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5G- PCB Manufacturing Is Facing New Challenges

It is expected that the impact of 5G on electronic devices should not be underestimated. From faster data rates to more data traffic, the impact will be huge. Importantly, manufacturing innovation needs to be able to handle this size and quality. From transportation to industrial applications, from mobile phones to entertainment applications, the impact will be everywhere. PCB manufacturing is no exception.

The 5G era has provided a huge market and opportunity for the PCB industry. According to estimates, the direct output economic benefits of 5G in 2020, 2025 and 2030 are 484 billion yuan, 3.3 trillion yuan and 6.3 trillion yuan respectively. The economic benefits of output were 1.2 trillion yuan, 6.3 trillion yuan and 10.6 trillion yuan respectively.


From the construction of communication networks, to terminals, to derivative applications, 5G has put a lot of demand on PCBs. In 5G wireless base stations, bearer networks, transmission networks, and core network hardware facilities, PCB hardware applications will increase significantly, such as 5G RF boards, backplanes, high-speed stencils, servers. Motherboard, microwave board, power board, etc. With the upgrading of communication technology, from 4G to 5G, the amount of PCB required in the communication base station has risen. Due to the high frequency microwave characteristics of 5G, the base station density is higher than that of the 4G base station. At the same time, the processing frequency, data transmission and processing speed of various devices are much higher than the 4G era. These core master devices, transmission devices, and antenna/RF devices place very high demands on high-frequency high-speed boards, and the unit price is higher than that of 4G base stations. It is estimated that in a single base station, the 5G base station requires twice as much PCB as the 4G base station. In addition, 5G terminal equipment, such as mobile phones, smart watches, etc., must also be updated with the communication technology. This part of the PCB requirements is much larger than the infrastructure part.

It is predicted that the total value of the 4G macro base station PCB is about 5,492 yuan. The global 4G base station PCB market space is about 5 billion yuan / year ~ 9 billion yuan / year, corresponding to CCL (copper foil substrate) about 1 billion yuan / year ~ 2 billion yuan / year. The value of 5G macro base station PCB is about 15104 yuan / station. In the peak year, the PCB demand brought by 5G base station construction is about 21 billion yuan / year ~ 24 billion yuan / year, corresponding to CCL market space of about 8 billion yuan.

5G requires comprehensive improvement of PCB technology

While 5G brings opportunities to the PCB industry, it also puts higher and more stringent requirements on technology. Its indicators in terms of speed, integration, heat dissipation, frequency and multi-layering are much higher than 4G.

Full spectrum intervention, Massive MIMO and ultra-dense networks will be the core technology for implementing 5G networks. Accordingly, technical challenges have also been raised for PCBs. First, the base station radio unit and antenna have undergone major changes in structure and function, mainly because the number of radio unit channels increases (8 channels rise to 64 channels), corresponding PCB area increases; 4G base station equipment RRU plus antenna unit The structure is changed to a 5G AAU structure (integrated with RRU and antenna functions), which corresponds to a higher degree of PCB integration. Secondly, in order to achieve ultra-dense network coverage, in addition to spectrum applications below 6 GHz in the 5G spectrum, 28G, 39G and other millimeter-wave spectrum resources for hotspot coverage and high-capacity high-speed transmission will be widely used. Therefore, high-frequency microwave base stations The demand for high frequency PCBs will increase. Finally, under the network architecture of 5G independent networking, in order to meet the technical requirements of high-speed transmission, the PCB required for data transmission equipment such as baseband unit, network board, backplane, server, etc. will use higher-level high-speed copper clad material. . "These technical challenges require domestic PCB companies to constantly grasp the technology and market trends, and take the road of differentiation in order to build a unique competitive edge.

In addition, thermal management of PCB products may be particularly important in the future. Not only the reasons for adapting to high-frequency devices, but also the heat dissipation requirements of high power and high power density. The application of new high thermal conductivity materials, special heat dissipation structure PCB requirements will emerge. The servers required for big data, cloud computing, etc. are high-level, high-reliability multi-layer boards; new technologies such as Internet of Things, intelligent manufacturing, and automatic driving, there will be some PCBs with special structures and special technical requirements. Special materials are used, but they may also be special structures that are different from traditional PCBs, or PCBs that require much higher precision than conventional.

Gain insight into customer needs and take the road to differentiation

With the rapid development of the electronic information industry, the PCB industry continued to grow. The global PCB output increased from more than 40 billion US dollars in 2008 to 60 billion US dollars in 2018. The global share of China's PCB industry has also changed dramatically, from less than 10% in 2000 to 30% in 2018 and over 50% in 2018.

In the past 10 years, the focus of the PCB industry has continued to shift to the Asian region, and China has become the largest industrial base for PCBs in the world. 

Different from the OEM manufacturing of standard products, PCB is a customized product for downstream customers. It is a highly “customized” product, which requires a deeper understanding of customer needs. 5G is a technology that is constantly developing and constantly innovating. If you can't keep up with the needs of customers, it is difficult to make progress with the market by making more thorough and detailed research on products.

In the 5G era, many products have high requirements for raw materials and production processes. Only by establishing a good raw material supply system in China can we achieve a stronger and stronger 5G PCB field in a steady and rapid manner. For example, companies that use printed circuit boards for communication equipment need to study high-speed materials applications to study signal integrity and signal simulation. At the same time, high-speed material process research is needed, and corresponding equipment upgrades are required to meet the requirements for improved circuit board processing accuracy.

Although the large-scale implementation of 5G takes some time, the fact is that every industry, including PCB manufacturing, needs to be prepared for the upcoming changes. If done correctly, PCB manufacturers can benefit from the fact that PCB inspection and verification achieves very high precision and can easily track defective PCBs. Needless to say, each of these aspects in turn brings cost-effectiveness and offers a great competitive advantage.


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