Copper foil is a sheet of copper that is usually only a few micrometer in thickness. Copper foils are commonly used as a conductor in printed circuit boards (PCBs) and flexible connectors. Copper has high electric conductivity and is also ductile and malleable. This makes it one of the widely used metals in the emerging electric & electronics industry. This, in turn, is expected to drive the copper foils market in the next few years with a lot of demand estimated from Asia Pacific.
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There are two widely available forms of copper foils: electrolytically deposited (ED) copper and rolled annealed (RA) copper. ED copper foils are produced by electroplating the copper from a solution, which develops a columnar-grain structure in the metal. In ED copper foils, grains grow perpendicular to the foil. RA copper films are formed through the mechanical operation of applying the rolling pressure on heated, pure-copper ingots. In RA copper foils, grains grow parallel to the foil, resembling a plate-like structure. The two forms of copper foils differ primarily in their mechanical properties, with RA copper foils exhibiting greater ductility and elongation properties but lower hardness and tensile strength. ED copper foils are available in annealed and non-annealed grades while a special, high-ductility grade of the foil is also obtainable. RA copper foils are available in rolled, annealed, and special, low-temperature annealed grade.
A large portion of the total electrodeposited copper foil produced is used for printed-wiring boards. ED copper foils are also employed for high-energy, low-power applications such as Li-ion batteries for laptops, cell phones, and consumer electronics. In Li-ion batteries, copper foils are used as negative-electrode current collectors. RA copper foils are generally employed for high-energy, high-power applications such as drivetrain and power tools as well as applications such as printed circuits, electromagnetic shielding, and rechargeable batteries. Other applications of RA copper foils include arts & crafts, panels, and laminated boards.
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Asia Pacific is a major producer of copper foils, catering to the high demand from the electric & electronics industry in the region. The production of copper in China has increased exponentially in the last two decades, providing ample raw material to manufacturers of copper films. China is also the leading consumer of copper foils in this region, followed by Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan. The U.S. is another important consumer of copper foils with a majority of the demand coming from high-tech electronics in military, aerospace, and defense sectors. In Europe, Germany accounts for a major share of the copper foils market, followed by the U.K. and France. Among applications, use of copper foils in Li-ion batteries is speedily growing. Growing importance of flexible electronics is projected to be a major driver for the copper foils market in the next decade. A prominent technological challenge in this market is development of ultra-thin copper foils while maintaining speedy production rates. The low-temperature, annealed grade of copper foils is touted to be a promising solution to this problem.