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MIC Comment: Nissha Printing Invests TPK's Sliver Nanowire Technology for New Thin-film Touch Sensors
October 18, 2013


MIC Analyst: Chung-Yu Yang

In October 4, 2013 Nissha Printing, a supplier of film-based touch sensors, announced that it would invest into TPK Film, the subsidiary of Taiwan-based TPK, for silver nanowire technology. Through the Nissha-TPK Film alliance, TPK Film's silver nanowire technology will be introduced to Nissha's thin-film touch sensors.

Established in June, 2012, TPK Film is the JV formed between TPK and Cambrios - a silver nanowire ink supplier - in which TPK obtained 80.1% stake. In this additional capital injection, Nissha plans to inject US$6.25 million in TPK Film, 65% of which will be owned by TPK, 25% by Nissha, and 10% by Cambrios.

Two major businesses of Nissha include IMD (In-mold decoration) technology - which is mainly applied to smartphones, notebook PCs, automotive interiors, and home appliances - and touch panels. These two businesses account for 75% of the total revenue of Nissha Printing, 42% of which is contributed by touch panels.

Reasons for the Investment

Reinforced Supply Chain Partnerships

Nissha holds core technologies mainly for thin-film touch sensors and printing process. Orders for capacitive touch panels produced using the printing process are dwindling while orders for new capacitive touch panels produced using photolithography process are growing steadily. Therefore, Nissha has begun introducing the photolithography process into the manufacturing of thin-film touch sensors originally produced by the printing process. In April, 2013, Nissha entered a cooperation agreement with S-MAC, a Korean touch module supplier, under which they would establish a JV, named NS Tech, for manufacturing film-based touch sensors based on the printing process. This demonstrates Nissha's attempt to expand market share. Both Nissha and S-MAC are the touch panel suppliers of Samsung. Nissha supplies thin-film touch sensors whereas S-MAC is in charge of laminating modules and touch panels. The objective of the JV between Nissha and S-MAC is to tap demand for thin-film touch sensors with the proximity to their major client, Samsung.

NISSHA Touch Business Development Roadmap

Source: MIC, October 2013

Commercialization of Silver Nanowire

Nissha has been seeking an alternative transparent conductor for its touch panel business. In 2007, the company kicked off the silver nanowire development. In April 2009, Nissha entered into an exclusive purchase agreement with Cambrios, a supplier of silver nanowire ink, under which Nissha was granted an exclusive purchase right from Cambrios to jointly develop the commercial products based on silver nanowire-based transparent conductive films and the right to invest in Cambrios.

The progression for Nissha in commercializing silver nanowire touch panels, however, is slow. Nissha recently declared that it plans to cooperate with touch IC solution supplier Synaptics to mass produce silver nanowire touch panels and introduce them into smartphone. Without any further information revealed in this regard, it is estimated that Nissha must have faced some technological bottlenecks in its attempt to commercialize touch panel products using silver nanowire technology.

ITO Replacement Materials

Other than Nissha, Cambrios also teamed up with Shin-Etsu Polymer, Toray, Hitachi Chemical, DIC, and Okura to develop transparent conductive film leveraging Cambrios' Ag nanowire ink, which means that in the future there will be several suppliers of silver nanowires. In addition, metal mesh has been widely introduced into tablets, notebook PCs and AIO (All In One) PCs. Once metal mesh technology is certified and widespread used in applications, the entry barriers for other transparent conductive materials to enter the market will be elevated. Focused on silver nanowire development, Nissha is expected to face enormous pressure and how to fast commercialize silver nanowire-based touch panels will be imperative.

In addition, in order to commercialize silver nanowire touch panels and be competitive, two issues are required high attention: mass production technology and production capacity. The tie-up between Nissha and TPK not only can help TPK expand production capacity of sensors as well as module-panel lamination process but also can help TPK focus on CRM (Customer Relationship Management) and build its high end image. With both parties' influence in the touch panel industry, the formation of TPK Film is likely to help them capture more orders.

Companies covered: Nissha Printing, TPK, Cambrios, Shin-Etsu Polymer, Toray, Hitachi Chemical, DIC, and Okura

Countries covered: Japan, Taiwan, USA

Regions covered: Asia, North America

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Market Intelligence & Consulting Institute (MIC), based in Taipei, Taiwan, was founded in 1987. MIC is Taiwan's premier IT industry research and consulting firm providing intelligence, in-depth analysis, and strategic consulting services on global IT product and technology trends, focusing on markets and industries in Asia-Pacific. MIC is part of the Institute for Information Industry.