The Development of Automobile Intelligence has Increased the PCB Consumption

The development of automobile intelligence has increased the PCB consumption

Consumers’ demand for cars has changed, and new functions have emerged as the times require. Automobiles have been developed for more than 150 years since the invention of the internal combustion engine in the 1860s.

Since 2010, consumption upgrades have begun, and the new four modernizations(electrification, networking, intelligence, and sharing) have become the mainstream trend of automobiles. People’s demand for automobiles has begun to change. The definition of cars has gradually changed from a travel tool to a third space.

A new era of smart cockpit is coming. Due to people’s new individual needs for cars and striving to create a third living space, the smart cockpit came into being. 

The development stage of the cockpit has gradually evolved from the electronic cockpit to the intelligent assistant, human-machine co-driving and the third living space. The smart cockpit will realize functions including entertainment, interconnection, positioning, and services. The intelligent development of automobiles will significantly increase the PCB consumption.

Table of Contents

Automobile screens and instruments are developing towards multi-screen and large-screen

The market scale of central control display and LCD instrument grows rapidly

The central control screen continues to change and develops towards intelligence and multi-function. The development of the central control screen has gone through multiple stages, from the initial car central control consisting of buttons and knobs to the initial high-end models with simple function screens, and then the screen functions have been continuously improved and developed towards intelligence.

automotive central control screen

At present, the car’s central control screen can realize many functions including autonomous navigation, audio-visual entertainment, reversing images, etc. The upgrade and evolution of intelligence and function integration make the car central control screen continue to carry the key core functions of the smart cockpit, becoming an indispensable part of the car cockpit. The missing part will drive the overall demand.

LCD instruments have undergone technological innovation, and digital technology has become the main direction. Automotive instruments have experienced continuous evolution from mechanical instruments, electrical instruments, and analog circuit electronic instruments to virtual instruments.

At present, fully digital virtual instruments have become the mainstream of application, using the display, processing and storage capabilities of computers to simulate the processing of physical instruments. The digital instrument adopts a liquid crystal display, and its information display is more comprehensive and accurate, which further ensures driving safety and improves the sense of technology and driving experience of the vehicle.

Multi-screen, large size, to achieve both volume and price

Multi-screen has become a trend, driving the demand for automotive touch screens to grow. According to the data from Automotive Research Institute, in the first half of 2021, multi-screen and multi-screen models will show aggressive growth against the trend.

Among them, the sales of central control multi-screen models increased by 61% year-on-year, and the sales of cockpit multi-screen models increased by 155% year-on-year. This sales performance shows that car companies are determined to promote multiple screens, and the market acceptance is also high. It is expected that in the future, multi-screen vehicles will continue to increase, increasing the overall demand for automotive touch screens.

multi-screen vehicles

The average number of screens of newly launched models is expected to continue to grow rapidly. With the continuous improvement of intelligent driving technology, people have more leisure time in the car for entertainment or other activities, and the cockpit becomes people’s second office and second living room.

Car companies have launched new cars with multiple screens. The average number of screens of newly launched models will show rapid growth from 2019 to 2025, from 1.62 in 2019 to 2.66 in 2025, and multi-screen will gradually become the standard configuration of new cars.

Large size has also become the main direction for car companies to increase the value of the screen. In addition to the increase in the number of screens, the screen size has also ushered in continuous growth, especially represented by new energy vehicles.

According to CINNO Research data, in the first three quarters of 2021 in the Chinese market, the sales of new energy passenger car central control display CID 12.0” and above accounted for 48%, which is 29% higher than the CID of traditional fuel vehicles of the same size.

In addition,  in terms of LCD instruments, the proportion of LCD instruments of 8.0”-10.0” and 12.0” and above in the Chinese market for new energy passenger vehicles is 20% and 45% respectively, which is higher than that of fuel vehicles equipped with LCDs of the same size segment.

The new models launched by traditional car companies in 2021 will keep up with the pace of large sizes. Most of the newly launched models in 2021 are equipped with LCD instruments with a size of 10 inches or more. It is expected that the 14-inch screen-to-body ratio of the car’s central control will increase significantly.

Automotive LCD instruments

In 2019, the proportion of 0-8 inches in the car’s central control is 72%, and that of 14 inches or more is only 2%. The proportion of inches will be reduced to 28%. The trend of large screen is obvious. In terms of automotive instruments, in the first three quarters of 2021, the assembly volume of passenger car LCD instruments in China is 6.544 million units, a year-on-year increase of 44.5%, of which 12.0-inch (inclusive)-13.0-inch (excluding) LCD instrument assembly models have the highest assembly volume of 2.512 million Taiwan, a year-on-year increase of 35.0%.

Multi-screen displays drive PCB demand

The increase in demand for electronic component bases and display screens/liquid crystal instruments drives the growth of PCB shipments. Taking the car display screen as an example, it contains PCB/PCBA inside to support functions such as display communication, data transmission, and touch display. All the materials selected on the display PCBA are devices that meet automotive regulations (AEC-Q).

We believe that with the development of automobile smart cockpits and the continuous increase in the average number of vehicles with in-vehicle displays and LCD instruments, the demand for PCBs will continue to grow.

Electrification of car seats expands PCB application scenarios

The demand for car seats is expected to rebound from the trough. According to the research institute’s data, the demand for new car seats in China showed a downward trend from 2018 to 2020, which was mainly related to the decline in car production, but the decline in 2020 has narrowed significantly, down 1.7% year-on-year.

We believe that the demand for car seats is expected to recover from the trough. Under the background of the recovery of the overall auto industry, the demand for car seats is expected to return to the growth track.

Electrification of car seats

The future development trend of car seats: lightweight, comfort, intelligence/electricity are the main themes. To study the future development trend of car seats, in addition to the improvement of safety, intelligence, lightweight and comfort are crucial.

Car seats account for 6% of the weight of the vehicle, and the application of lightweight skeleton materials will help the vehicle achieve lightweight requirements. In addition, with the development of autonomous driving and smart cockpits, the demand for smart seats in cars will also increase.

Intelligent seat structure system, PCB is the “joint”. The seat structure is like human joints, bones, eyes and brain, and the joints include PCB boards, operational and functional mechatronic actuators. The seat skeleton system is built on the basis of joints, which are equivalent to human bones and forms a motion system. Then use the eyes, that is, the radar system in the car to observe the changes in the cockpit, and finally use the algorithm (brain) to support the walking direction of the seat.

The demand for T-Box/communication modules drives the growth of PCB shipments

The scale of the global Internet of Vehicles is growing rapidly. Under the overall trend of the Internet of Vehicles, the penetration rate of the Internet of Vehicles is expected to rise rapidly. According to the IHS forecast, the penetration rate of globally connected car ownership will reach 24% in 2022. The increase in penetration rate has promoted the rapid growth of the global Internet of Vehicles market.

It is estimated that by 2022, the global Internet of Vehicles market will reach 162.9 billion US dollars, with a year-on-year growth rate of about 15%. China’s Internet of Vehicles market will grow at a higher rate, with a growth rate of about 25% by 2022.

At the same time, new sales of connected cars will also increase rapidly. It is estimated that the new sales of connected cars will reach 98 million units in 2022, of which the embedded module connection method, mobile phone connection method and the combination of the two will reach 48 million units, 18 million units and 32 million units respectively.

The Internet of Vehicles has spawned multiple application scenarios, and the demand of downstream industries has boosted the development of the industry. The downstream application scenarios of the Internet of Vehicles are rich, and different functions can be realized on various roads, serving individual users, industry users and government users, and gradually realizing the development path of smart driving, smart roads and eventually smart transportation. The extensive downstream demand will also drive the rapid development of the overall industry.

car T-Box

China’s passenger car T-Box is rising rapidly. As a terminal that helps cars achieve networking functions, the T-Box assembly rate is expected to increase rapidly. According to the data, the penetration rate of passenger car T-Box in China is expected to rise rapidly from 50% in 2020 to 85% in 2025. The increase in assembly rate will significantly drive the demand for T-BOX and its components. The PCB is used in the T-Box/communication module to facilitate the realization of the communication function.

T-box is composed of various electronic components: WIFI module, RF inductor, power inductor, crystal resonator, ceramic resonator, thermistor, battery, etc. The connection of these electronic components requires PCB for support, so PCB is indispensable in T-Box/communication module.

The electronic control system of new energy vehicles expands the new space of PCB for vehicles

The pace of new energy vehicle promotion is fast

New energy vehicles in PCB application scenarios have entered a period of heavy growth. According to BNEF’s prediction, electric vehicles will dominate in the future, battery electric vehicles will account for more than 50% of new car sales, and new energy vehicles will become the main application models in the world. In May 2022, China’s new energy passenger vehicle sales growth rate reached 91.9% year-on-year, and the increase in new energy vehicle sales will increase automotive electronics sales.

New Energy Vehicles

China’s new energy passenger vehicle sales growth rate is relatively high. According to data from the China Passenger Car Market Information Association, the sales of new energy passenger vehicles in China in 2021 will increase significantly compared with 2020. The year-on-year growth rate of each month from January to December exceeds 120%, and the cumulative sales volume for the whole year exceeds 2.99 million vehicles, an increase of 169% year-on-year in 2020.

In 2022, the rapid growth trend will continue, with cumulative sales of 1.712 million vehicles in the first five months, a year-on-year increase of 145.6%. New energy vehicles are an established trend in the automotive industry and are expected to maintain a relatively high growth rate in the future.

New energy vehicle electronic control system uses PCB to expand new market space. The electronic control system of new energy vehicles is its key “heart”, which provides power for new energy vehicles, and the multi-component application of PCB in the electronic control system provides PCB market growth.

Electronic control system PCB applications mainly include:

①VCU: Composed of control circuits and algorithm software, it is the control center of the power system, and its function is to monitor the vehicle status and implement vehicle power control decisions. The control circuit in the VCU needs to use PCB, and the consumption is about 0.03 square meters.

②MCU: Composed of control circuits and algorithm software, it is an important unit of the electronic control system of new energy vehicles. Its function is to control the operation of the motor according to the decision-making instructions issued by the VCU, so that it can output the required AC power according to the instructions of the VCU. The amount of control circuit PCB in the MCU is about 0.15 square meters.

③BMS: BMS is the core component of the battery unit. Through the collection and calculation of parameters such as voltage, current, temperature, and SOC, it controls the charging and discharging process of the battery, and realizes the protection and comprehensive management of the battery. BMS generally adopts multi-layer boards with better stability, and the value of single boards is higher than that of other circuit boards.

The function is to monitor the voltage, current and other indicators of the single battery to achieve balanced control and prevent overvoltage and overcurrent damage to battery life and performance. Due to the complex structure of the BMS, a large number of PCBs are required, the main control circuit is about 0.24 square meters, and the single management unit is 2-3 square meters.

FPC explores battery pack application scenarios and extends CCS products

FPC is a type of PCB that can be subdivided according to the number of layers. FPC is a flexible circuit board, which belongs to the category of PCB. It can be subdivided into single-layer FPC, double-layer FPC, multi-layer FPC and rigid-flex PCB, with different characteristics and application scenarios.

FPC is expected to replace the traditional wire harness solution. At present, some car batteries still use the traditional wiring harness scheme. However, it is generally believed that the process of FPC replacing traditional wiring harnesses will be significantly accelerated in the next few years.

The main reason is that compared with traditional wiring harnesses, FPC has many advantages such as high integration, automated assembly, assembly accuracy, ultra-thin thickness, ultra-softness, and lightweight. Compared with the traditional wiring harness, which is messy and takes up space, the FPC wiring harness has a regular layout and a compact structure. Compared with the traditional wiring harness, the layout of the FPC wiring harness is more regular, and the space utilization rate is high.

FPC wiring harness

Some FPC manufacturers extend to CCS products. In addition to a large number of new market opportunities for FPC, some FPC companies have extended their industries to provide automotive CCS (wiring harness board integrated busbar) products. For example, Dongguan Sixiang, a subsidiary of Gaolan Co., Ltd., is engaged in the production of FPC/CCS products. Its FPC/CCS and other products can be applied to a variety of new energy vehicle models including GAC AION S / V. It is one of the main suppliers of power battery manufacturers in the market.

The development trend of future automobiles puts forward more demands on PCB performance

As a key component for the operation of the automotive electrical system, strong reliability is a must. PCBs are critical components of automotive electronic systems, and special attention must be paid to PCB failure modes that can result in shorts or opens. The key characteristics of PCB include insulation, electrical conductivity, and mechanics.

Its common environmental loads and assembly loads and the possible failure modes caused by them mainly include six types of cracks in the outer copper layer, plated through holes, or cracks in the inner copper layer. It is imperative to understand the failure modes of the PCB and provide a PCB that will operate more efficiently and reliably.

The development of the new four modernizations of automobiles has increased the specific applications of automotive electronics, and the requirements for PCB diversification will increase. Electronics are getting smaller and closer to actuators such as engines, and power electronics, for example, have to withstand higher temperatures.

On the other hand, electronic devices such as onboard computers are better protected against external stress and need to have a longer lifespan due to charging times and 24-hour-a-day service. In addition, related PCBs need to withstand the high-voltage automotive environment under electrification. The demand for reliability has increased. Intelligence and networking increase signal processing requirements, requiring HDI technology upgrades to use processors and memories with thousands of I/Os and BGA pitch <0.8 mm.

To sort out the PCB industry chain, the upstream includes raw materials such as copper clad laminate, resins, and dry films, the midstream is PCB manufacturing, and the downstream includes many application scenarios such as computers, automotive electronics, consumer electronics, and aerospace.

Copper-clad laminates occupy one of the most important costs of PCBs. The upstream of the PCB industry chain include copper foil, copper ball, copper clad laminate, prepreg, gold salt and ink, etc., and the overall material cost accounts for nearly 60%. The entire industrial chain can be simplified as copper foil → copper clad laminate → PCB → application.

copper clad laminate

Copper-clad laminate is mainly responsible for the three functions of PCB board conduction, insulation and support. Its performance directly determines the performance of the PCB. It is the key basic material for the production of PCB, accounting for between 20% and 40% of direct materials.

The price of raw materials stabilized, and epoxy resin showed a downward trend. Among PCB upstream materials, the price of copper and epoxy resin is an important factor affecting the cost of raw materials. Starting from 2020, the price of copper and epoxy resin will rise rapidly, resulting in a rapid increase in PCB cost.

At present, the LME copper price trend has stabilized at a high level in the past three months and has shown a downward trend, which may continue in the future. In the last three months of 2021, the price of epoxy resin has clearly shown a downward trend. We believe that the price of raw materials is expected to show a trend of stabilizing/falling at a high level, which will benefit the reduction of PCB costs, ease the cost pressure of PCB manufacturers, and increase the profitability and willingness of PCB manufacturers to increase production.

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