Market research plays an invaluable role in all industries and sectors, particularly in manufacturing. In an industry which is severely volatile and has the potential of incurring losses due to misinformed decisions, performing thorough market research becomes even more critical. In PCB manufacturing, for instance, the entire cycle of manufacturing and ultimately selling products can take anywhere from a few months to more than a year. It is, therefore, essential to perform meticulous market research before making any important manufacturing decision like launching new product lines, acquiring another business, or introducing changes into existing PCB designs.
For these reasons, market research plays a vital role in the PCB industry. It helps manufacturers to minimize their investment risks, identify potential threats and opportunities, discover competitor strengths and weaknesses, spot emerging trends, promotes strategic planning, and helps businesses to strengthen their position in the market.
Typical market research categorizes the PCB market by six end-user segments:
- Consumer electronics
- Communication network infrastructure
- Military and space
Market research in each of these categories has influenced changes in the PCB manufacturing that are more in line with the overall consumer demands and expectations:
Smart Consumer Devices with Dense PCB Boards:
The introduction of the first iPhone in 2007 has since triggered a series of innovation that makes smart consumer devices multi-functional. Customer focus has shifted from previously popular technologies like PCs and laptops towards handheld and wearable devices that are faster and promise efficiency on the go.
Consumer electronics have dominated the PCB manufacturing market over the past few decades and will continue to grow. A report by ID Techex suggests that the market for wearable technology could rise to $160 billion by 2028. Similar to smartphones, wearable devices also require PCBS, but they go a step further in design. As PCBs lose thickness and gain functionality with every year, manufacturers are now emphasizing design efficiency.
Green Manufacturing of Advanced Materials:
Similar to other industries, the PCB market also has to keep up with the manufacturing industry’s efforts toward more sustainable production methods. PCB manufacturers have been at a crossroad between maintaining industry standards and maintaining environmental legislation. For instance, the introduction of lead-free soldering machines required manufacturing processes that consume more energy. As a result, PCB manufacturing companies are required to achieve an equilibrium between energy consumption and productivity.
However, following market trends, the PCB industry has otherwise been ahead of the curve in regards to sustainable manufacturing methods. Traditional PCBs are manufactured using fiberglass (an environmentally friendly material) as a substrate. Additional advancements in manufacturing are now giving way to materials such as liquid crystal polymer and resin-coated copper, which are better suited for higher rates of data transfer.
Miniaturization and High-Density Interconnect:
On the whole, PCB manufacturing is in the middle of a series of technological advancements, with the majority of changes centered towards miniaturization. The shift towards miniaturization has resulted in the PCB boards becoming smaller and denser with more components in their designs. This will enable the deployment of more efficient PCB solutions in almost every domain, from space technology and industrial applications to cheaper automobiles and military equipment.
Since PCBs are a critical component of a majority of consumer goods, the entire consumer spectrum of electronics is now gravitating towards smaller footprints. This has caused PCB manufacturers to incorporate high-density interconnect technology (HDI) and the use of smaller RF and wireless components. In addition to this, further refinements in the HDI technology will reduce to PCB size to .4 mm.
High Voltage/Current PCB Boards:
While PCB assembly was previously carried out in low-voltage and low-current manufacturing methods, the market research demands the manufacturing to shift towards higher currents and voltages. As electric vehicles gain popularity and more industries adopt solar power, PCB manufacturing also needs to keep up with the growing demands. However, this will also come with its share of problems as safety concerns for the concerned staff would increase and thermal management will also become a more pressing issue.
Extensive market research in PCB manufacturing has led to increasing trends of miniaturization while maintaining sustainable development practices. Since printed circuit boards are extremely versatile, even minor changes to emerging technologies and consumer trends can have a lasting impact on the PCB market, including their usage and manufacturing techniques.