct Imaging) applications.”

The changing nature of PCB manufacturing provided added incentive for Taiyo to look to leverage its technology and experience. By 2010, Taiyo America began looking outside the PCB market place to find new markets, including the PE segment.

"The PCB market has had a huge shift in manufacturing over the past few decades," Goldberg said. “Most manufacturing has moved to the Asian markets, while some PCB manufacturing and prototyping has remained in North America, South America and Europe. We have taken a look at other areas that our products can be of use, and printed electronics was one of the areas identified.

“We have expanded our market focus to investigate and provide materials into the solar, lighting, display and printed battery markets,” Goldberg added. “In the pursuit of these new markets, we have worked with some of the leading research institutions as well as market leaders in the various industries, to gain the experience needed to develop and manufacture leading edge products for these new markets. Our R&D and manufacturing flexibility allow us to work with all sizes of companies to meet the greater needs of the dynamically changing markets.

For the past three years, Goldberg has been identifying the markets within PE where Taiyo America can leverage its skills.

“We have worked with players in the printed electronic industry, such as device manufacturers, research institutes and equipment manufacturers, to test our products for further development,” he said. “Initially, we took a look at the technical needs in various areas of the printed electronics industry and focused our attention on products in our current line that can readily be adjusted or are a direct fit into the new markets. We listened to the needs of the manufacturers to identify areas where new products can contribute. We chose to market our products towards the scale-up and manufacturing end of the printed electronics product chain.”

Taiyo America’s conductive materials are ideal for screenprinting and roll-to-roll technologies, and the company is also working on UV technologies.

“Our materials are more geared toward utilizing screenprinting and roll-to-roll printing technologies,” Goldberg said. “Because of this focus, we developed products such as a conductive silver paste that is photoimageable. This can utilize the ease of screenprinting, but get very high resolution as a consequence of the photoimaging process.

“We have also focused on making a number of flexible dielectric materials that either utilizes UV curing or low temperature curing in order to be applicable to flexible substrates such as PET and PEN,” Goldberg added. “Taiyo America has been working with our R&D facilities in Japan and Korea to bring some of their new products to market as well. We have expanded our R&D capabilities locally in order to further develop new materials for the emerging printed electronics markets.”

In addition to product development, Goldberg said that Taiyo America has become more involved in the IPC Printed Electronics committees in the last few years. 

“IPC is the governing body for the PCB industry, and they have identified that the area of PE was in need of some sort of definition in the area of design, substrates, testing and materials,” Goldberg said. “The committee has been working with the manufacturers, suppliers, research institutes and the electronics governing bodies in Japan, China and the EU to come up with guidelines for the industry.”

Goldberg sees opportunities ahead for Taiyo America in the PE space, as printed electronic elements mesh with conventional electronics manufacturing methods for readily marketable devices now and in the near future.

“As more efficient manufacturing methods for more complicated printed devices develop, we believe that we will see more use of printed manufacturing methods to bring inexpensive electronic devices to market” Goldberg noted. “We are working to position ourselves to provide solutions to manufacturers and continue to build our reputation in the printed electronics market segments. Our technical team and forward thinking management will continue to attend trade shows, talks with market analysts, and above all, we will work with our customers to ensure that we continue to provide the best possible products for the emerging printed electronics markets now and into the future.”