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PCB Shortage: The Effects of Circuit Board Shortages

In the past years, the pandemic led to the shutdown of many industries. The circuit board industry remained strong, but it suffered shortages. Circuit board shortages can hinder your PCB projects if you don’t plan. However, you can’t prepare for every need. At best, you’ll only have limited contingency plans. But, adequate preparation and component selection optimization can help to reduce the impact of unplanned needs for your PCB projects. This article will show you the effects of PCB shortage and how you can avoid the worst possible outcome.

Why is there a Circuit Board Shortage?

The pandemic is one of the main culprits of PCB shortage. In truth, most COVID-19-related rules clamped down on foil copper supply used for PCB production.

The copper foil demand is beyond the charts for battery and PCB industries, leading to increased price pressure.

All this, combined with excessive demand for new hardware, negatively affects PCB manufacturers and their supply. Thus, creating a circuit board shortage.

Additionally, the demand for aluminum for MPCBs (Metal-backed printed circuit boards) is rising. Hence, placing more strain on the already tight supply.

Types of Component Shortages

PCB Components

PCB Components

One problem that can halt your PCB projects is not having enough components. We can classify these component shortages into unplanned and planned categories, depending on the available foresight before it occurs.

Unplanned Component Shortages

Out of stock

Out of stock

Unpredicted Increase in Demand

Sometimes, manufacturers fail to account for the increase in market demands. And when a shortage happens, they can’t keep up, leading to even more needs.

Manufacturer Shutdown

A significant manufacturer shutdown caused by political sanctions or other unpredictable factors may also increase demands. Some other rare occurrences like accidents & natural disasters may render a manufacturer incapable of keeping up with orders.

Unavailabilities like these cause price spikes that may worsen the effects of the component shortage.

Planned Component Shortages

Semiconductor Shortage

Semiconductor Shortage

Insufficient Demand

When components reach the end of their lifecycle, demand drops. And this continues until manufacturers halt production. This reduction in component production is another reason for the shortage. However, you can buy such components in bulk to minimize the impact.

Technology Change

Technology changes usually have upgraded with new materials, processing, and packaging. Such changes push out the older variants and sometimes halt production. But, you can plan for this situation by buying in bulk before the components go obsolete.

Additionally, your PCB development stage and the component shortage type may require redesigning your project. So, you may use alternative components, which may cost significant time and money.

Electronics Industry Problems Created by the COVID Pandemic

Chip Shortage

Chip Shortage

It’s right to say the pandemic caused many problems for the electronics industry. Here are some changes made due to COVID-19 difficulties.

Increased Market Demand for New Electronics

Demand for new electronics was off the charts as more people stayed home to study and work. Hence, the electronics industry had to double its efforts to produce and supply components for the following devices.

  • Home entertainment systems for tv and gaming.
  • Display, computer, and networking equipment for home offices.
  • Smart home devices like cameras for home security.
  • Educational systems like laptops and tablets for virtual home classes.
  • Communication systems for connecting homes.

The Pandemic’s Industry Impact

Although the electronics industry worked hard to meet the demands of several business changes, it also suffered heavily from the pandemic. For instance, there were labor shortages and an unbalanced raw material supply chain.

Evolving Consumer Needs and Requirements

The pandemic changed consumers’ spending, forcing businesses to modify their products and services. For instance, the automobile industry reduced the number of new vehicles produced to match consumers’ reduced driving.

Also, they reduced the number of electronics needed for production, forcing the industry to develop components for other electronic devices.

What’s the Result of These Shortages?

PCB shortages result in manufacturing delays in various industries, including electronics and automotive.

As mentioned earlier, the automotive industry suffered a massive blow to its production targets. Also, most PCB components fall more than fifty weeks behind schedule in the electronics sector. Component prices have also increased by large margins because of these shortages.

How to Avoid Component Shortages

Shortage Solution

Shortage Solution

Component shortages can spoil your PCB development plans and add extra costs to your budget. But here are some measures you can take to help reduce the impact on your project.

PCB Shortage: Preparing for Unplanned Component Shortages

It’s good practice to prepare for the worse. For example, if your components become obsolete over time, the best counter would be using details with ready alternatives. Preferably, you can use those with similar performance and packaging.

As previously stated, buying in bulk is an effective strategy to mitigate the effects of component shortages. Though this option may cost a fortune, purchasing enough components for the future is safe.

PCB Shortage: Preparing for Planned Component Shortages

Keeping up with technological advancements helps you know which components will have advanced replacements. Hence, you can prepare and anticipate these changes before they hit the market.

Another thing to check constantly is your component’s lifecycle. It helps you predict shortages, especially for specialized and high-performance features.

When will the Electronics Shortage End?

Semiconductor shortage

Semiconductor shortage

It’s easy to think that the electronics shortage ended after the pandemic. Sadly, that’s not the case. In truth, there are even more shortages as the demand and supply chain are unbalanced.

After all, the pandemic was only one of the issues. It helped to expose previous global supply chain problems that aren’t easy to fix.

Final Words

Different semiconductors and chips

PCB shortages are one of the few disasters left behind by the pandemic. Demands have increased, and the supply chain seems to be lagging.

However, we can attribute this imbalance in the demand and supply chain to several factors in this article. And though we wish for this shortage to end, it doesn’t seem like it’s going away anytime soon.
Do you have any questions? Feel free to reach us, and we’ll be happy to help.

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Emma Lu
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