Survey Uncovers High Costs, Risks Associated with Prototyping PCBs Off-Site
Building multilayer printed circuit boards (PCBs) for professional-grade printed electronics requires high-quality and predictable materials and equipment. Companies that are involved in electronics manufacturing and design typically outsource production, are investing significant capital, and experiencing long turnaround times with PCB prototypes. They are looking for cost-effective, faster, and safer means for doing so.
That’s according to a new survey conducted by Nano Dimension Ltd., a leader in the area of 3D printed electronics. The 3D PCB Printer Readiness Survey, conducted over several months, garnered responses from nearly 300 electronics manufacturers and designers around the world. Survey responders ranged from engineers to designers and project managers, serving in a variety of production roles. Industries ranged from PCB manufacturers and OEMs to engineering, defense, manufacturing, aerospace, electronics, medical, sensors and wearables, telecommunications, energy and others.
Among the key findings, 16 percent of respondents said their companies spend more than $100,000 each year on PCB prototypes, and 17 percent spend between $50,000 and $100,000. Forty-four percent of respondents noted PCB spending of between $10,000 and $50,000 annually. Just 23 percent of respondents said their companies spend less than $10,000 on PCB prototyping each year.
“The off-site PCB prototyping process is rife with downsides: it’s expensive, it’s time consuming, and it puts intellectual property at risk,” said Simon Fried, Chief Business Officer at Nano Dimension. “The market has seen 3D printers rapidly prototype other kinds of products and the results of our survey reflect a market that is ready for 3D printing to now usher in a new era of PCB engineering. The time is now for engineers to print their own quality multilayer PCB prototypes in house- cheaply and quickly.”
Ninety-three percent of all survey participants said their companies work with short-run, low-volume external PCB prototyping services at some point each year. Sixty-two percent of the survey respondents noted the PCBs their companies create and use have high layer counts, which means their designs are more complex and the PCB prototyping process is expensive.
Notably, nearly two in three survey respondents worry about the security of their intellectual property when they send out their designs to third parties for prototyping. Other concerns companies typically cite when sending their prototype designs to outside firms include turnaround time, expenses, and potential delays in getting their products to market, particularly if prototypes need to be reworked several times.
While the bulk of the respondents were from North America, the survey brought in results from around the world, including nearly every European nation, Australia, India, Israel, and a variety of Asian, African and South American nations. Respondents included a mix of company sizes, with nearly three in four working for companies of fewer than 500 employees, and slightly more than one quarter working for companies with more than 500 workers.
According to BCC Research, the global market for electronics contract manufacturing (ECM) services should total $515.6 billion in 2015, reach nearly $561.2 billion by 2016, and $845.8 billion by 2021, a five-year compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 8.6% from 2016-2021.