What opportunities does ChatGPT bring to PCB

What opportunities does ChatGPT bring to PCB

Table of Contents

What is ChatGPT?

ChatGPT (Chat Generative Pre-trained Transformer), a chat robot program developed by OpenAI in the United States, was released on November 30, 2022.

OpenAI ChatGPT
OpenAI ChatGPT

ChatGPT is a natural language processing tool driven by artificial intelligence technology. It can conduct conversations by understanding and learning human language, and can also interact according to the context of the chat and communicate like a human, and even complete tasks such as writing emails, video scripts, copywriting, translation, code, and writing papers.

ChatGPT took only two months to reach 100 million active users, making it the fastest growing consumer app in history. While sparking heated discussions around the world, major technology companies have already caught up with this wave of enthusiasm and deployed quickly.

Giants such as Google and Baidu are of course the first to bear the brunt, respectively launching a large-scale language model chat robot Bard and a large-scale language AI model “Wen Xin Yi Yan”.

However, what does this have to do with the PCB industry?

Of course there is!

The AI technology represented by the ChatGPT large model puts forward higher requirements for high-performance computing, and the upgrade of the chip platform will support higher PCI standards, and put forward higher requirements for the number of PCB layers, materials and manufacturing processes.

Demand for high and multilayer PCB & HDI picks up

The first is for high and multilayer PCB & HDI PCB. According to Digitimes data, global server shipments in 2022 increased by 6.4% year-on-year to 18.05 million units, and the CAGR is expected to remain at around 6% in the next three years. The upgrade of the chip platform will support higher PCI standards and put forward higher requirements for the number of PCB layers, materials, and manufacturing processes.


Correspondingly, the ASP of PCB boards that support PCIe 5.0 is expected to increase by more than 20%. At present, the downstream demand of Datacom remains relatively stable. Previously, the four major CSPs in North America lowered their server purchases in 2023, resulting in weak market expectations for upstream server demand.

With the potential expectation of AI’s high computing power demand and the switch of new server platforms, the demand for data communication boards is expected to pick up in 2023H2.

Substantial increase in demand for carrier boards

Next is the carrier board. Benefiting from the rapid rise of new applications such as AI, the demand for supporting HPC, cloud servers, and AI servers is expected to increase significantly. According to TrendForce forecast data, the annual growth rate of global AI server shipments will reach 8% to 145,000 units in 2023, and the CAGR of global AI server shipments in the next five years is expected to reach more than 10%.

In terms of market size, according to IDC data, the global AI server market size was US$15.6 billion in 2021. It is predicted that the five-year compound growth rate will reach 23.2% from 2020 to 2025, and the market size will reach about US$31.8 billion in 2025.

AI server
AI server

AI server stand-alone will be equipped with more CPU+GPU chips, which will further open up a vast incremental space for core components such as CPU, GPU, and storage, and IC substrate, as their upstream key materials, are expected to fully benefit. The number of chips such as CPUs and GPUs required by AI servers is higher than that of traditional servers.

Based on the large computing needs, AI servers are often equipped with more than 4 GPU graphics cards and 1~2 CPU processors. For example, a single Nvidia DGX A100 server needs to be equipped with 8 Chip A100 GPU. With the increase in the amount of server stand-alone chips and the upgrade of chips, the demand for IC substrates is also expected to increase accordingly.

According to the latest forecast data from Prismark, the CAGR of the global packaging substrate output value will reach 5.1% from 2022 to 2027, 1.3pcts higher than the overall compound growth rate of the PCB industry, and will maintain rapid growth. In 2027, it is expected to achieve a market size of about 20 billion US dollars.

BT/ABF carrier board occupies a major market share

In terms of products, BT/ABF substrates occupy a major market share. Among them, BT carrier boards are mainly used in chips in consumer electronics and storage fields. ABF carrier boards are positioned as high-end applications with such characteristics as thin lines and high-layer numbers. The target market is high-computing fields such as AI, cloud, and big data, and it is mainly used for high-computing performance chip packaging such as CPU, GPU, FPGA, and ASIC.

At present, the downstream short-term demand for BT carrier boards is still weak due to poor sales of consumer electronics terminals, while mid-to-high-end products such as ABF carrier boards are still expected to benefit from long-term computing power demand.

Steady growth in sales of copper clad laminates

Finally, the high-computing chip’s requirements for high-speed data transmission and low loss will increase the market’s demand for upstream high-speed and high-frequency CCL substrates.

According to data, the global high-frequency and high-speed copper clad laminate market was US$2.886 billion in 2020, a year-on-year increase of 17.03%. Among them, the sales of radio frequency/microwave CCL in 2020 was 523 million US dollars, and the output value in 2024 is expected to reach 853 million US dollars, with a CAGR of 13.17%. 

copper clad laminates
copper clad laminates

Among the high-speed copper-clad laminates, the sales of fluorine-containing high-speed copper-clad laminates in 2020 was US$1.196 billion, and the sales of fluorine-free high-speed copper-clad laminates was US$1.167 billion in 2020, a year-on-year increase of 32.86%. The output value is 2.83 billion RMB, and the CAGR is 4.61%.

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