I was pleased to see that President Biden mentioned the CHIPS Act during the State of the Union Address this year. That bill succeeded because lawmakers saw semiconductor manufacturing as a pressing national level issue. The CHIPS Act is a great first step in restoring one aspect of high-tech American manufacturing. What is missing from the dialogue in Washington is the rest of the microelectronics ecosystem.
As printed circuit board suppliers and manufacturers know, our American PCB industry once claimed 2,200 companies and 30% of the world’s supply. When the semiconductor industry’s share of chip production fell to 13% of the world’s supply, alarm bells went off inside the beltway; the result was the CHIPS Act.
Now that the U.S. can only claim 4% of the world’s semiconductor supply, those same alarm bells should be sounding. Our challenge is to educate members of Congress and policymakers on the role PCBs play in electronics manufacturing. Few people outside the industry understand that semiconductors don’t go straight into the electronics we all depend on. Every single chip—no matter how advanced—must be mated with a PCB before it’s integrated into a telecommunications hub, electrical transformer, air traffic control system, or any other piece of critical infrastructure or consumer electronics.
PCBAA is educating members of Congress and their staffs on the critical stage we find ourselves in. We can’t let them think that the CHIPS Act is a “one and done” effort that needs no companion. In reality, the CHIPS Act doesn’t solve supply chain problems because it doesn’t adequately address the rest of the ecosystem. Few officials we speak to have any idea that we don’t have the adjacent manufacturing capacity to create the entire technology stack. They don’t know that we will be sending the chips made in the new fabs back to Asia for packaging.
In this session of Congress, we will see new legislation introduced that would revitalize American PCB manufacturing by funding R&D and workforce development, as well as creating incentives to buy American-made PCBs. Congress needs to act this year to set this recovery in motion and finish the job the CHIPs Act started. This is not an overnight fight. It took us decades to get to where we are today, and it will take years to bring a meaningful amount of manufacturing back to the U.S.
To be successful we need your help. By joining PCBAA, you are expanding your influence over the future of the industry and giving us more power in Washington. Many voices matter. Join us, then contact your elected representatives and let them know how important this industry is to American high-tech manufacturing.
This column originally appeared in the March 2023 issue of PCB007 Magazine.
UPDATE 3/27/23: PCBAA Applauds Presidential Action to Invest in Critical American Microelectronics