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Printed Circuit Board Orders Rise

Combined shipments of rigid printed circuit boards (PCBs) and flexible circuits in March declined 12.2 percent from March 2011, while orders booked increased just 0.2 percent, according to Association Connecting Electronics Industry (IPC). However, shipments and orders increased in March compared to February.

The trade group noted that year to date, combined industry shipments were down 6.5 percent and bookings were up 4.1 percent. Compared to February, combined shipments of PCBs and flexible circuits in March 2012 increased 11 percent and bookings increased 8.8 percent. The combined (rigid and flexible) industry book-to-bill ratio in March 2012 strengthened to 1.06, IPC reported.

A book-to-bill ratio of 1.06 means board manufacturers received $106 in new orders for every $100 of orders they shipped.

PCB sales for North America in March continued to reflect normal seasonal patterns, said Sharon Starr, IPC director of market research. “Orders continued to outpace sales, pushing the book-to-bill ratio up for the fourth consecutive month, and that bodes well for sales growth in the next quarter.”

Rigid PCB shipments in March fell 12.6 percent from March 2011, and bookings decreased 2.2 percent. Compared to the previous month, rigid board shipments increased 10.6 percent while new orders (bookings) increased 9.1 percent.

Flexible circuit shipments in March 2012 declined 7.2 percent from March 2011, but bookings were up 34.5 percent. Compared to February 2012, flexible circuit shipments increased 17.0 percent and flexible bookings were up 5.3 percent.

Book-to-bill growth rates for rigid PCBs and flexible circuits combined are heavily affected by the rigid PCB segment because rigid PCBs represent an estimated 89 percent of the current PCB industry in North America, according to the association.

Flexible circuit sales include value-added services such as assembly, in addition to the bare flexible circuits. In March, the flexible circuit manufacturers in IPC’s survey sample indicated that bare circuits accounted for about 39 percent of their shipment value reported for the month.