Apple Plans to Introduce RCC Materials in 2024, Enabling Space Saving and Increased Battery Capacity in iPhones

2023-06-15 Consumer Electronics editor

TrendForce’s investigation into the supply chain reveals that Apple plans to upgrade the PCB materials in its new iPhone models in 2024. The current copper-clad laminate (CCL) will be partially replaced with resin-coated copper (RCC), aiming to reduce the size and thickness of the mainboard. This upgrade is expected to enhance electronic signal transmission efficiency, reduce energy consumption, and save internal space, providing more room for increased battery capacity.

Apple first introduced the substrate-like PCB (SLP) with the launch of the iPhone X in 2017. SLP offers advantages over conventional high-density interconnect (HDI) PCBs by reducing line width and spacing, optimizing PCB area, and increasing battery space. This design has remained unchanged since its introduction. However, recent discussions within the supply chain indicate that there are plans to introduce RCC materials in the second half of 2024 for the upcoming iPhones, marking an upgrade after a seven-year gap.

The main difference between RCC and traditional CCL lies in their structure. RCC eliminates one layer of fiberglass cloth, significantly reducing the overall thickness of the PCB. It also simplifies the manufacturing process and improves the laser drilling yield. In terms of component performance, RCC allows for further reduction in line width and spacing of circuit wiring based on SLP, reducing the spacing between various passive and active components on the board. It even enables the embedding of some passive components, thereby saving space required for surface mount technology (SMT) processes. All these upgrades contribute to greater power efficiency and improved performance in end devices.

Considering the similarities between RCC and ABF substrates in terms of the manufacturing process, the most likely supplier for RCC is the Japanese company Ajinomoto. If Apple successfully replaces some layers with RCC in 2024, it may impact the demand for existing CCL, particularly affecting the CCL supplier, Elite Material (EMC). It is anticipated that EMC’s RCC product may require 1-2 more years of research and development before it has a chance to be completed.

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