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Miniaturization of electronics challenges EMI/RFI industry

BCC Research report shows shielding product manufacturers are increasingly challenged


As electronic products become physically smaller while providing increased functionality at lower costs, their increased frequencies and concomitant faster speeds mean potentially more electromagnetic interference (EMI) and radio frequency interference (RFI) problems. BCC Research reveals in its new report that shielding product manufacturers are increasingly challenged to develop shielding and suppression technologies that provide effective remedy.

The global market for EMI/RFI shielding should reach nearly $6 billion and $7.8 billion in 2016 and 2021, respectively, reflecting a five-year compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 5.6%. The conductive coatings segment, the largest sector, is expected to grow from nearly $2.2 billion in 2016 to more than $2.7 billion by 2021 on a five-year CAGR of 4.7%. The miscellaneous segment, the fastest growing sector with an estimated five-year CAGR of 6.5%, should total nearly $2.8 billion in 2021.

Significant changes in EMI/RFI shielding

There have been significant changes in EMI/RFI shielding, primarily in the level of shielding required, including a number of new small applications requiring shielding, restructuring of industry participants and the disparity in growth rates among shielding options. Despite the robust growth of new smaller electronic portable products, few new shielding technologies or even enhancements of old technologies have evolved. The major shielding options available in the mid- to late 1990s are still relevant and only their market shares of total shielding have changed. Most current company product offerings look similar to those from 10 years ago, with the possible exception of iPhones and iPads.

Some shielding requirements have changed as electronic devices and components have shrunk and/or OEMs have redesigned those products.

Consequently, the acknowledged shift in shielding market share is being driven by the strengths of some options at the expense of competing options’ weaknesses. This trend has forced the design engineer to trade off the advantages and disadvantages of each option based on changing performance requirements on the one hand with a view toward the economic ramifications on the other.

Trend toward smaller sizes and increased functionality

With the trend toward smaller sizes and increased functionality, older model shields may not always be the answer. OEMs are always looking to decrease the time to market for new products. Electrical interference, however, cannot always be predicted between designs, which complicates the standardization of key components.

“With electronic products becoming hotter, faster, smaller and lighter, the mechanical and electrical design interfaces have become more challenging, especially because electronic products cannot be marketed or sold without passing stringent standards for EM control,” says BCC Research analyst Andrew McWilliams. “The basic issue is how to design new electronic products with a high degree of certainty that they will function properly to be compliant to ever-changing E.U. directives, which involve environmental and recycling issues and also meet stringent U.S. and international electromagnetic compliance requirement.”