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Printed Circuit Board Shipments, New Orders Drop

The book-to-bill ratio for rigid boards and flexible circuits fell to 1.04 in April, indicating board demand was slightly weaker than the previous month.
Combined shipments of rigid printed circuit boards and flexible circuits in April dropped 4.5 percent compared to April 2011, while new orders booked fell 8.3 percent, according to the Association Connecting Electronics Industries (IPC).

Year to date, combined industry shipments were down 6 percent and bookings were up 0.8 percent. Compared to the previous month, combined industry shipments for April 2012 fell 10.6 percent and bookings decreased 13.5 percent, IPC reported.

The book-to-bill ratio for rigid and flexible circuits in April 2012 decreased slightly to 1.04 from 1.05 in March. A ratio of 1.04 means board manufacturers received $104 in new orders for every $100 of orders they shipped in the month.

Rigid PCB shipments were down 3.6 percent in April 2012 from April 2011, and bookings decreased 8.6 percent year over year, according to IPC. Compared to the previous month, rigid PCB shipments decreased 10.5 percent and rigid bookings decreased 13 percent.

Flexible circuit shipments in April 2012 were down 13.8 percent, and bookings were down 5.2 percent compared to April 2011. Compared to March 2012, flexible circuit shipments decreased 10.9 percent and flexible bookings were down 18.8 percent, IPC noted.

Board sales and orders in North America continued slightly below last year’s levels and “reflected normal seasonal patterns,” said Sharon Starr, IPC director of market research. “The good news is that the book-to-bill ratio continued to be positive for the fifth consecutive month. When orders exceed sales, there is potential for sales growth over the next three to six months.”

Book-to-bill ratios and growth rates for rigid PCBs and flexible circuits combined are heavily affected by the rigid PCB segment. Rigid PCBs represent an estimated 89 percent of the current PCB industry in North America, according to IPC. Flexible circuit sales typically include value-added services such as assembly, in addition to the bare flexible circuits.