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Apple doubles board suppliers for iPad 2 ahead of April launch - report

As manufacturing of the second-generation iPad ramps up, Apple has reportedly more than doubled the printed circuit board suppliers it has contracted for the touchscreen tablet.

According to DigiTimes, Apple has more than doubled the number of iPad 2 printed circuit board suppliers from three to seven. Apple reportedly recently added Compeq Manufacturing, Gold Circuit Electronics, Meiko, and Nan Ya PCB to the mix.

The companies are expected to begin shipments of any-layer high density interconnect boards in "small volumes" between the end of February and early March. The report indicated that Apple plans to begin "mass shipments" of the next-generation iPad in April, marking one year after the first-generation tablet launched.

The four new companies will join Ibiden, Tripod Technology, and TTM Technologies, who were the initial printed circuit board suppliers for the second-generation iPad. Those companies were first revealed last November, in a report that claimed Apple would begin producing its next-generation early this year.

Growing use of any-layer boards in smartphones and tablets is predicted to continue in 2011, causing a shortage of such components. The report noted a number of "challenges" in manufacturing the printed circuit boards, including "complicated circuit designs, and supply constraints for laser drilling and electroplating equipment."

Apple revealed this week that it has committed $3.9 billion toward secret, long-term component contracts. The company wouldn't reveal where the money for the deal is concentrated, but Chief Operating Officer Tim Cook called the decision "very strategic."

Apple made a major, long-term deal in 2005 to secure flash memory components for use in future products. That strategic move proven to be a successful strategy for Apple, as reports of limited worldwide ability of NAND flash have cropped up repeatedly.