A global study published this month by IPC – Association Connecting Electronics Industries, is now available. The survey-based study, PCB Technology Trends 2016, shows how printed circuit board (PCB) manufacturers are meeting today’s technology demands and looks at the changes expected by 2021 that will affect the whole industry.
Based on data collected from 118 electronics assembly companies and PCB fabricators worldwide, the 237-page PCB technology trends study presents data segmented by five key applications: automotive, defense and aerospace, high-end systems, industrial and medical electronics.
The study covers board properties, such as thickness, layer count, heat dissipation and tolerances; miniaturisation, including line width and spacing, I/O pitch, via diameters, aspect ratios, via structure.; materials, addressing rigid, flexible, stretchable, metal core, reinforcement, thermal properties, loss characteristics, lead-free, halogen-free and surface finishes.; and special structures, such as embedding, optical channels and chip packages. The study also looks at how printed electronics are used, including 3D printing, and reports on trends in traceability, compliance and technical challenges in the manufacture of PCBs.
Among the study’s findings is that more than half of the participating companies currently produce or assemble through-hole boards designed to meet the tolerances required by the use of press-fit assembly technology. One-third of those who produce only standard through-hole boards today anticipate the need to achieve these tolerances by 2021. The study also shows that companies today primarily use subtractive etch processes to achieve very fine lines and spaces, but anticipate a shift away from subtractive etch to additive and semi-additive processing and imprint patterning in the next four years. The study found that only one percent of participating companies use stretchable materials today, but more than 20% expect to use them by 2021. The participants also predict a substantial increase in the proportion of PCBs that are chip packages or modules over the next few years.