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Herndon, Va. -- Although the downturn in the electronics industry has delayed deployment of many technologies, there are still areas that promise potential growth, according to the 2002 roadmap of the National Electronics Manufacturing Initiative (NEMI).
This was the topic of discussion at a luncheon April 2 at IPC SMEMA Council's APEX Conference & Exposition in Anaheim, Calif.
The big news of the past two years has been the significant impact that the economic downturn has had on deployment of technology. In many areas, the technology growth envisioned by the 2000 NEMI roadmap is still on the horizon, but is delayed. Some of the most obvious of these are optoelectronics, embedded passives, enterprise supply chain IT tools and 3G cell phone infrastructure. In addition, the movement of manufacturing to China is gaining momentum and will continue to put competitive strain on North American manufacturers. Today, 7.5 percent of electronics assembly is done in the People's Republic of China. According to Prismark Partners, it will be 35 percent by 2020.
The portable products sector continues to show the most growth. The large and growing proportion of products in this sector are either wireless communication devices or devices that incorporate wireless communication capability to access the Internet, the regular telephone system or both.
Ramp-ups continue to accelerate in this sector and in the office system products sector. Most high-unit volume products evolve quickly from small-scale manufacturing near design centers to large-scale manufacturing near market centers, and finally to large-scale manufacturing near low-cost labor centers. The need for rapid introduction of complex, multifunctional new products has led to the development of functional, modular components or "system in package" (SiP). As a result, SiP has emerged as the fastest growing packaging technology, although still representing a relatively small percentage of unit volume.
Legislation impacting the design and recycling of electronic products is under discussion throughout the world. Two directives, RoHS (Restriction of the use of certain Hazardous Substances in electrical and electronic equipment) and WEEE (Waste from Electrical and Electronic Equipment), which will govern the material content and end-of-life management of electronic products, are in the final legislative stage in the European Union and must be implemented by 2006 and 2004, respectively.
North American manufacturers continue to lag behind in implementing "green" products, which will affect their competitiveness in world markets. To date, most efforts in North America have focused on developing the processes and capabilities that will allow for the elimination of lead and other materials of concern; however, there are other issues to consider that will have significant impact such as materials data tracking and end of life responsibilities.
Industry-standard information management tools are needed to help manufacturers meet new content-tracking requirements. Of primary importance is the development of standards for collection, documentation and transmittal of information about the material content of components, assemblies and systems. This information will be needed to effectively and safely dispose of products at end of life, and is also required by systems manufacturers and their suppliers in order to respond to the growing number of environmental inquiries related to their products.
Design for environment (DfE) and lifecycle assessment tools are needed to help manufacturers address the complex trade-off process of developing products with minimal environmental burden. Manufacturers need tools that will help them select materials and components with reduced environmental impacts, eliminate hazardous or potentially harmful substances, and increase both the reusability and the recycleability of products.
Energy efficiency is also becoming an increasing concern, both from an environmental standpoint and from a functional concern for portable (i.e., battery-operated) systems. While standards have already begun to develop for management of important system components such as storage devices and monitors, additional power management standards will be required.
The NEMI roadmaps have consistently highlighted the need for various design, test and modeling tools. Not only does this continue to be an area where action is needed, but the problem is becoming more complex as performance increases and products become more integrated. Additionally, design, like manufacturing, is becoming more distributed, making collaboration and supply chain orchestration more challenging. The 2002 roadmap identifies several areas for which tools need to be developed:
- DfX areas need greater attention (e.g., design for supply chain optimization, design for environment).
- Co-design of mechanical, thermal, RF and electrical performance of the entire chip, package and system is a key cross-cutting need.
- Simulation tools are needed by 2005 for optoelectronics and nano-electronics.
As with the 2000 NEMI roadmap, supply chain management is seen as a key differentiator and as the primary means of improving productivity. Business models are transforming as more functions are outsourced, and companies need information technology (IT) to facilitate loosely coupled business process integration that spans multiple companies and feeds into multiple industries. In addition, companies are merging their factory, enterprise and supply chain strategies into an integrated product lifecycle information management (PLIM) strategy.
One trend is the evolution of information portals. Online information portals represent the latest -- and potentially the most successful -- attempt to provide a single, personalized access point to all the information employees need to monitor and control the processes within their scope of responsibility. Yet, for the highly complex electronics value chain, the information portal is still nascent and emerging. For other discrete and even process manufacturing industries, the real value (context and relevance to a business process or operation) is still an elusive goal.
There continues to be a growing need for collaboration standards and technologies. The standards that do exist are not broadly adopted, and additional standards are needed to facilitate configure-to-order and design-for-postponement processes
Optoelectronics was a hot topic in the 2000 roadmap. However, long-haul broadband capacity was overbuilt to meet the expected demands of Internet traffic that was doubling every 100 days. As the cyberspace boom slowed (to doubling once a year), the large investments telecommunications companies made in their infrastructures (such as installing miles of fiber) did not yield the expected returns. Growth of optoelectronics in the telecommunications industry over the next several years is most likely to occur in the next-generation SONET equipment market, modules for the enterprise market and associated optical components. In addition, there are other applications where optoelectronics are making inroads. For example, automotive and FTTH (fiber to the home) applications show potential for growth in the next 10 years and represent high volume as well.
Automation and standards continue to be the key stumbling blocks to low-cost, high-volume production. Industry must develop improved optoelectronic subcomponents and materials that reduce costs in order to expand the market. Plus, standards are needed for packaging, reliability, interoperability, testing, transport and more.
The National Electronics Manufacturing Initiative's mission is to facilitate leadership of the North American electronics manufacturing supply chain. For more information, visit www.nemi.org.