APEX 2010: What Does Post-Recession Look Like?

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Registration for IPC APEX EXPO 2010, the flagship tradeshow of IPC – Association Connecting Electronics Industries in North America, is reaching pre-recession levels, with about 1000 companies pre-registering by mid-February for the show April 6–9 in Las Vegas. EMS providers and electronics OEMs are reporting the first growth quarters since the credit crunch began, and IPC says that one-third of North American EMS companies will expand capacity this year. "There is a huge difference in how people are approaching the show this year. In the first quarter of 2009, people were absolutely focused on survival and wondering how many companies or jobs would be around by the end of the year," said Alicia Balonek, IPC director of trade show operations, stating that "starting in the fourth quarter of 2009, you could really feel a difference in attitudes." She spoke with SMT about can't-miss events of APEX and how the electronics industry has pushed through an "overwhelming sense of fear" to start the climb up.

With registration at least 15% higher than the 2009 headcount, and more than 300 exhibitors, APEX will measure the industry's goals, purpose, and accomplishments in the new year. "The recovery definitely has begun. Companies need to rebuild and catch up," said Balonek. The stats back her up: IPC's North American PCB book-to-bill ratio jumped from 0.89 in January 2009 to 1.05 in January 2010, above parity since May 2009. Worldwide semiconductor sales in January were $22.5 billion, according to the Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA), an increase of 47.2% from January 2009.

"APEX keynotes are always a highlight for me," Balonek said, encouraging attendees to hear Jeff Wilcox, Lockheed Martin, on April 6. "With the importance of the military market, he'll be timely and interesting. There are a lot of changes going on in the defense industry as wars become more unconventional and innovation is paramount." What other events can attendees look forward to? "The market forecasts by Walt Custer and Sharon Starr on April 7 will be helpful to a lot of companies. The technical conference is extremely strong. In particular, sessions on high-reliability assembly; embedded actives; low-silver alloys; solar panel assembly; and lead-free processing have outstanding content." And new this year? "Each year, we scrutinize every part of the event to make sure participants have the best experience possible. We have new topics in the conference on emerging technologies to bring the best research in the world to our attendees. There's a new section on the show floor for wire processing and you'll see more suppliers with materials and equipment for solar assembly," Balonek added.

International attendees make up 10% of total visitors, with registrants coming from 44 countries. Tradeshows' major asset is the ability to combine technical sessions with exhibits in an environment of all-inclusive information. Visitors can compare equipment, scout out ideas to resolve bottlenecks or defects, and discover new companies or products. "Visitors say how rewarding it is to find a solution from a company they didn't know existed or see comparable equipment in operation. The top three reasons people attend is to gain exposure to new products, network with industry colleagues, and find new suppliers," Balonek noted. SMT

Meredith CourtemancheExecutive Editor

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