Fujikura Ltd.

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A Microcosm of Technological Innovation

The story behind the development of flexible print circuits, the key driver of the evolution of electronics

Phase.1 Starting from Zero

Fujikura is these days a global market leader in the FPC business, producing more than 100 million units each month. In contrast to today's success, its early days were plagued with difficulties and hardships.

FPCs from a digital camera
FPCs from a digital camera
FPCs are printed wiring boards consisting of a copper foil laminated onto a flexible polyimide film or polyester film. Due to their lightness, thinness and versatility of form, FPCs are used as circuit boards in mobile phones, digital cameras, VCRs, notebook PCs and many other small electronic devices. In addition, because of their high flexibility, FPCs are often used in hard disk drives as high-density flexible circuit boards. FPCs can be found in almost every small electronic product on the market today. Fujikura's FPC business has grown to currently generate 100 billion yen in sales and is supported by approximately 20,000 employees. With its sales, R&D and production departments working in unison, Fujikura is able to reach out customers all over the world with a high degree of mobility and agility. The company's FPC facilities include dedicated factories in Japan (Tohoku Fujikura Ltd.), Thailand, (PCTT Ltd.) and China (Fujikura Electronics Shanghai Ltd.; FESL), as well as the Sakura R&D Center, which develops new markets and new technologies.

While Fujikura is now one of the largest FPC manufacturers in the world, the company's entry into the market was a long bumpy road. The launch of an FPC business was carried out as a part of Fujikura's transformational plan to tap into and grow with the electronics market. Intensive research to determine the optimal field was carried out for about 18 months before the answer was finally arrived at: FPCs. At that time, Fujikura intended in the future to develop its electronics operations into a sophisticated compound component business. The company decided that FPCs? printed circuits for a variety of electric equipment?would be a core component of that future business. In 1979, Fujikura launched its first FPC project with only five members. Those five were at an almost total loss about where to start. FPC technology has little in common with the technologies used in Fujikura's regular products, and target customers were also completely different from the company's established customers. The project team had to start literally from zero and indeed suffered many defeats: salespeople were unable to even get a meeting with prospective customers and R&D staff received numerous complaints about their prototypes. All in all, the FPC project endured more than a decade of agony, making losses year after year.

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