A decade ago, India was nowhere in the global PCB scene, but over the past few years, the country has managed to become an attractive global destination for PCB manufacturers. While China has established itself as a market leader, the industry is watching out for India’s next move.
India’s PCB market has registered a 27 per cent growth, and its revenue is expected to touch Rs 9000 billion by 2016, which is considered much higher than most countries. The PCB ndustry for the year 2010-2011 closed with an impressive growth of 17 per cent. An Indian Printed Circuit Association (IPCA) report states that many PCB units in India have grown in volume terms and, correspondingly, in turnover. While European PCB producer AT&S, with its factory in India, is in the No 1 position with a turnover in excess of Rs 2000 million, and is also ranked as the largest PCB exporter from India, the growth of home grown companies is also astonishing. Three Indian companies, Ascent Circuits, Shogini Techno Arts and Epitome Components, have registered turnovers of a little less than Rs 2000 million each.
What’s holding India back?
The European PCB industry is gradually closing down as it is unable to compete with the prices in Asia. “Companies are sourcing PCBs from Asian countries, and China and India are their main options,” explains Girish Vaikar, senior manager, business, Epitome Components Ltd.
PCB players agree that the Indian PCB industry is now very competitive in its pricing. “China’s advantage over India is that it manufactures laminate boards and India has to import boards from them. This increases the overall cost of manufacturing PCBs in India. However, China recently increased its electricity and labour costs, and this can work to the advantage of the Indian industry. The Chinese PCB manufacturers are increasing their prices accordingly, and the lower prices in India are now capable of attracting the existing buyers of Chinese PCBs,” Girish Vaikar adds.
Apart from raw material prices, there are other areas where India can improve. Girish Vaikar further explains, “The production capacities are much lower in India because industries here have a habit of starting small, testing the market and gradually increasing production, depending on demand. Now, India has woken up and we can see that there is a huge demand for PCBs in the market. The Indian manufacturers are beginning to realise this, and are expanding their factories and investing in technology to increase production. Moreover, local demand for PCB is huge and the demand for single sided PCBs is getting well catered to by some Indian manufacturers, but the high technological PCB segment in India is too small to cater to and a major share of it is imported.”
Rajesh Kumar, vice president and chief technology officer of PCB manufacturer DDi, states that India should also make efforts to cater to its own demands. Based on the feedback from the local industry, the PCB market size in India is around Rs 43.4 billion, of which India imports more than 75 per cent from countries like Israel, China and UK. “There is a demand for mid-to-high technology PCB manufacturing in India, but it is not supported well due to lack of capacity and investment in manufacturing technology. About 90 per cent of the PCBs fabricated locally are of very low technology (1 to 2 layers only). If India needs to compete with the rest of the world, then the country has to adopt and invest in best-in-class PCB fabrication capabilities to support electronic systems that go in its own automotive, defence and aerospace market segment. Once the domestic demand is met, India can focus on the global market,” he says.
If India wants to progress in PCB manufacturing, Rajesh Kumar feels that basic infrastructure like water and electricity should be easily provided to PCB manufacturers. He reveals, “At present, international manufacturers are apprehensive about setting up manufacturing units in India because of the lack of infrastructure and strict rules. Aspocomp tried to set up an HDI plant in Chennai, but it could not survive for even two years because of the unattractive Indian bureaucracy. China, on the other hand, invites manufacturers to set up base and keeps red tapism to a minimum. It also provides subsidies to such industries. Once the Indian government starts taking such initiatives and improves its way of doing business, we can aim for growth similar to what’s seen in China. This is a growing market and India is missing out on this great opportunity.”
PCB technology in India
PCB players feel that India has to leapfrog and go generations ahead in terms of technology. Miniaturisation of electronic devices is a trend that is here to stay. Semiconductors are getting smaller, and in turn, the PCB also has to decrease in size. As a result, manufacturers are resorting to double-sided and multi-layer PCBs. “This calls for microvia technology, that is, small holes or vias, generally created with lasers employing depth control, rather than mechanical drills, through which multi-layered PCB traces interconnect components. These vias are less than or equal to 50um in diameter,” comments Milind Patil, managing director, PCB maker Ibiden India.
High density interconnect (HDI) is one of the most accepted microvia methods in the world, as it helps to condense integrated circuit packaging for ruggedness, radiation hardening and high performance. “It helps in stacking one via over another, and is best used in free line spacing, where two vias have to be brought as close as possible. As the CSP pitch is shrinking down to 0.3 mm, HDI line spacing will come down to 40/40 um or less. HDI is used in 50 to 30 microns size. This technology is in demand abroad but it is yet to kick start in India,” believes Patil.
Another trend in the PCB market is an increasing use of aluminium boards. At present, boards are manufactured by using polyester as well as polyimide materials, but industry has started realising the benefits associated with the use of aluminium. “In PCB manufacturing, it is vital to use a base that has excellent heat as well as electrical conductivity. Aluminium has a perfect base for LED PCB manufacturing for the dissipation of heat devoid of extra heat sinks,” states Yateen S Mapara, marketing and engineering manager, a PCB manufacturer. Moreover, aluminium based PCBs are also known to be lighter and more durable. Yateen Mapara adds that this is the future of PCBs in the lighting industry. “While it is used on a large scale, abroad, India has also experimented with aluminium and the local demand for it has increased,” he concludes.
Electronics Bazaar, South Asia’s No.1 Electronics B2B magazine