A new report published this week by IPC, Trends in the North American Market for PCB Prototypes, reveals cycles in demand for PCB prototypes that often differ from demand trends in regular or volume-production PCB sales. Despite high volatility in prototype sales from month to month, the IPC data show clear cycles in prototype sales growth, year over year. Rigid PCB and flexible circuit prototype sales do not always reflect growth in the rigid PCB and flexible circuit markets overall.
Since 2014, rigid PCB prototype growth peaked in 2015, when overall rigid PCB sales growth was flat. In the first half of 2017, year-on-year sales growth for rigid PCBs and rigid PCB prototypes were both in negative territory, but the downturn for prototypes was more severe. In contrast, flexible circuit prototype sales took a nosedive in 2015 when overall flex sales were up. Flex prototype sales rebounded sharply in the first half of 2017 while regular-production flex sales were falling below last year’s levels.
Different drivers are the likely explanation for the different patterns of growth in sales of prototypes versus regular-production PCBs. New product development is a major driver of prototype work, while regular-production PCB sales tend to be more cyclical, reflecting economic conditions and end-user demand.
The study is based on data from IPC's North American PCB Statistical Program covering 2014 through mid-2017. Data on prototype sales percentages by month compared to regular-production PCB sales, and estimates of North American prototype market sizes, are reported for all PCBs as well as for rigid PCBs and flexible circuits separately. The 29-page report, priced at $250 for IPC members and $500 for nonmembers, is available for immediate download in IPC’s online store.