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Printed Wiring Board Industry: Part 1 - 4 Market Analysis of Industry

A. World Market Summary

The total world market for all PWBs is approximately $21 billion.a The United States and Japan are the dominant leaders, although the four tigers (Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan, and Korea) have been increasing market share in recent years. The distribution of production for rigid PWBs by selected countries and regions is shown in Figure 1-2. The breakdown of the world market for rigid PWBs by type of substrate is shown in Figure 1-3 and, as can be seen, multilayer boards dominate the world market.

Figure 1-2. U.S. Dollar Demoninated(1) Share of World Rigid PWB Market for Selected Countries/Regions.

Figure 1-3.  U.S. Dollar Demoninated(1) Production of World Rigid PWB Market by Type of Substrate.

A historical perspective on the world market share (in U.S. dollars) for PWBs is shown in Figure 1-4. U.S. domination of this world market eroded from 1980 to 1990, but has come back slightly in recent years. Japan and the four tigers have been the predominant competitors who have captured the world market share lost by the United States. Japan is now seeing its own market dominance erode as the four tigers continue to capture market share.

Figure 1-4. Historical World Market Share for Rigid and Flexible Circuits

B. Domestic Market History/Overview

Since 1980, rigid multilayer PWBs have grown to dominate the domestic production value of all PWBs. Rigid multilayer boards now account for approximately 66% of the domestic market. One-quarter of the market is double-sided rigid boards, and the remainder are single-sided and flexible circuits. The market for multilayer boards has grown from approximately $700 million in 1980, to almost $3.4 billion in 1993. Figure 1-5 shows the history of this growth in the multilayer market.

Figure 1-5. Comparison:  Multilayers (including high-performance multilayers) vs. All Other Rigid PWBSs  (excluding flex).

Although multilayer rigid boards dominate the dollar volume of production, single-sided PWBs by far dominate the number of circuit boards produced in the United States. Of the approximately 1.3 million PWBs produced in the United States in 1993, almost 900,000 were single-sided and only 150,000 were multilayer boards. However, the average cost for a single-sided board is 58¢, while the average cost for a multilayer board is about $22 (Table 1-3).

Type of PWB Total Value of Production Average Cost per Board No. of PWBs (in millions)
Multilayer $3.350 billion $21.74 154,000
Double-sided $1.186 billion $5.65 210,000
Single-sided $0.521 billion $0.58 890,000
Totals $5.057 billion 1,254,000

Source: IPC Technology Marketing Research Council, June 1994.

Table 1-3. Quantity and Value of Domestic PWB Production.

Another historical shift over the past ten years has been outsourcing PWB manufacturing. In 1980, captive OEM operations accounted for about 50% of the PWB market. Independent or merchant PWB manufacturers accounted for the other half. As is clear from Figure 1-6, captive houses have been shutting down their PWB manufacturing operations and instead purchasing PWBs from the smaller independent manufacturers.

Figure 1-6. Historic Trends of Make vs. Buy for PWB Production in the U.S. (by dollar volume)

Now, only one quarter or less of the PWB manufacturing is done by captive houses. The remaining 75% to 80% is produced by independent PWB manufacturers. The reason for this shift is that OEMs are focusing on their core business assembling the final consumer products rather than manufacturing all the intermediate components such as PWBs or cathode ray tubes (CRTs). Thus, the OEMs now frequently purchase components (including PWBs, CRTs, subassemblies, drives, etc.) that can be readily out-sourced. Boards are purchased from independent PWB manufacturers who specialize only in PWB production, rather than try to maintain the hefty costs, expensive equipment, personnel, and technical expertise required for in-house PWB production. The introduction of computer-aided design (CAD) has also facilitated the transfer of design information, and therefore, the outside manufacture of PWBs.

C. Imports/Exports

Import and export data on the PWB market is extremely difficult to estimate, primarily because the nomenclature and codes used by the International Trade Commission and the U.S. Department of Commerce are confused by printed wiring assembly and printed wiring board importers and exporters. Printed wiring assemblies are printed wiring boards on which electronic components such as integrated circuits, capacitors, and resistors have been mounted. With such valuable components mounted on them, the value of PWAs are clearly much greater than bare PWBs.

By combining the U.S. Department of Commerce data with their market research, the IPC estimates that domestic PWB imports are approximately $500 to $600 million annually. The largest single importer is Taiwan with about 30% to 35% of the import market. Japan, Hong Kong, Korea, and Thailand each have about 10% of the import market. With respect to exports, it is estimated that total domestic PWB exports amounted to about $100 million dollars in 1993 (2% to 3% of total domestic production). This estimate does not include PWBs exported by OEMs in their equipment.

D. Major Domestic Markets and Trends

The seven basic markets for printed wiring boards are described below.

  • Automotive: engine and drive performance, convenience and safety, entertainment (radios), and other applications for diagnostic display and security.
  • Communication: mobile radio, touch tone, portable communication, pagers, data transmissions, microwave relay, telecommunications and telephone switching equipment, and navigation instruments.
  • Consumer electronics: watches, clocks, portable calculators, musical instruments, electronic games, large appliances, microwave ovens, pinball/arcade games, television, home entertainment, video records, and smoke and intrusion detection systems.
  • Computer/business equipment: mainframe computers, mini computers, broad level processors, add-on memory, input/output devices, terminals, printers, copy machines, facsimile machines, word processors, cash registers, teaching machines, gas pumps, and taxi meters.
  • Government/military/aerospace: radar, guidance and control systems, communication and navigation, electronic warfare, ground support, sonar ordinance, missiles, and satellite and related systems.
  • Industrial electronics: machine and process control, production test and measurement, material handling, machining equipment, pollution, energy and safety equipment, numerical controls, power controls, sensors, and weighing equipment.
  • Instrumentation: test and measurement equipment, medical instruments and medical testers, analytical, nuclear, lasers, scientific instruments, and implant devices.

A summary of the market share for these various groups is shown in Figure 1-7. By far the largest market is computers and business equipment, followed by communications and automotive. Automobiles will use increasing amounts of electronics, and communications demand will continue strong growth. Computer and business equipment may be leveling off, while government and military electronic demand is expected to remain weak in the face of Congressional budget cuts. Since the majority of consumer electronics products (e.g., TV, stereo, VCR) sold in the United States are produced off-shore with off-shore PWBs, changes in the domestic consumer market will probably have little effect on domestic PWB production. These trends are expected to continue for at least the near future.

Figure 1-7. Market for PWBs in the United States in 1993.

E. Analysis of Laminates and Process Consumables for Rigid Boards

The printed wiring board product market is normally broken down in one of two ways: either by the type of substrate used (glass, paper, composite) or the type of board produced (single-sided, double-sided, multilayer). Table 1-4 shows the U.S. market summary for PWB production broken down by type of substrate used for rigid PWBs. Glass substrates compose the largest market segment by far. In addition to rigid PWBs, the United States also produces approximately $400 million of flexible circuitry.

Type of Substrate PWB Dollar Volume Laminate (ft2)
Glass, 1-sided $110.2 6.03
Glass, 2-sided $1,115.0 64.08
Glass, thin $2,892.3 118.0
High-performance $458.0 7.0
Paper, 1-sided $8.0 1.0
Paper, 2-sided $0.0 0.0
Composite, 1-sided $425.2 38.0
Composite, 2-sided $48.8 2.0
Totals for Rigid PWBs $5,057.6 236.0

Source: IPC Technology Marketing Research Council, June 1994.

Table 1-4. Domestic Rigid PWB and Laminate Production by Type of Substrate Used (all dollars in millions/all square feet in millions).

As part of the 236 million square feet of laminate used in 1993, the PWB industry consumed approximately 587 million square feet of copper foil and 52 million pounds of epoxy resin. The industry also consumed approximately 60 million pounds of fiberglass yarns used in 322 million square feet of pre-preg. Pre-preg is un-cured epoxy-fiberglass material used to separate and electrically insulate the layers of circuitry in a multilayer PWB. Figure 1-8 summarizes the sales of various process consumables in 1993, such as drill bits, brushes, and tapes. These process consumables exclude laminates as well as other chemicals. The value of chemicals used in the industry was approximately $520 million. The primary chemicals used include the following:

Figure 1-8. Sales of Various Process Consumables for Rigid Boards in 1993.

  • Plating chemistries (additive, electroless, electrolytic, etchback/desmear, oxide);
  • Solder mask (dry film, photoimagible liquid, screen-defined);
  • Etchants (ammoniacal, peroxide sulfuric, solder neutralizer);
  • Imaging products (dry film, photoimagible liquid, screen defined, resist);
  • Imaging chemicals (aqueous and insolvent developers and strippers); and
  • Other chemicals (fluxes, metal strippers, cleaners, anti-tarnish, waste treatment chemistries).


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