BANNOCKBURN, IL — A new survey finds more than half the responding companies currently produce or assemble through-hole boards designed to meet tolerances required by the use of press-fit assembly technology. One-third of those who produce only standard through-hole boards today anticipate the need to achieve these tolerances by 2021.

The survey-based study conducted by IPC shows how printed circuit board manufacturers are meeting today’s technology demands and looks at the changes expected by 2021 that will affect the industry.

PCB Technology Trends 2016 also shows companies today primarily use subtractive etch processes to achieve very fine lines and spaces, but anticipate a shift to additive and semi-additive processing and imprint patterning in the next four years.

Data were collected from 118 electronics assemblers and PCB fabricators worldwide.

The study found only 1% of participating companies use stretchable materials today, but more than 20% expect to use them by 2021. The participants also predict a substantial increase in the proportion of PCBs that are chip packages or modules over the next few years.

The 237-page PCB technology trends study presents data segmented by five applications: automotive, defense and aerospace, high-end systems, industrial and medical electronics.

The study covers board properties, such as thickness, layer count, heat dissipation and tolerances; miniaturization, including line width and spacing, I/O pitch, via diameters, aspect ratios, via structure, etc.; materials, addressing rigid, flexible, stretchable, metal core, reinforcement, thermal properties, loss characteristics, lead-free, halogen-free and surface finishes; and special structures, such as embedding, optical channels and chip packages.

The study also looks at how printed electronics are used, including 3D printing, and reports on trends in traceability, compliance and technical challenges in the manufacture of PCBs.   

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