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Printed Circuit Board Orders, Shipments Decline

The book-to-bill ratio for rigid boards and flexible circuits combined fell to 0.97 in September, the lowest the ratio has been since November 2011.
Combined shipments of rigid printed circuit boards (PCBs) and flexible circuits declined 6.7 percent and new orders fell 2.2 percent compared to September 2011, according to the Association Connecting Electronics Industries (IPC).

Year to date, combined industry shipments were down 4.8 percent and bookings (new orders) were down 0.2 percent. Compared to August 2012, combined industry shipments in September increased 9.8 percent, but bookings declined 0.3 percent. The combined rigid and flexible book-to-bill ratio in September 2012 fell below parity to 0.97 from 1.00 in August. A book-to-bill ratio of 0.97 means that board manufacturers received $97 in new orders for every $100 of boards that they shipped in the month.

“North American PCB sales in September continued below 2011 sales, but improved over the preceding month, following normal seasonal patterns,” said Sharon Starr, IPC director of market research. She added that sharp declines in flexible circuit orders over the past three months pushed the overall PCB book-to-bill ratio below parity. “The volatility of the flex business means this effect will probably be short-lived,” said Starr.

Rigid PCB shipments fell 5.3 percent in September 2012 from September 2011, while bookings decreased 1.8 percent year over year. Year to date, rigid PCB shipments dropped 4.7 percent and bookings increased 0.8 percent. Compared to the previous month, rigid PCB shipments increased 10.3 percent and rigid bookings were flat.

Flexible circuit shipments in September 2012 fell 19.9 percent and new orders declined 20.9 percent compared to September 2011. Year to date, flexible circuit shipments dropped 5.8 percent and bookings decreased 9.7 percent.

Rigid PCBs represent an estimated 90 percent of the current PCB industry in North America. Flexible circuit sales typically include value-added services such as assembly in addition to the bare flexible circuits.