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38 The PCB Magazine • December 2014 North America was the one bright spot in PCB production growth in 2013. Although 0.8% real growth may not seem like a cause for celebration, North America was the only major PCB-producing region with positive real growth in 2013. The estimated value of North American PCB output in 2013 was US$3.05 billion, 5% of the world market, according to IPC's World PCB Production Report for the Year 2013. PCB production in North America is expect- ed to grow at a slow but steady pace over the next three years, averaging 2% growth per year. The North American PCB market, estimated at $3.44 billion, is delivering zero growth so far in 2014, but is expected to resume slow growth in 2015, based on forecasts in IPC's monthly North American PCB Market Report. Some opportunities and positive indicators for the North American PCB market are evident in the industry data IPC published in its 2013– 2014 Analysis & Forecast for the PCB Industry in North America. The industry is projecting growth in PCB sales to the North American military and aerospace market this year which, if it materializes, could push mil/aero ahead of communications to become the largest vertical market for PCBs in North America. Growth is also projected in PCB 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 cyclical industry, with growth patterns that reflect the ups and downs of the world economy. While the patterns look similar, growth in electronics markets has tended to outpace economic 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- by Sharon Starr iPc North American PCB Opportunities: Investment is Crucial F e a t u r e

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