The markets: Electronics (2018)

Although the printed circuit board is no longer the exclusive realm of glass-fiber composites, composites manufacturers are expanding elsewhere in the electronics market.

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Glass fiber/epoxy laminates have been the foundational structural substrate in printed circuit boards (PCBs) for decades. These iconic thin, green “cards” support the transistors, resistors and integrated circuits at the heart of almost all digital technologies and connect them electrically via conductive pathways etched or printed on their surfaces. Lucintel (Irving, TX, US) reported a global market for glass fiber in PCBs of 382,832 MT in 2013 and forecasted a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 4.5% to 498.951 MT by 2019. 

Glass/epoxy’s dominance, however, has been under challenge as a variety of trends — notably, toward miniaturization, better thermal management, increased speed and performance, and 3D printing — force PCB manufacturers to re-examine their material options. Will glass fiber composites meet tougher specifications as electronics development careens into unknown territory?

According to industry sources, the global PCB market grew from US$35 billion in 2006 to a 2013 value of US$62 billion, but the US share dropped from 15% to 5%, with 90% of PCBs now manufactured in Asia. Multilayer PCBs make up 47% of the market, with the highest growth projected for 8- to 16-layer boards. Rigid-flexible PCBs, now only 5% of the market, are forecast to grow fastest, reflecting the move toward smaller, higher-performance electronic devices. This trend also pushes growth projections for high-density interconnect (HDI) and flexible PCBs, the latter used in liquid crystal displays (LCDs) and touch screens. 


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