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20 The PCB Design Magazine • January 2015 sales to the industrial and medical electronics markets in 2014. Even more encouraging is the increase in projected research and development spending among North American PCB fabricators sur- veyed by IPC in 2014. Research and develop- ment spending as a percentage of sales was re- ported to grow from 3.5% in 2013 to 4.3% this year in the rigid PCB segment of the industry. For the flexible circuit segment, R&D spend- ing growth is equally noteworthy, climbing from 2.2% of sales in 2012 to 2.8% in 2013 and reaching an estimated 3.5% this year. R&D activity is a crucial driver of demand in electronics through the introduction of new products. Electronics manufacturing is a cycli- cal industry, with growth patterns that reflect the ups and downs of the world economy. While the patterns look similar, growth in elec- tronics markets has tended to outpace econom- ic growth due to the demand created by new products. Investment in new equipment and process- es has become the North American PCB indus- try's life blood, enabling the industry to main- tain its technological leadership as it restarts its engine of growth. There is evidence that this is occurring. Data IPC collected for its 2014 PCB Technology Trends study, due to be published by the end of this year, indicates that some North American fabricators are already embedding passive components and a few are embedding active components. Many more anticipate em- bedding both passives and actives within the next five years, as well as incorporating printed- in-place features. IPC's market research focuses on the core elements of industry vitality: the market (de- mand), production and inputs (supply), and the enabling technologies. Labor is one of the crucial inputs that is a current subject of IPC's research. A new study on issues in the North American labor pool for electronics man- ufacturing will also be published by the end of this year. For more information about the referenced IPC market research reports, visit market-research-reports. PCBDESIgN feature NORTH AMERICAN PCB OPPORTuNITIES: INvESTMENT IS CRuCIAL continues Figure 1. Sharon Starr is director of market research at IPC.

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