William R. Boulton

The purpose of this JTEC study is to evaluate Japan's electronic manufacturing and packaging capabilities within the context of global economic competition. To carry out this study, the JTEC panel evaluated the framework of the Japanese consumer electronics industry and various technological and organizational factors that are likely to determine who will win and lose in the marketplace. This study begins with a brief overview of the electronics industry, especially as it operates in Japan today. Succeeding chapters examine the electronics infrastructure in Japan and take an in-depth look at the central issues of product development in order to identify those parameters that will determine future directions for electronic packaging technologies.


Our lives are being revolutionized by electronics. The ways we work, communicate, shop, bank, travel, and learn are changing radically. And whereas natural resources, labor, and capital once determined a nation's wealth, today technology - in aerospace, computers, telecommunications, and consumer electronics - significantly affects a nation's wealth and security. Communications, computers, and control technologies are merging to create new multimedia capabilities for use in business, education, and entertainment. Advanced technologies like superconductivity promise a whole new range of capabilities in another decade. Miniaturization of existing products will put libraries and supercomputers into our briefcases. The range of future opportunities is bounded only by the ability of our industries to utilize these new capabilities in developing next-generation products.

Production of high-quality, low-cost consumer electronics products is dependent on proficiency in electronic packaging technologies. Continuous improvement of packaging and related technologies has provided the impetus for development of new and improved consumer electronic products; likewise, consumer demand for new and improved electronic products at reasonable prices has provided the impetus for development of increasingly sophisticated electronic packaging. The most explosive improvements in low-cost, high-volume packaging for consumer products have been in Japan, precisely because Japan has been relentlessly pursuing the markets for consumer electronics. The United States is recognized for developing new technologies; Japan is recognized for continuously improving "old" technologies and pushing the technological limits of their applications in order to keep their costs down. In doing so, Japanese electronics firms have pushed electronic packaging into a whole new realm.

In the past, the term "electronic packaging" referred to a small number of formats for encasing electronic components, including integrated circuits, so they could readily and reliably be installed in electronic end-products. The principal packaging types were through hole, surface mount, tape automated bonding, single-chip, and multichip, and also packaging configurations like dual inline packages (DIP), small inline packages (SIP), and quad flat packages (QFP). Generally, the companies that specialized in manufacturing electronic packages did not participate in integrating them into the final products.

During several of the JTEC panel's site visits in Japan, it was evident that electronic packaging suppliers are integrating forward into both functional modules and integrated assemblies. TDK is making complex multichip modules with densities of 33 units per cubic centimeter. Murata is using its materials technology competence to develop and sell radio frequency (RF) components. Most suppliers now develop their own equipment and provide customers with the assembly equipment required to utilize their new components. At the same time, some of the major electronics companies are manufacturing more of their own electronic components based on in-house R&D. Sony, for example, manufactures about 65% of the key components for its compact disc player and 45% of the components for its 8 mm camcorder. In-house advances in liquid crystal display (LCD), charge-couple device (CCD), and electronic packaging technologies were all needed to realize these products.

Consumer products that have been pulling the development of technological advances in electronic packaging include VCRs, cellular telephones, camcorders, personal digital assistants, and notebook computers. The goals that define the roadmaps for electronic packaging development for these products are miniaturization, portability, increased functionality, and cost reduction - in order to capture and retain consumer markets. These goals are being achieved through reduction of parts sizes and increased integration of technologies and functions. Electronic packaging technologies have seen increased pin counts, reduced pin pitch, and increased functional densities through the application of surface mounting techniques. Reduction in sizes of parts includes reductions in battery and display dimensions. For example, the reduction in the overall size of cellular phones from 500 cc in 1987 to 150 cc in 1991 was due to a variety of reductions in parts sizes that included the following:

Electronic packages now are becoming hybrid assemblies. Displays are being integrated with electronic drivers, flex cards are being designed for the flexibility to be manipulated to fit into restricted areas, and the form factor of power supplies is being designed to conform to available spaces within products. The rapid integration of functions within electronic products is likely to continue: Japanese firms are all working on merging technologies like integrated circuits, electronic packaging, and flat panel displays. At some point an "electronic package" will likely consist of all the electronic and electrical components of a product, ultrasmall in size and custom-configured for the product.

The technologies covered by the term "electronic packaging" are evolving rapidly. This report examines this process in terms of the goals, infrastructure, specific technological achievements, and dynamics of the electronics industry in Japan.

Published: February 1995; WTEC Hyper-Librarian