Patty's Perspective: Are We Flying Yet?


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Walt Custer is on a photo safari in Africa and suggested I take a look at some of his slides regarding the military/aerospace market and then give a little report on it. Well, I am no Walt Custer, so while I can tell you a bit about where things are, far be it from me to make predictions.

In 2015, the military market represented 8.4% of the world market for electronic equipment production. As a comparison, the communication and automotive markets were 22.2% and 8.6%, respectively. Monthly defense equipment orders have been between  $3–3.5B for 2015, rising slightly in 2016, while inventories have remained stable at around $6 billion. For 2015, worldwide production of military and aerospace PCBs was 5.1% of the total $59.2 billion market. Note that all of these numbers and percentages are in dollars, which no doubt means the total percent of square footage produced for the mil/aero industry was considerably lower. See the charts on the next page.

Aircraft deliveries have seen a steady rise; predictions are for a slow, steady rise from approximately 1430 units in 2016 to approximately 1750 by 2032. In the aircraft end of things, non-military represents roughly two-thirds of the shipments (including parts).

According to Walt (and others, of course) the best opportunities for North American and European PCB manufacturers are military, security and medical electronics; PCBs with intellectual property/sensitive content issues; quick-turn, prototype and novel PCBs; and those requiring close collaboration and local support. Most everyone has figured out the need for a high mix/ low volume operation and often look to global (read Asia) partnerships for high-volume work.

We all know that building for the military and aerospace industries is not for the faint of heart, nor for those lacking persistence and/or looking for the quick project or sale. We hope that our authors and columnists below provide some additional insight on this important market and what is required to participate.

First up, John Vaughan (Zentech Manufacturing) fills us in on recent market developments that should be of particular interest to both PCB and EMS manufacturers. He covers the F-35 and F-16 programs in detail, then discusses foreign military sales (FMS) and efforts to speed up the approval process.

Next, Dan Feinberg (Feinline Associates) explores disruptive technologies, in particular virtual and  augmented reality. While we often think of VR/AR as sophisticated toys, in reality many  applications are already in use involving the mil/aero industry, including training, treatment and more—a lot more.

Regular columnist Dave Becker (All Flex Flexible Circuits) discusses mil/aero specifications from the flex circuit manufacturer’s point of view. He first gives us a little history on flex specs including Mil-P-50884, Mil-PRF-31032 and IPC 6013, explaining the differences along the way. Omni PCB’s Tara Dunn, in her column, complements this nicely with a discussion on troubleshooting some mil/aero flex projects.

Read the full column here.

 

Editor's Note: This column originally appeared in the September 2016 issue of The PCB Magazine.

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