Future Challenges for PCB Manufacturing
Market research into electronic market trends in electronic manufacturing indicates a promising future for the printed circuit board (PCB) market. The research expects major opportunities for PCB manufacturing industries in fields such as communication, automotive and computers. The research forecasts a global growth of the PCB market at a CAGR of 3.2% from the year 2107 to 2022, reaching an estimated $72.6 billion by 2022. The primary drivers for the growth of this market are the increasing demands for smartphones and tablets, along with increasing automation in industries, which include automotive, aerospace, and defense.
The emerging trends will directly affect the dynamics of the PCB industry, with future PCB technologies including miniaturization and development of green PCBs. According to the forecast, standard multi-layer PCBs will lead the segment due to the growth in communication and computer industry. Within this segment, the demand for rigid flex PCBs will likely experience the highest growth, with support from the growing demand for display applications and smartphones. PCB manufacturing industries will likely cover the largest market of the communication industry. Continuous innovations in the smartphone segment will spur the growth of the PCB manufacturing industries.
Trends and Challenges
Electronics and PCB manufacturing is presently facing several challenges together with opportunities. Along with the need to control costs, the PCB manufacturing services will have to focus on finding ways of capitalizing on current trends. This may include integrating technologies outside their primary areas of expertise, while meeting demands from customers for highly efficient manufacturing processes that are also eco-friendly. The biggest trends and challenges in the electronics manufacturing industries are likely to be:
Continuing Rise in Demand for Smart Electronic Devices
Although devices such as smartphones have been around for years, the demand for smart electronic devices is rising. For instance, the Internet of Things (IoT) technology is growing more prominent and affecting everything from vehicles to microwaves. This is likely to lead to new partnership developments as manufacturers of electronic devices look for partners to help them in building and supporting the connectivity.
For the PCB manufacturing industries, this opportunity comes as a tremendous revenue potential. Although for most manufacturers the connectivity aspect is not their core expertise, the challenge they will face will be in making the scalable connected products available to the customers, by remaining flexible and adaptable to the constantly evolving demands.
Energy-Efficiency in Electronic Products
With concerns for the environment growing paramount, manufacturing processes are developing newer methods of producing devices that consume less energy. Businesses and consumers alike are opting for energy-efficient electronics, as reducing energy consumption is effective in cutting costs. Therefore, the demand is not only for manufacturing processes that are more effective, but also for low power consumption throughout the lifespan of the device.
Green Electronics Manufacturing
Today, everyone is looking for more eco-friendly manufacturing solutions. While this includes governments, businesses, and consumers, they are also implementing various carbon caps or carbon trading plans. That means PCB manufacturing challenges will now include use of newer materials and manufacturing processes that are more energy efficient.
Enhanced Market for Technologically Improved Medical Devices
Medical devices have always benefited from improvements in technology, ranging from improved care delivery to enabling patients in managing healthcare needs at their homes. The requirements for high quality and reliability necessitates these industries inherently maintain a close relationship to PCB manufacturing. The huge demand for wearable electronics is pushing the requirement of flex PCBs to the extreme.
Steady Growth of Electronic Manufacturing Services
Although the prediction of IPC, the Association Connecting Electronic Industries, expects an overall slow growth of electronic manufacturing services (EMS), they also expect its growth to be steady.
Better Logistics for Rapid Delivery
One of the requirements of reaching the market fast is better logistics leading to rapid delivery of PCBs—both prototypes and regular production. Therefore, one of the PCB manufacturing challenges will be to explore the viability of micro logistics. These networks will ensure accelerated delivery for select customers and products.
Speed will likely be the key for PCB manufacturing. In fact, some manufacturers are coordinating enterprise-wide planning activities for rapid integrated business planning. Others are increasing investments in digitally executed manufacturing for increasing their agility.
All PCB manufacturing will require investing and improving their efficiency in logistics. To expedite the delivery of their products, PCB manufacturing industries will require using their factory floor spacing at higher efficiency to manage their space and time in a better way.
Controlling Costs with Strategic Partnerships
With contract manufacturing undergoing a massive shift, OEMs are increasingly outsourcing product design and development to their EMS partners. This is helping them control manufacturing costs, as they are able to reduce overall costs, while shifting fixed costs towards variable costs.
PCB manufacturing industries can take advantage of this situation by expanding into new lines of business and revenue opportunities. While this is opening up strategic partnerships in a massive way, the new services are also offering high margins with more design services, sub-assemblies, finished products, and or testing services. By offering more services, EMS providers are not only offering future PCB technologies, but also newer models of ODM or outsourced design manufacturing, and JDM or joint design manufacturing.
Although the strategic partnerships are proving valuable, other important considerations also exist. Both EMS and OEMs must consider evaluating current product portfolios and customers. This will not only help to align their strategies and business models, but also help them evaluate value propositions for ensuring they line up with strategic business decisions and current needs.
While the above trends will influence and shape the electronics manufacturing industry in the coming years, PCB manufacturing challenges will hinge on one hand on products that are more sophisticated, better services, speed, and accuracy of delivery, while on the other, on minimizing environmental impact and cost control.
Future PCB technologies will have to face an evolving world, while positioning themselves as flexible but agile solution providers. They will need to keep pace with rapid changes while aligning themselves with the right strategic partner.