How will 5G affect the PCB boards industry

PCB     |      2021-10-14 09:35

Abstract: However, in the 5G era, the requirements for high transmission and high performance have doubled, and higher requirements have been placed on the design, raw materials, specifications and manufacturing processes of high-frequency and high-speed PCBs. PCB manufacturers are also facing the With more challenges.

Table of content

1. 5G development status

2. The 5g era promotes the development of the PCB boards industry

3. The demand trend of 5G high-frequency copper clad laminates appears

4. Challenges of 5G high frequency PCB factories



1. 5G development status

5G commercial licenses have been issued, driving the entire 5G industry chain into the fast lane of development, and promoting a substantial increase in market demand including chips, devices, materials, equipment, transmission, networks, and terminals. In particular, the acceleration of the construction of communication facilities such as antennas, base stations, and radio frequency modules upstream of the industry chain has driven the demand for communication materials required for 5G communication equipment to increase significantly, and the volume and price of high-frequency and high-speed PCBs have risen.Looking at the history of mobile communication from 1G to 5G, every change in information and communication technology is accompanied by a dispute over technical standards. Having experienced “1G simulation, 2G follow-up, 3G breakthrough, and 4G synchronization”, my country has ushered in a historic leap of “5G leadership”. 5G is a concentrated manifestation of new technologies for network development. 5G is not only a ten-generation mobile communication technology, but also an important pillar of a new generation of information technology, and it is also a commanding height of contemporary high-tech.


2. The 5g era promotes the development of the PCB boards industry

As we all know, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology has issued 5G licenses. As one of the key components required by base stations, PCB board manufacturers are the first to benefit. Industry insiders said: “The unit price of PCB used in 5G will soar, and the value of a single base station circuit board is as high as 15,000 to 20,000 yuan, which is about three times that of 4G base station circuit boards.” According to third-party market data forecasts, the world will be from 2019 to 2021. The market size of hard boards for 5G base stations is 4.7 billion yuan, 11.8 billion yuan, and 27.1 billion yuan, while the market sizes of hard boards for 4G+5G base stations are 12.8 billion yuan, 17.2 billion yuan, and 28.9 billion yuan. In the domestic PCB boards industry, the share of PCBs for Huawei’s core main equipment and modules and transmission equipment accounted for more than 70%, so PCB board manufacturers took the lead. 5G construction accelerates the growth of the communication PCB market, giving birth to huge market dividends for PCB upstream and downstream manufacturers. Based on the current competitive landscape of the PCB industry, from upstream materials to manufacturers of backplanes, the current situation can be described as mixed.


3. The demand trend of 5G high-frequency copper clad laminates appears

Due to 5G’s demand for high-speed transmission and high-frequency communication, PCB/CCL materials will be upgraded to high-frequency materials, and the number of layers of communication boards will develop to more layers, thus driving the growth of unit price and demand. Among them, PCB has a high degree of dependence on copper clad laminates. As an important substrate for PCB production, copper clad laminates are mainly responsible for the three major functions of PCB conduction, insulation, and support, and their performance directly affects the overall performance of PCB. At the same time, the single material cost of the copper clad laminate is also the highest, accounting for about 30% of the total material cost of the PCB.

At present, medium and high-end copper clad laminates are still dominated by overseas, especially the upstream raw material copper clad laminates of PCB. At present, domestic manufacturers have little research and development on high-frequency materials. The domestic company that can support the use of high-frequency and high-speed substrates is Shengyi Technology. As a domestic self-owned brand, Shengyi Technology is the domestic CCL manufacturer with the most complete product varieties and specifications. Its 5G high-frequency copper clad laminate can partially replace the high-end products of Rogers in the United States, and has achieved the gradual release of high-frequency copper clad laminate production capacity. In the high-frequency and high-speed PCB market, Shengyi Technology has occupied an important market share in the field of high-frequency and high-speed copper clad laminates by virtue of years of layout planning. At present, their self-developed hydrocarbon materials have achieved mass production in the field of power amplifiers, and have successfully achieved product breakthroughs in the field of antennas, and are gradually increasing their market share in the field of 5G high-frequency and high-speed copper clad laminates. It cannot be ignored that the current market concentration of my country’s copper clad laminate industry is still high, and there are certain technical barriers and process difficulties. Shengyi Technology is currently relatively leading. With the huge increase in demand in the 5G market, more PCB manufacturers are still facing A series of cost and process issues.


4. Challenges of 5G high frequency PCB factories

With the gradual transfer of global PCB production capacity to mainland China, China’s domestic PCB production value currently accounts for more than half of the world, but the proportion of domestic PCB manufacturers is still extremely low. Compared with the upstream CCL manufacturers in the domestic PCB industry, the current situation of PCB manufacturers is not satisfactory. If PCB manufacturers want to enter the 5G market, the biggest problem they face will be the integration, process, raw materials and technology of the PCB boards used in 5G. The cost pressure brought about by the upgrade of the Internet. Note that the 5G base station architecture includes antennas, integrated 2/3/4/5G BBUs, and RRUs supporting full frequency bands. Among them, the mainstream antenna solution is a PCB board made of hydrocarbon materials.

As 5G puts forward higher requirements for the integration of antenna systems, the AAU radio frequency board needs to integrate more components in a smaller size. In order to meet the isolation requirements, more layers of PCB are needed. According to Prismark, PCBs with more than 4 layers accounted for more than 70% of the total consumption of communication equipment, of which 8-16 layers accounted for 35.2%. Compared with the 4G period, the AAU radio frequency circuit board will also be larger in size. Considering the increase in the transmission power of the 5G base station, the working frequency band is also higher. Therefore, the 5G radio frequency circuit board also points out the high-speed performance of the material and its high-frequency performance. Higher requirements.

On the whole, the price of 5G PCB boards will increase significantly due to the increasing requirements for upstream materials, increasing the number of layers, and increasing specifications. It is worth noting that the 5G base station architecture changes and material selection are different, and the difficulty of PCB board processing has increased significantly. According to the data, the physical and chemical properties of high-frequency and high-speed materials are different from those of ordinary FR-4 materials, which makes it necessary to upgrade the process of drilling, etching and copper sinking in the PCB processing and production process; at the same time, due to Multiple functions need to be implemented on the same PCB board, and different materials need to be mixed and pressed, which poses challenges to the technical strength of PCB manufacturers. Therefore, under the influence factors such as rising raw material costs, increasing process difficulty, and increasing technical barriers, for 5G PCB board manufacturers, there are unlimited blue ocean prospects, but it is also difficult to break through technological challenges.


5. Conclusion

At present, many PCB manufacturers in China are mainly in areas with high concentration in the electronics industry, large demand for basic components, and good transportation and water and electricity conditions. Due to the current dispersion of the PCB industry and the high pressure of environmental protection, coupled with factors such as slight weakness in overall demand from global PCB manufacturers and rising raw material prices, the current development of the entire PCB industry is uneven. Driven by the demand for 5G communication equipment and terminal equipment, in addition to copper-clad laminate layout PCB manufacturers, they have also entered the field of IC substrates to realize the layout of MEMS sensor packaging substrates. The company has formed a multi-product line layout of multi-layer PCB, HDI, FPC, and packaging substrates. There are even PCB factories doing flexible printed circuit board technological transformation and expansion projects and SMT production line construction projects.