Up, Up, and Away - Reasons for Renewed Optimism in the Mil/Aero PCB Market


Reading time ( words)

In retrospect, the musings of the controversial German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche would have provided some very accurate foresight had I considered it in the ‘80s as I embarked on a career in military printed circuit manufacturing: “That which does not kill us makes us stronger.”

As anyone who has been in the military circuit board business in the last few decades will attest, it has been both extremely challenging (due to the many obstacles) and wonderfully rewarding (because our collective work supports our country and our war fighters). Along the way there have also been many decisions made by the DoD that have seemed totally misguided, counterproductive to our national security, detrimental to the domestic printed circuit industry, and negatively impacted the overall sustainment of our defense industrial base. The commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) initiative comes immediately to mind.

When I was a young man entering the U.S. printed circuit board industry in 1981, many domestic shops were bustling with activity in support of our nation’s military. While the exact numbers are a little hard to pin down, my personal recollection is that there were north of 2,500 domestic circuit shops and hundreds of them were military approved (to the old Mil-P-55110 specification).

Today, there are barely 200 printed circuit manufacturing facilities in the United States. A review of the current Defense Logistics Agency database and Qualified Manufacturers Listing (QML-31032) reveals that as of August 2014 there were a total of 31 U.S. printed circuit fabricators certified to build military circuitry. For accuracy, it should be noted that Sanmina-SCI, TTM and Viasystems have multiple certified facilities, so the total manufacturing site number is slightly higher.

In the 2005 industry report, Linkages: Manufacturing Trends in Electronics Interconnect Technology, the National Research Council (NRC) determined that U.S. production of PCBs was less than 10% of the world output (whereas it had been more than 40% in the 1980s). Additionally, and for further perspective, according to a 2010 National Defense Industrial Association (NDIA) report, Recovering the Domestic Aerospace and Defense Industrial Base, overall, the U.S. PCB industry shrunk by an estimated 74% from 2000–2010.

In terms of revenue, that same NDIA report defines the significant revenue losses in U.S. domestic PCB output as having reduced dramatically from $11 billion in 2000 to less than $4 billion by 2008.

Nietzsche quotes, history and bad news out of the way, there are some real reasons for optimism in the U.S. military and aerospace segments of the PCB industry.

Read the full column here.


Editor's Note: This column originally appeared in the October 2014 issue of The PCB Magazine.

Share




Suggested Items

I-Connect007 Editor’s Choice: Five Must-Reads for the Week

01/27/2023 | Nolan Johnson, I-Connect007
This week, the IPC APEX EXPO event has cast a long shadow across the news feeds. No, that’s not the right metaphor. No, not a shadow; shadows are dark. It would be more accurate to say IPC APEX EXPO cast a beam of illumination upon the news feeds for the electronics manufacturing industry. To that end, the APEX EXPO news makes a prominent appearance in this week’s editor’s picks.

Integra: Redefining Die Prep in the U.S.

01/25/2023 | Matt Bergeron, Integra
Integra is one of the largest and most experienced semiconductor die prep, assembly, test, and qualification facilities in the United States, with locations in both Wichita, Kansas, and Silicon Valley. At the recent IPC Advanced Packaging Symposium, Integra was invited to present information about how we meet our customers’ specific needs.

Ventec: Contextualizing the CHIPS Act

01/05/2023 | Nolan Johnson, I-Connect007
Nolan Johnson hears from Alun Morgan, Technology Ambassador at Ventec, and Mark Goodwin, Ventec’s COO, about the benefits and risks posed by new PCB-oriented legislation in the U.S. and Europe. Faced with a rapidly consolidating industry, especially in the face of mounting pressure from the Russia-fueled energy crisis, government intervention is a welcome prospect—as long as legislators are committed to addressing the full scope of the issue, including the supply chain’s migration to Asia. Ventec is hopeful that, having been called on to educate government officials on the challenges facing the industry, they will help spur future legislative changes that will protect and grow the industry’s interests.



Copyright © 2023 I-Connect007 | IPC Publishing Group Inc. All rights reserved.