What Is the Development Trend Of Multi-layer PCB In The 5G Era?

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Since the birth of 5G technology, it has been a new opportunity for all industries, especially for the electronics industry; it is a crucial development opportunity.

The development of 5G has promoted the construction of large-scale data centers that need many high-end communication PCB boards to handle the enormous traffic. However, It will also require more and more layers and materials for multilayer circuit boards. So, the PCB multilayer board is moving towards high-precision and more complex trends.

What is a PCB multilayer board?

PCB board features
PCB board features

A multilayer PCB board refers to a circuit board with more than two layers, which consists of connecting wires on several layers of insulating substrates and pads for assembling and soldering electronic components.

They have higher requirements for quality and reliability than single and double boards. They are mainly used in communication equipment, high-end servers, medical electronics, aviation, industrial control, military and other fields.

What is the impact of 5G on PCB multilayer boards?

From the perspective of constructing a single base station, the high frequency and speed of 5G will significantly improve the value of communication printed circuit boards.

From the perspective of the number of 5G base stations, the number of 5G base stations will be much larger than the number of 4G base stations, especially a certain number of micro base stations will be covered in the blind area, improving the demand for circuit boards.

3. From the perspective of 5G technology, with the increase of 5G channels, the requirements for the area and number of layers of a single-chip PCB multilayer board will be higher, and the performance requirements of the board will also become higher, and the production cost will increase.

What are the challenges of PCB processing in 5G?

Requirements for materials:

5G equipment needs high-frequency and high-speed materials and PCB boards. In terms of high-frequency materials, these leading material manufacturers, such as Lianmao and Panasonic, have begun to develop high-frequency boards and launched a series of new materials.After the normal competition, it will improve the performance, convenience, and availability of materials.

Requirements for quality monitoring:

Due to the increase in the 5G signal rate, the deviation of  PCB board has a more significant impact on the signal performance, which requires stricter control of the production deviation of PCB board. However, It will become the bottleneck of future technological development due to the PCB manufacturers’ processes and equipment are not updated much.

Requirements for process technology:

5G-related products will increase the demand for high-density PCBs(HDI). It will promote multi-stage HDI products and even products interconnected in any order.

PCB copper thickness uniformity, line width accuracy, interlayer alignment, interlayer dielectric thickness, control accuracy of back drilling depth, and plasma drilling decontamination capabilities are all need in-depth study.

Requirements for PCB design: The selection of the board must meet the needs of high frequency and high speed, and impedance matching, stacking planning, wiring spacing/holes, etc to meet the signal integrity requirements. Including amplitude, mixed pressure, heat dissipation, and PIM.

Requirements for equipment and instruments:

Hgh-precision equipment and pre-processing lines with less roughening of the copper surface are the ideal processing equipment at present, and the test equipment includes a passive intermodulation tester and flying probe impedance tester, loss test equipment, etc..

Precise pattern transfer and vacuum etching equipment, detection equipment for line width and coupling spacing that can monitor and feedback data changes in real-time; electroplating equipment with good uniformity, high-precision lamination equipment, etc. can also meet the production needs of 5G PCB.

Application and Development of PCB in 5G Era

Although the development of 5G is affected by the COVD-2019, many countries still strive to develop 5G applications, such as remote teaching, intelligent diagnosis and treatment, AI technology, etc.

From development data in 2020, 5G is still the key to driving the growth of the industrial economy. In 2020, the global PCB output value will grow by 2% and reach about 62.5 billion US dollars. From 2020 to 2025, the compound annual growth rate of the global PCB output value is expected to be about 5%. In 2025, the global PCB output value is expected to be close to 80 billion US dollars.

From the application perspective, most PCB markets also declined in 2019, but the demand in the infrastructure of 5G networks and data centers continued the growth trend in 2018, among which the output value of the server/data storage field was year-on-year. An increase of 3.1%;

The computer industry, including server/data storage, accounted for 28.6% of the global PCB output value. But overall, communication electronics is still the most important application in the PCB industry, accounting for 33.0% of the global PCB market in 2019.

5G has started a new construction cycle, and base stations, consumer electronics, and servers in communication equipment will benefit. In the 5G era, PCBs will be widely used in the following areas:


PCB is mainly used in automotive functional systems such as electric control, assisted driving, and in-vehicle communication. New energy vehicles include assisted driving and even ADAS (advanced driver assistance system), which is more electronic.

It will add value of Automotive PCB.

The PCB area of a car is getting larger and larger. In 2018, the PCB consumption of a car was 1 square meter, and it is expected to reach 3 square meters in the future.

With ADAS (Advanced Assisted Driving ) increasing, the millimeter-wave radar- the core component of ADAS is expected to increase.

High-frequency PCB has become the main substrate of millimeter-wave radar due to its stable performance, which is more expensive than ordinary PCB. So, it will increase the unit price of the vehicle PCB.

New energy vehicles are an important industry trend. In 2019, global new energy sales reached 2.6 million vehicles, with a sales share of 2.8%, and there is still huge room for PCB increase.

Since the sales growth of new energy vehicles is faster than that of pure fuel vehicles, its proportion in the overall vehicle sales is expected to increase, driving the volume and price of the automotive PCB market to rise.

In terms of categories, the annual output value of the new energy vehicle PCB market in 2019-2021 is about 10-17 billion yuan, the fuel vehicle is about 44-46 billion yuan, and the overall value is about 56-63 billion yuan.



A.base station

On the one hand, due to the reduction of the high-frequency coverage radius of 5G, more base stations are needed for the same coverage. At the same time, the structural change of 5G base stations has brought about an increase in the consumption of single-station PCB/CCL;

B.Consumer Electronics (Mobile Phones)

The increase in the number of 5G mobile phone antennas and transmission lines promotes the increase in the penetration rate of FPC (flexible circuit boards), while the demand for FCCL (flexible copper-clad laminates) as FPC substrates is expected to grow rapidly;


5G and cloud computing have brought massive data storage and computing requirements, pushing the expansion of data centers. As a basic component, PCB is expected to grow with the server market recovery rapidly.

cloud computing

In 2019, the global server market was 11.74 million units, a year-on-year decrease of 9.3%. In 2020, benefiting from the continuous fermentation of AI and cloud computing, the global server market will benefit from 5G data demand.

It is predicted that the CAGR of global server output in 2019-2024 may reach 6.5%.

The three major components of the PCB used in the server are the backplane, main board, and HDI board. The total PCB area is 0.57 square meters per one. The corresponding high-speed PCB market price is conservatively estimated at 3,000 yuan/square meter. The value of a server PCB is 1710 yuan.

According to the “2020-2026 China PCB Industry Development Situation Analysis and Market Scale Forecast Report,” data shows that the recovery of the server market is expected to bring a PCB market with an annual output value of over 20 billion yuan.

Based on the value of a single server PCB of 1,710 yuan, the global server PCB output value from 2020 to 2023 is expected to reach 21.1, 22.5, 23.9, and 25.5 billion yuan, respectively. China’s output value is expected to reach 6.9, 7.5, 8.1, and 8.9 billion yuan during the same period.

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