Editor’s note: Welcome to our newest PCB007 columnist, Preeya Kuray, a materials scientist who will be writing about the impact of global affairs on PCB R&D in America, as well as the growing intersection between the PCB and chip packaging industries.
Although I fell into the PCB world somewhat accidentally, I remember the exact moment I knew I wanted to become a materials scientist.
At an undergraduate engineering information fair, I saw the breadth of research possible within the materials science discipline: superconductors, synthesizing gold nanoparticles for cancer cell detection, and organic photovoltaics. It was all endlessly fascinating, and my curiosity drove me to ask what was possible, and more importantly, what was next. I didn’t know the answers, but I knew that I needed to be a part of it.
Ten years later, after completing my PhD in materials science engineering, I found my current industrial R&D role: designing next-generation buildup films for HDI and chip packaging applications at AGC Multi Material America. Now I can put my passion and experience in materials science into practice for the PCB world, working toward answering questions like these: If the chemical structure of Component X is changed, how will this impact the overall buildup film properties? Will Additive Y bolster or completely dismantle my dielectric constant? Will incorporating Chemical Z enhance copper peel strength while still maintaining low moisture absorption?
These are the kinds of questions that reverberate through my mind daily. I have learned that creating competitive buildup films is a fine balancing act, akin to walking a tight rope: gain one property, potentially lose another. At the end of the day, you’re faced with the difficult choices of figuring out what’s important. What do customers truly care about, and what can we let go of?
As a newcomer to the PCB field, my job is not only to create new materials but to learn as much as I can from the PCB veterans, those who have been in this industry for the past two to four decades. I am often regaled with stories from my senior colleagues on what it was like working in the PCB industry in the 1990s vs. today. I’ve learned that in the ’90s, North America led PCB production with 1,500 operating board shops and production valued at $11 billion. Today, there are less than 200 board shops in the United States, and production is valued to be only about $3.5 billion.
What happened? How did we get here, and where are we going? These are the questions I hope to address in this column. How did the industry shift from North America to Asia over the last 30 years? What are the implications of Biden’s Defense Production Act, and how will it impact the PCB supply chain? What does the growing integration between chip packaging and PCB technologies mean from both an economic and scientific perspective?
I look forward to investigating these hot topics and sharing the knowledge I acquire from the PCB veterans and pantheon, lacing in bits and pieces of my own perspective as a materials scientist new to the field. Together, I hope to answer the pressing questions: How did we get here? And more importantly, what’s next?
“Comparing PCB Industry in China and the United States, How Small and Medium-sized Enterprises Can Do Better,” PCBA Manufacturers, Sept. 27, 2022.
This column originally appears in the May 2023 issue of PCB007 Magazine.