Are Regional Differences in PCB Technology as Great as We Think?May 24, 2019 | Denny Fritz, Fritz Consulting
Estimated reading time: 1 minute
We keep hearing that Asia is all consumer and automotive electronics and North America and Europe are all high reliability/long life. The findings in IPC’s PCB Technology Trends 2018 study show that these regions are not as different as expected, and the differences we do see are interesting.
There are small differences in rigid board layers, line widths and materials. A bigger difference shows up in flexible circuits where there is more low-layer count flex going into consumer electronics. True, North America and Europe have more rigid construction boards going into long-life (11 to 25+ years) products, pushing reliability. HDI construction is larger in Asia, as expected, but certainly not unknown in North America and Europe.
North American and European OEMs specified significantly more buried vias than Asia. This could reflect either better acceptance of sub-laminations or more “any layer via” construction(not needing sub-laminations) in Asia. But, as Asia produces eight times as many boards as North America and Europe, Asian fabrication is quite capable of meeting the buried via needs of the other regions.
The study also shows that investment in direct imaging and AOI are the top two capital equipment investment priorities of the industry in both regions for the next two years. Likewise, reliability and cost were the top two technical challenges for the industry in both regions.
Are these findings consistent with your experiences of making or specifying PCBs in different regions? Do you think the regional differences are getting smaller? We welcome your comments.
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I have been in and around circuit boards most of my life. I started 20 years ago in my family’s PCB shop, leaving after a couple of years to start my own software company. About a year ago, I returned to the family business, and the first thing I noticed was that nothing had really changed. We were doing the same things in the same way as the day I left. After talking to several experts in the industry, I realized it was worse than that: The manufacturing of PCBs had not changed in 70 years.