Status Quo and Future of the China’s Silver Powder Market

image_pdfimage_print

About the status quo

Since China’s reform and opening up has been carried out for 30 years, with rapid development in the electronics industry as well as driven by the market demand, silver conductive paste and silver powder market experience a considerable development. Most silver conductive paste has used domestic silver powder. Only a few special high-end silver conductive pastes that are produced by foreign companies or foreign-funded companies mostly use imported silver powder. For electrical alloy, silver powder requires less in techniques, and it has implemented 100% localization.

Currently, microelectronics industry has entered into a relatively flat development period compared with 1990s, the amount of silver conductive paste which is used to make various types of electronic components in China is in a relatively stable level, with specific information as follows: discrete components (veneer ceramic capacitors, Zno varistors, buzzer PTC and NTC, etc.) consume silver conductive paste of 20~25 tons per month, with silver powder of 15~20 tons; inner electrode and end plate of chip components (chip capacitors, chip inductors and chip resistance) consume silver conductor paste of 5~8 tons per month, with silver powder of 3~6 tons; silver conductive adhesives (LED, IC, chip components and quartz resonator) consume silver conductive paste of 3~5 tons per month, with silver powder of 2~3 tons; Silver polymer conductive pastes (membrane switch, computer keyboards, electromagnetic shielding and touch screen) consume 20~25 tons per month, with silver powder of 15~20 tons; auto defrosting lines consume silver paste of 3~5 tons per month, with silver powder of 2~3 tons; and electrical alloy consumes silver powder of 10~15 tons per month.

Over 30 years, driven by the market demand, some Chinese enterprises, universities and research institutes have carried out their work for the research and development of silver powder. In terms of accumulated technology and knowledge level, China has a little bit gaps with foreign countries. However, China has main gaps in the innovation of research and development as well as the control of high-volume production equipment and process. The new demand for silver powder is derived from new components or machines. But, innovation of electronics industry in China is far away from western countries, resulting in the required research and development of silver powder to be in a phase of counterfeit imported products all the time. Meanwhile, silver powder with a great of variety has a small consumption at home in China, resulting in a lack of motivation on the investment with large capital as well as equipment and automation level still in the early stage. Most Chinese metal powder manufacturers are difficult to be competitive in the international market, because of limited production varieties and number as well as under-investment in research and development, equipment, process control and other aspects.

About the future

Silver was almost born for the electronics industry. For the current silver reserves, there are no serious problems on supply and demand, without the scarcity and urgency of resources. And for intrinsic properties of silver, there are still great technical difficulties and cost issues to replace silver with base metal. Although in the 21st century electronics industry is still the most promising industry which will continue to bring new demand for silver powder in the future, it has entered into a period of relatively flat development in general. In addition, the speculation causes silver price experience dramatic changes in the context of global integration, the amount of silver powder used in the electronics industry will maintain at a relatively stable level, without a significant change.

To further develop silver powder market in the future, it is necessary to get a new opportunity to expand applications of silver powder. And silver powder is applied to the crystalline silicon solar cells related to the new energy, which is considered as an opportunity to rapidly develop silver powder market. It is well-known that the use of clean and renewable energy is already an important project, which is related to sustainable development. In this context, crystalline silicon solar cells experience the explosive development, resulting in the consumption of silver powder far greater than the sum of the consumption of silver powder in other industries.

Currently, output of crystalline silicon solar cells in China has reached the global output of 50~60%. Before two years, crystalline silicon solar cell industry belongs to the profiteering industry, with the cost of silver paste in the low proportion, so manufacturing companies of crystal silicon solar cell are not interested in the localization of silver paste. On the other hand, crystalline silicon solar cell industry has an explosive development beyond most people’s expectations. Previously, China has little investment in this sector, especially the research and development of silver paste is essentially blank. So silver paste used for crystalline silicon solar cell is almost monopolized by the Du Pout, Ferro and Hereus some time ago. But windfall profits cause excessive input and fierce competition, which has led to silicon substrate prices that accounts for prime cost has been reduced to the tenth, while silver paste prices have gone up with silver prices. Crystalline silicon solar cell enterprises have become meager profit sector, but it is possible to survive by lowering costs. Since silver paste prices account for the cost of 20~30%, it has become one of main objectives to reduce costs, which brings a new opportunity for domestic silver paste and silver powder.