Technology and Development Prospects for the European Marketplace


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Nolan Johnson speaks with Tarja Rapala-Virtanen technical director of the EIPC who breaks down the current state of the European market and which technologies and market segments are seeing growth. 

Nolan Johnson: Tarja, how would you describe the current European marketplace? Is this a time of refinement? How about innovation or growth?

Tarja Rapala-Virtanen: I would say it’s a time of innovation, but how good are they? How can they manage to do the implementation, NPI, and prototyping to show the reliability, quality, and features that can be fulfilled, while simultaneously meeting all the necessary technical requirements for the product? The requirements are becoming harder, but engineers are clever. There are some very interesting new technologies coming for the additive technologies.

Johnson: What are the drivers for that innovation? Some of it is responding to COVID. Other parts are a response to customer demands and technology requirements.

Rapala-Virtanen: I think one reason the additive is pushed is sustainability. If you look at, for example, Continental, Infineon, and Bosch, all these suppliers for automotive are very strong on sustainability and CO2 emission. I’m from Scandinavia and, as you know, Scandinavian countries have always been active in environmental development. It’s understood here that something must be done.

It’s clear that the additive technology also improves the capability; instead of etching away [the copper] you only plate where it is needed and simultaneously the fine line resolution is improved. Of course, the manufacturing technology selection depends on the end customer product design, which PCB manufacturing technology is used.

Johnson: Correct me if I’m wrong, but automotive as an industry plays a large part in the European market.

Rapala-Virtanen: Yes, it does.

Johnson: And automotive plays an increasingly large part in the global market when it comes to electronics manufacturing. It seems like the requirements for automotive are quickly becoming the requirements for the industry overall.

Rapala-Virtanen: For me, the telecom side, like 5G and automotive, are moving toward similar types of products. The new autonomous vehicles are like a small base station because they need to communicate with the network. There is a huge amount of information and data from the vehicle which must be connected to the network all the time. For automotive, as you know, the reliability requirements are stringent.

Johnson: Right. It’s an interesting situation in automotive. The automobile is a base station, but it must be very environmentally rugged.

Rapala-Virtanen: It has to be very reliable because the connection must be working all the time, without latency or dropouts.

Johnson: So, is there enough pressure from the market to retool the factories in Europe? Are they retooling for this?

Rapala-Virtanen: Yes, they have, but nobody really knows exactly what the automotive product will be, if they use the same etching and lamination processes, or if they should be ready to implement some of the new manufacturing technologies.

But it will be very interesting to watch. I don’t know if it will be the telecom or automotive that will be first to implement some of the new ways of manufacturing.

To read this entire conversation, which appeared in the January 2022 issue of PCB007 Magazine, click here.

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