The Biggest PCB Manufacturing Trends We’ve Seen This Year

August 18, 2016 Alexsander Tamari

 

The field of PCB Manufacturing is constantly evolving. Technology is improving, new innovations are being made, and better manufacturing methods are being developed. Methods that were commonplace yesterday may today be obsolete. How can you keep up? Well, here are some of the PCB manufacturing trends we’ve seen in 2016 so far.

The field of PCB Manufacturing is constantly evolving. Technology is improving, new innovations are being made, and better manufacturing methods are being developed. Methods that were commonplace yesterday may today be obsolete. How can you keep up? Well, here are some of the PCB manufacturing trends we’ve seen in 2016 so far.

Increased Complexity, Reduced Thickness

Our electronics are getting much more complex and powerful. The latest generation of iPhone can do things that were practically considered science fiction a few years ago, and it just keeps getting more sophisticated. This means PCB boards with more and more layers.

At the same time, though, devices are also getting smaller. Smartphones and tablets are constantly being made thinner, and now wearables are catching on as well: all the functionality and accessibility of your phone, condensed into a watch. So PCB boards not only need to be more condensed than ever, but even the substrate needs to be thinner, so that they can fit increasingly complex computing systems into smaller and smaller packages.

 

pcb-manufacturing-increased-complexity-reduced-thickness

 

The current average thickness of a printed circuit board is between 0.5mm and 0.7mm. In the next few years, that’s expected to decrease to 0.4mm or smaller—with a higher overall pin count. The difference doesn’t seem like much, but it will open up a whole new realm of technological possibilities as we enter the era of wearables and IoT.

Embedded Components

As PCBs become more complex, 3D integration is becoming one of the growing PCB design trends, allowing for better miniaturization and denser boards, fitting more into a smaller space. The most promising approach to 3D integration is proving to be embedding components.

A variety of components can be embedded, from passives such as resistors and capacitors, to actives such as integrated circuits and chips. Embedding offers a number of advantages. It allows for smaller boards with increased complexity, while at the same time improving system performance and reducing overall manufacturing costs.

 

embedded-components

 

Embedded components provide for better signal integrity and reduced electromagnetic interference (EMI). And by embedding passive components directly under an integrated circuit pin, you can reduce wiring length and minimize things like parasitic capacitance and via inductance.

Improved Substrate Materials

Up to this point, PCB prepregs have been mainly fiberglass or epoxy. However, these materials have proven to fall short in handling higher process speeds and data transmission rates. Therefore, new substrate materials are emerging to handle our rapidly advancing technologies. Some of these materials include…

  • Reisin-Coated Copper

  • Reisin-Coated Film

  • Vacuum-Laminated Film

  • Liquid Crystal Polymer

 

improved-substrate-materials-1 improved-substrate-materials-2

 

More high performance substrates are continuing to be developed, with the goal being maintaining signal integrity, and improving processing while keeping costs low. While watching PCB design trends this year, keep your eye out for the development of more and better substrate materials.

What’s Next?

These are just a few of the PCB manufacturing trends we’ve seen take hold lately. For any PCB designer, it’s always important to be on top of the latest trends and improvements. Watch the industry closely and see which industry trends can help to make your job easier, more productive, or more cost-effective. What are some of the PCB trends you’ve noticed lately? Let us know in the comments below!

For more articles, white papers and guidebooks, please visit our resources page.

About the Author

Alexsander Tamari

Alexsander joined Altium as a Technical Marketing Engineer and brings years of engineering expertise to the team. His passion for electronics design combined with his practical business experience provides a unique perspective to the marketing team at Altium. Alexsander graduated from one of the top 20 universities in the world at UCSD where he earned a Bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering.

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