2013 iNEMI Electronics Roadmap
Every two years since 1994, iNEMI.org (International Electronics Manufacturing Initiative) has developed an all-industry roadmap for electronics manufacturers. This effort began with an industry-government partnership and has since produced 10 biennial roadmaps. The first roadmap had nine chapters with 106 participants from North America; the 2013 roadmap has 26 chapters and 650 participants worldwide, reflecting the true scope of this industry in the 21st century. It has expanded its coverage into additional areas of interest, including newer technologies such as MEMS, photovoltaics, and large-area flexible circuits.
Each roadmap addresses concerns throughout the industry, not just within specific market niches, but also in terms of the impact other technologies have on individual roadmaps.
In 2013, the iNEMI Roadmap addresses the following industry segments and technologies:
- Board assembly
- Electronic connectors
- Energy storage and conversion
- Environmentally friendly electronics
- Final assembly
- Information management systems
- Interconnect substrates – organic
- Interconnect substrates – ceramic
- Large-area flexible circuits
- Mass data storage (i.e. magnetic and semiconductor memory systems)
- Modeling, simulation, and design tools
Additionally, the roadmap looks at market drivers, such as product emulator groups, including portable/consumer, automotive, aerospace/defense, office systems, medical, and high-end systems. These dovetail with the product areas listed above.
Why do we produce this roadmap?
Some say the electronics industry is too dynamic, too uncertain, or that unpredictable events change the course of history. On the other hand, much is known about individual technologies and their evolutionary direction. In addition, a roadmap supported by the industry at large overcomes proprietary technology concerns — even in the highly competitive semiconductor industry, which produces an exceptional iNEMI roadmap in cooperation with ITRS. Taken together, iNEMI roadmaps provide the only industry-wide picture of future technology direction in the electronics industry.
Findings in the 2013 Roadmap
Findings include observations made in previously published roadmaps that are still relevant, as well as updated and new observations.
Modest growth is forecast 2013-17 worldwide. The exceptional growth consumer electronics has experienced will not continue at this time, as the pace of introduction for blockbuster products has slowed and economic growth remains tepid. The computer industry will continue to reflect technology shifts to ultra-mobile products, low power, and cloud computing, which will affect PC and server sales going forward. Telecom will be affected by the continuing shift to wireless, datacom, and Internet traffic. Automotive could be on the cusp of new electronics growth if the market holds up. Medical electronics and devices are in growth mode. Overall industry growth will be in mid single digits or lower, with the highest growth projected for medical and the lowest for mil/aero (and possibly industrial).
Silicon integrated circuit (Si IC) technology is approaching the end of Moore’s Law scaling, i.e. reaching molecular levels. This is increasing the emphasis on 3D/stacked die, new HD/TSV packaging techniques, and MEMS sensor growth, but there are uncertainties about the future, given the brick wall ahead. The impact of the slowing of IC scaling has not yet affected electronic components, but it could result in fewer breakthrough end products dependent on ever-smaller feature sizes. The industry to date, particularly in the past decade, has depended heavily on this trend to drive volume growth. It’s anticipated that R&D into “beyond Moore” IC technologies will be commercialized in the 2018-25 timeframe — both in copper and EO.
The connector industry roadmap is particularly challenging for several reasons:
- The industry is very broad, with many niche technologies and hundreds of manufacturers.
- Connectors are a reflection of specific electronic connection needs, which are almost unlimited in scope.
- Individual product lines number in the hundreds.
- Addressing the entire industry in one manageable document is a daunting task.
The connector industry roadmap aims to deal with the range of technologies as one group of core technologies (possibly two if fiber optics is considered separately) to develop product roadmaps on widely used and industry-standard products, as well as emerging technology areas.
The 2013 connector roadmap includes a look at environmental technology; connector types and technology transitions; trends and roadblocks; critical infrastructure issues by region; the impact of globalization and how manufacturers are adjusting; research and development needs; and individual product roadmaps for photovoltaics, PCB connectors, automotive/battery connectors, fiber optics, cable assemblies, sockets, USB, and much more. One area of significant interest, and one not normally examined in connector industry design discussions, is the cross-linkage of connector technologies to other component types and systems. The following chart reflects these areas, which, from time to time, influence connector design.
The connector industry is represented by five or six levels of packaging (nine if you include all outside plant versions), followed by two semiconductor interconnect levels. Lower levels of packaging will be impacted by technology forces primarily within the IC industry, increasing improvements in PCB/board technology, and the inevitable trend towards fiber optics. IC packaging and PCB/FPC technologies are achieving feature sizes well below the capability of conventional connectors. While these pressures are expected to continue, discrete connector applications will generally evolve with the industry, as seen below.
The connector industry, in general, will be able to meet most technology challenges over the decade. It will do so by continual improvement in the various enabling technologies outlined in the roadmap and by increased use of fiber optics, as circuit speed requirements transcend the capability of copper circuitry. One key area is high-speed Ethernet at 40-100Gb/s and high-performance backplane/midplane connectors with cabled FO interconnects.
There are a few areas where disruptive technologies will bear watching:
- Developments in semiconductor technology “beyond Moore’s Law” — including stacked 3D packaging, organic PCB technology developments, large-area flexible or integrated circuitry, emerging research devices and materials (ERD-ERM), and new packaging regimes that either eliminate connectors from lower levels of packaging, or call for dimensions below the capability of injection molded-stamped connector technology
- Potential materials breakthroughs, such as nano-materials that may enhance connector performance and dimensional capabilities and are expected to have a positive impact on the connector industry
- Breakthroughs in optical Si, which would relate to board-level fiber optics in high-end systems
- Specific niche issues, such as further environmental regulations that could impact certain connector applications
John has enjoyed a long and diverse career in the electronics industry, including management positions with IRC, TRW, AMP, and his own company, US Competitors LLC. He is the author of many industry articles, including past and current iNEMI.org connector industry roadmaps, U.S. government competitiveness initiatives, and numerous Bishop Reports on the computer and consumer electronics industries. He is an outspoken supporter of the future of U.S. manufacturing in a global marketplace.
John is a graduate of the Wm. Penn Charter School in Philadelphia, and of Lehigh University, Bethlehem, PA. He and his wife Louise, reside in Newark, DE, and Delray Beach, FL.
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