ECWC 2014 Market Session: Connecting the World

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Device embedding technology had a long history in Europe in the ceramic hybrid sector, and had been employed in PCBs since the late 1990s. The technology had the benefits of fast design and fabrication. High-reliability product development was possible and standard components could be embedded in small and medium quantities. The alternative was to design on silicon, which could offer substantial cost and size reduction, but involved high set-up expenses and long design cycles and was only appropriate for large-scale production.

Weinhold showed examples of various techniques, proprietary and non-proprietary, for component embedding, inspection and test, and made value-in-use comparisons to illustrate costs and break-even points. It was clear that embedded technology had the potential to improve quality, miniaturisation, energy efficiency, and thermal management, but also clear that PCB fabricators would have to learn how to absorb and master the challenges of fabrication, assembly, device testing, and end-use application. And it had to be understood that the market opportunity was determined by quantity. Once quantities were sufficiently large to make it economically viable for silicon and chip packaging industries to take an interest, they would sooner or later find a solution. The silicon solution would be selected and implemented, and that particular product would be lost to the PCB industry.

To properly realise the opportunity presented by embedded component technology, it was important that the PCB industry should encourage electronic designers to recognise it as a fast and cost-effective route to market. This would stimulate demand for small-to-medium batch quantities and offer a good return for PCB fabricators.

Bill Burr delivered that final paper of the session, with some thought-provoking observations and alternative views on the growth of the solid state lighting market and its impact on the PCB industry: “Is it really time for overdrive? The LED dilemma.” He foresaw a fundamental paradigm shift driven by the technical and market parameters of solid state lighting and a Moore’s Law counterpart known as Haitz’s Law, which stated that every decade, the cost per lumen would fall by a factor of 10, and the amount of light generated per LED package would increase by a factor of 20.

“The times they are a-changing!” There had been artificial lighting since man first discovered fire, and of recent times the lighting business had been dominated by a few big-name manufacturers whose business model was to churn out billions of replacement light bulbs. Then came LEDs, characterised by low power consumption, low operating voltage and small form factor. And they had a much longer life expectancy than conventional bulbs, typically 50,000 hours compared with 1,000 hours. There were an estimated 14 billion light-bulb sockets in the world. Each time a conventional bulb was replaced by a solid state device, it effectively took one socket off the market.


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