Last Updated on October 23, 2023 by Kevin Chen
Printed circuit boards (PCBs) are the drivers of the modern technology. They are present in every electronic device and are used for performing various critical roles. They determine the functionality and as well as the performance of the electronic devices and appliances.
On the other hand, PCB technology is also deriving an array of benefits from general technological advancement. The latest developments in the world of technology have influenced the processes of designing and building printed circuit boards.
At this point, we can conclude that the relationship between PCB and modern technology is symbiotic. They tend to derive benefits from each other. The latest trends in the PCB technology are mainly driven by the consumer demands. For example, users of electronic devices and appliances are going for smaller products. This forces manufacturers to adopt the miniaturization of the PCB technology.
Common applications of PCB technology
To understand the trends in PCB technology, it will be prudent to have an overview of some of the most common application areas of PCBs. They include the following:
- Industrial application: PCB technology is widely used in the assembly and manufacturing industries. Almost all the equipment that is used in the production environment depends on the printed circuit boards to run smoothly.
- Healthcare: This is another major industry that relies on PCB technology. Name any electric device that is used in the healthcare industry, you will not fail to spot the presence of printed circuit boards in it.
- Automotive industry: Modern vehicles have advanced electronic features that depend on printed circuit boards. We are in an era of electric vehicles and autonomous vehicles. Such developments have been made possible by the printed circuit boards.
- Military and aerospace: Modern warfare is heavily influenced by technology. Unmanned aerial vehicles are just among the many applications of PCBs in the military arena. We are also witnessing heavy investment in the aerospace and space exploration industries.
- Consumer electronics: Electric devices and appliances that are used by average consumers heavily rely on PCB technology. They include smartphones, laptops, gaming consoles, and kitchen appliances among others.
PCB technology trends in 2023
Here are some of the latest trends in the PCB technology:
High density interconnects
High-density interconnect refers to a technology in which a printed circuit board has a high wiring density per unit area. This is quite different from the conventional PCBs in which wiring is evenly distributed on the surface of the oriented circuit board. HDI on PCB are classified into different categories as defined in the IPC-2226.
What are the impacts of HDI on PCB? The most basic relevance of this interface is it allows compact wiring and interconnections through the existing pads and vias. The technology also ensures that very few materials are used for implementing wiring. This helps to lower the cost of PCB manufacturing without degrading the performance of the modules.
High density is among the key drivers of miniaturization in the printed circuit board industry. Wearable devices and other portable electronic devices are powered by HID technology.
IoT technology in PCB
The Internet of Things technology has also penetrated deep into the world of printed circuit boards. IoT majorly focuses on the interconnections between devices to exchange data and automation. Modern PCBs are embedded with an array of IoT features and properties to support data exchange and as well and automation.
For example, modern PCBs have sensors that are capable of reading different types of data. They also have network chips that support the transmission of data. The fact that IoT is used across all major industries implies that more PCBs will embrace this technology.
AI and machine learning
Just like IoT, artificial intelligence and machine learning are also making serious inroads in the field of PCB. AI is mainly used in the manufacturing or production of modern printed circuit boards.
Production systems are trained to implement various PCB production activities such as assembling the PCB components. On the other hand, some printed circuit boards are also embedded with AI technology. They can execute various tasks autonomously or without close human supervision.
3D printing PCB
This is another technology that has revolutionized the production of printed circuit boards. Also known as additive manufacturing, this is a technique that entails creating 3 dimensions of a project using its model. The models are designed using various 3D tools.
3D printing has made it easy to produce large volumes of printed circuit boards within a short time frame. It is faster than most conventional manufacturing techniques. For example, it eliminates the need for a PCB assembly process as all the parts are built onto the surface of the board 3D printing has also contributed to the affordability of the PCBs. Additionally, it reduces the accumulation of solid waste during the manufacturing process.
Biodegradable PCB technology
In recent years, it has become increasingly important for PCB manufacturers to focus on the environmental impact of their products. One of the responses to this is the development of biodegradable PCB modules.
Some components that makeup printed circuit boards are known to contain toxic matter such as lead. This mainly affects the finishing and the coating of the PCBs. Once the PCBs get damaged or reach the end of their lives, such toxic materials will eventually cause environmental degradation.’
To counter this, manufacturers have been shifting towards the use of environment-friendly materials for PCBs.
PCB manufacturers have been forced to respond to the growing demand for miniaturized electronic devices and appliances. One of the ways is by manufacturing flexible PCBs. As the name suggests, these PCBs are made of materials whose structures can be altered to fit into small spaces.
These PCBs comprise films that are arranged in circulatory layers. Component placement can be single-sided or double-sided depending on the application or intended use. Flexible PCBs are used in devices such as wearable devices, automotive devices, health equipment, and military devices among others.
There is a high demand for better performance on modern electronics. The underlying hardware systems should ensure that data is transmitted and processed fast. The latest PCB technologies are optimized for speed. With the global rollout of 5G technology, PCBs are designed to support high-speed transfer of data.
The performance of the PCB is also measured by the integrity of the signals. Modern PCBs are designed to protect the signals from both internal and external interference. These PCBs are embedded with enhanced features that act as shields. Also, high-grade materials are used for manufacturing components that are involved in the relaying of signals.
Challenges facing the latest trends in PCB technology
Despite the latest trends and the benefits that come with these trends, several challenges are facing PCB technology due the modern trends.
Complex PCB modules
One of the major challenges is the complexity of the PCB technology. While the technology shifts towards miniaturization, there is always a need to maintain performance and upgrade the functionality of the PCBs. PCB manufacturers are usually forced to resort to complex solutions to achieve a perfect blend of these desirable features on a single module.
New PCB modules are increasingly becoming more complex, both in terms of design and assembly technologies. This makes it hard to repair and maintain in case they get damaged. The task of handling complex PCB modules has been reserved for the experts.
Cost of PCB modules
The latest trends in the PCB technology have an impact on the price of the PCB modules. As we have mentioned, PCB modules are becoming more complex. It costs more to produce such PCB modules. The high cost of production is transferred to the buyers meaning that modern PCB modules tend to attract high price tags.
On the other hand, the technology has made it easy for the mass production of PCBs hence balancing on the pricing factor. Also, the supply chain of the PCB and its components has expanded by a significant margin resulting in a reasonable market price of these components. With the right sourcing agent, you are likely to buy PCB components at reasonable prices.
Going by these trends, what are your expectations in the PCB industry and what is the future of the PCB technology? Financial market analysts have already predicted that the PCB technology market value will hit the $128 billion mark by the year 2030. The high market growth rate that is expected in the industry is influenced by various factors, among them the attest trends and innovations that we have just discussed.
So, where do you sit on the PCB technology spectrum? Are you in the business of assembling PCBs? One of the ways of staying abreast with the latest trends is by buying quality electronic components for PCB modules. The best way of doing so is by choosing reputable PCB components sourcing agents in China. You should also consider working with consultants and experts in this industry. They will give you all the vital data and information that you should know about these trends.
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