For decades, chipmakers have ventured to make parts smaller and cheaper. But electrical engineers are still pouring vast sums into the printed circuit boards where these chips live, according to data from an industry trade organization.
The market for printed circuit boards increased $58.6 billion last year, up 2% from 2014 after factoring in currency fluctuations, according to a report published Thursday by the Association Connecting Electronics Industries.
Sharon Starr, the organization’s director of market research, said that PCB companies are finding growth in spite of the larger slowdown in the electronics market. She predicted that makers of circuit boards for wearables, automobiles, and connected devices like wireless sensors, would prosper in the next few years.
The report also underlined the shifting nucleus of circuit board manufacturing. Asia now accounts for 91% of the world’s circuit board production, according to the report. Among the largest companies are Taiwan’s Tripod and Compeq, Japan’s Meiko, and South Korea’s Samsung Electro-Mechanics.
Electrical engineers are also increasingly using new types of circuit boards, the report said. The market for flexible circuit boards, which are manufactured by laying circuitry onto flexible plastics, grew significantly faster last year than rigid PCBs. Typically, the flexible boards are more expensive, but they can be twisted and curved in order to fit into awkward product shapes, like robotic arms, automotive controls, and wearable devices.