Published 08-03-2022
| Article appears in February 2022 Issue

Strong year predicted for electronics innovation

04-03-2022

While 2021 was a strong year for the fast-paced world of electronics innovation, 2022 is shaping up to be even stronger. Circuits Central, a key operator within the US electronics manufacturing and prototyping industry for many years, has developed a list of electronics manufacturing trends which will drive this growth.

1. Advancements in materials in PCB assembly
For decades, silicon has been a mainstay of the semiconductor industry, but there is a limit to how much you can etch, lithograph, and pattern a silicon material. Therefore, new materials and architectures are enabling integrated circuits to perform better.

Efficiencies and enhanced performance are being achieved by using silicon alternatives and other semiconductor materials or composites such as GaN, and SiC, graphene, and nanomaterials,

2. Organic electronic devices
Traditional inorganic electronics cannot compete with organic electronics. Due to their cost-effectiveness, flexibility, indissoluble nature, optical transparency, lightweight, and low power consumption, they are highly desirable. Organic electronics have also become more popular as manufacturers become aware of sustainable development and eco-friendly production.

The next trend in electronics manufacturing will likely be designing circuits with microbiological components and manufacturing devices out of biodegradable materials. Furthermore, electronics manufacturers can use fewer, safer, and more abundant raw materials by using organic materials to manufacture their products. Thus, it gives companies new opportunities, and as a result, they gain a competitive edge in the long run.

3. The use of artificial intelligence
In every sector, AI-powered solutions are becoming more popular. One way AI drives growth in semiconductor manufacturing is by creating demand for smart, AI-enabled electronics components, and another is by improving design and manufacturing processes. Reshaping the product development cycle, improving product design processes, reducing defects, and delivering products faster on the market are all challenging tasks for traditional methods.

The application of artificial intelligence can overcome these challenges. Manufacturers can also reduce production line downtime by implementing predictive maintenance. As a result, artificial intelligence is one of the most important trends in electronics manufacturing.

4. IoT
Electronics manufacturers are experiencing unprecedented growth due to the Internet of Things (IoT). The system reevaluates fabrication processes and manages procedures that are difficult to execute with conventional approaches. In addition to enabling machines to store and process data themselves, electronic manufacturing machines can also be connected to the internet.

Continual improvements in sensor fabrication are also necessary because sensors represent the key to enabling IoT applications. Moreover, for the transition to 5G-enabled devices, chips with efficient architectures and flawless performance must be developed at lower costs.

5. The embedded system
Electronic devices are not complete without embedded systems, which play a key role in determining their speed, security, size, and power. There is high demand for embedded systems as we transition into an increasingly connected world. To improve performance, safety, and connectivity capabilities, numerous innovations are occurring in the design and manufacture of embedded systems. Furthermore, these systems play a key role in increasing machine control and monitoring in electronics manufacturing facilities.

6. Printing technologies
The most effective method for reducing the overall cost of PCB assembly is to print electronic components on semiconductor substrates. As a result, manufacturers continuously look for new technologies and upgrade conventional printing methods to conquer this challenge.

Printed electronics rely on conductive inks and flexible films rather than traditional semiconductors, which use tiny wires to form circuits. They can also be printed anywhere. In addition, advances in printing technologies also contributed to the momentum of the flexible hybrid electronics field. Accordingly, startups and scaleups are working on solutions for advanced printing.

7. Advances in IC packaging
With chip design and packaging becoming hot topics in recent years, chip packaging is no exception. Moore's law - an old method of scaling a device - has its limitations nowadays.

Alternatively, multiple complex devices can be packaged in an advanced package to create the benefits of scaling. To provide greater silicon integration in increasingly miniaturised packages, semiconductor companies develop advanced IC packaging technologies. Additionally, vertically stacked modular components enable manufacturers to offer customization and improve yields. Furthermore, advanced IC packaging optimises manufacturing processes to balance customer needs with overall costs.

8. The miniaturisation of electronics
The miniaturisation of electronics has opened up several new application areas. Due to space constraints, specific devices cannot be implemented in the healthcare and automotive industries.

There was a limit to miniaturisation due to their practical handling, display, and battery, rather than electronics built-in. Innovations are being made to reduce the size of electronic components while maintaining speed, reliability, and efficiency. As miniaturisation advances, more features are integrated into one compact unit. Some recent developments in miniaturised electronic components include Nanonet sensors and Forksheet FETs.

9. Added value with additive manufacturing
With 3D Printing, flat circuit boards are no longer necessary in electronics manufacturing. Through it, it is possible to create new and innovative designs and shapes that would have been unattainable otherwise.

3D printers also create electronic components as a continuous, single piece, allowing them to manufacture fully functional electronics that require minimal assembly. Because of the implementation of this electronics manufacturing trend, prototyping processes are sped up, mass customization is possible, and parts can be produced decentralised.

A general benefit of 3D printing technology is that electronic components can now be produced in three dimensions, rather than just two, and circuits can now be stacked in new ways.

10. Technologies that rely on immersion
During different stages of the PCB assembly process, humans play a significant role. Human error is a possibility in manufacturing, and it impedes overall efficiency. An effective solution to these challenges is the adoption of immersive technologies. Using such solutions, all possible scales of design objects are inspected, eliminating product defects at the design stage.

A circuit quality check identifies design problems in the circuitry and common manufacturing problems like slivers, missing solder pads, and starved terminals before fabrication begins. Moreover, it facilitates personnel training, prototype development, and assembly maintenance and enables operators to visualise production workflows before changing their lines.

Despite another challenging year for manufacturing, 2021 provided an opportunity to improve risk management programs, manufacturing operations, and supply chain management. Organisations will be better prepared for 2022 if they embrace environmental issues instead of fighting against them.

Manufacturers can build more dynamic and flexible supply chain structures and operations by embracing these changes. The new year will be successful if this mindset is applied, as it reduces risks, streamlines processes, and creates a clear path for success.

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