Thatcham, UK - over the 12 months to March 2017, global copper prices have increased due to increasing demand, driven by the use of copper in lithium ion batteries used in electric vehicles, tablets and mobile phones.
As detailed in the chart below, copper prices were relatively stable to October 2016, the price then jumped in November 2016 by 19% ($5,871 m/tonne), increasing in January 2017 to 23% ($5,999 m/tonne) over October 2016 prices.
Copper Prices - 12 Months to Mar 2017 ($/m tonne)
In October 2016 EMS reported that;
"The demand is leading to a potential limitation of copper foil supply with some manufacturers reporting problems with obtaining copper foil to fulfil orders. As this continues there is a risk this will lead to further price increases before copper supply increases to meet the new demand."
At the time EMS was not aware of any impacts to the supply chain, however as of March 2017 suppliers are now reporting occurrences of problems relating to the availability of PCB laminate. Ventec, one of the worlds leading suppliers of PCB laminate has advised;
“The copper foil shortage has resulted in approximately 2.8M sheets per month of Copper clad laminate global material shortage. This is approximately 2X the total rigid demand of USA and Europe combined. We expect the situation to last at least until the middle / end of 2018.”
Impact to Customers
The impact to customers could include;
- Availability of material, as above. 1.6mm 35um (1oz) is common, but could be effected, beyond this all other material types could become problematic.
- Prices and lead times could increase as material availabilty reduces.
- Payment terms could be change where PCB manufacturers have had to pay up front for material. EMS will attempt to mitigate the impact of this for our customers.
Impact on PCB Manufacturers
Larger PCB suppliers will be able to invest in stock of laminate to reduce the impact, whilst smaller manufacturers may struggle to obtain material ongoing. As the situation develops all PCB manufacturers, around the world, could experience problems.
The most common laminate, 1.6mm 35um (1oz) is likely to be the easiest to obtain, with all other material likely to become harder to source.
As detailed in the quote from Ventec, and advised by other sources, the impact on the availability of PCB laminate could last until at least the middle/end of 2018.
EMS can help you to manage the impact of this on your supply chain by considering;
- Stock holding, but this is limited by the recommended PCB shelf life.
- Scheduled orders, with suppliers guaranteeing to secure stock to fulfil the order.
- Planning demand and usage with lead times well ahead of the traditional lead times, by taking a cautious approach to the availability.
If you have any questions concerning the material availability or how EMS can help you to minimise the impact then please contact EMS today.