Companies that design, build, test, deliver, or provide aftermarket assistance for electronic components and assemblies for Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) are termed electronics manufacturing services (EMS). The EMS industry is broad and spans consumer (smartphones, PCs, etc.), electronic components (connectors, semiconductors, etc.), industrial products (automation and robotics), healthcare (medical devices), and governments (automation and robotics). EMS companies use artificial intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT) to create intelligent solutions and fine-tune processes with real-time data. There is also a growing focus on sustainability and the importance of a flexible supply chain.

The EMS sector is a vibrant, rapidly evolving industry set for expansion and offers many prospects for businesses and investors. We will now walk through future trends in EMS to discover how they will enable a wide range of companies to provide comprehensive solutions, deliver better-quality products, and meet customers' evolving requirements in today's electronic markets.

Industry 4.O – smart factories: The digital transformation from conventional factories to Industry 4.0 (Fourth Industrial Revolution) starts with collecting data. An industrial facility that uses AI, IoT, and Big Data analytics is called a "smart factory." A smart factory has optimised manufacturing processes with superior efficiency and has cut down human error through real-time data-driven decision-making. For example, electronics manufacturing companies nowadays use AI-equipped laser soldering machines and defect detection systems. These laser soldering machines, fitted with advanced sensors such as infrared cameras and temperature sensors, continuously monitor the soldering process in real-time. The shop floor can be remotely monitored with a video storage function and dedicated PC software. The AI/ML-based defect detection system uses deep neural networks to find flaws that are difficult to identify with standard vision systems or by human inspection. This technology makes inspection procedures faster and increases product yield and performance by 97% and 30%, respectively. Any departures from the norm can trigger alerts or automatic changes. The detection system reduces scrap by spotting problems before a part proceeds to the next stage of the manufacturing process. Figure 1 shows how Industry 4.0 unites the different activities of a smart factory. To know more on Industry 4.0 – smart factories please click here and click here.

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Industry 4.0
Figure 1: Industry 4.0

Sustainable manufacturing & green technology: Sustainable manufacturing uses economically sound processes to manufacture products with minimal environmental impacts while conserving natural resources and energy. For example, switching to additive PCB manufacturing techniques can reduce water use by up to 95%, resulting in yearly water savings for hundreds of millions of liters. Similarly, Carbon Nano-Tube Field Effect Transistors (CNT-FET), Nanowire-FETs, Tunnel-FETs, and Nanocore-shell technology for thin film transistors can be operated at 300 K temperature in white rooms with minimal nanotechnology-generated waste. Significant improvements in electronics have made possible the substitution of gallium nitride and silicon carbide for conventional silicon in semiconductors. This “wide bandgap” technology enables increased material performance, better device yields, and reduced production costs. Wireless battery charging and LED lights are other examples of green technology. Companies are increasingly adopting green manufacturing practices to reduce known pollutant inputs, increase the use of renewable resources, and facilitate recycling efforts. Wireless battery charging and LED lights are other examples of green technology because they consume less energy.

Apart from that, flexible PCBs inherently call for a rethink of standard processing, such as the use of plastic or paper in place of traditional FR substrates. Adopting new technology opens possibilities for additional adjustments, such as switching to new materials and additive manufacturing techniques. PCBs manufactured of plastics like polyethylene terephthalate (PET), which have relatively low heat tolerances, may also require low-temperature manufacturing.

The ULSI integrated circuits work at low voltages, providing low power consumption in electronics. Nanodevices with thin films or one atomic layer exhibit confinement effects that decrease the conduction current. The leading technology nodes are FinFET, transistors that exploit raised inversion channels, multiplying the MOSFET capabilities.

The list of green technologies includes solar panels, wind turbines, geothermal wells, and others that can convert renewable resources into practical and adequate energy. Wireless charging capabilities are just one of the many ever-evolving advances in EV technology. Zero emissions and better gas mileage of EVs make them better than petrol-powered vehicles for most applications.

Figure 2 shows different examples of green electronics.

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Biodegradable materials & green processing
Figure 2: Biodegradable materials & green processing

IIoT and AI into smart manufacturing: Smart manufacturing is an automated approach that incorporates Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) in conventional factories to track the manufacturing process. Smart processes involve the use of digital information to enhance productivity, sustainability, and economic performance. For example, a PCB manufacturing company embeds sensors into a factory’s machines to monitor the overall production process. The sensors collect data about the condition of the machines and once collected, AI enabled advanced data analytics tools process the data in real time and alert workers of any probable bottlenecks in the production operations. Such an approach helps to predict equipment downtimes, enabling the factory to schedule maintenance operations well before any failures occur.

Proximity sensors have industrial and manufacturing applications because of their ability to sense objects without physical contact. Automated PCB assembly lines have proximity sensors for component detection, position, inspection, and counting. Ultrasonic proximity sensors have applications in manufacturing for detecting long-range objects. These sensors detect objects using 25–50 kHz sound waves that are indiscernible to the human auditory range. As a result, the sensor's capacity to detect an object is unaffected by the object's color or transparency.

The Smart Grid System is another example of AI and IIoT use in EMS. The simple and consistent nature of PLCs favor their use in controlled conveyor belts operating in most concert speaker and cinema speaker manufacturing facilities. A PLC can use a Variable Frequency Drive (VDF), dampers and valves to command an HVAC to maintain a particular level of air flow. It can also regulate temperatures in a targeted area. This is specifically suitable for audio electronic industries, a certain level of air flow and precise temperature are essential to operations of Audio Precision in electrical testing, measurement, and calibration.

Figure 3 describes the features of IIoT for electronics manufacturing sector.

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Versatile features of IIoT for manufacturing domain
Figure 3: Versatile features of IIoT for manufacturing domain

Use of industrial robots- COBOTS: Collaborative robots (COBOT) with built-in sensors are small industrial robots with a lower payload, designed to work collaboratively and closely with humans. Cobots have consistency and accuracy, and their built-in sensors make them safe for various applications. Robots in smart factories have high-resolution cameras for vision, and they can see and verify the physical characteristics of the components while performing pick-and-place tasks.

For example, the SCARA (Selective Compliance Assembly Robot Arm) robot excel at small assembly of electronics components, pick and place operations, laser engraving, 3D printing and soldering. The force sensors fitted to robotic arms ensure that only the correct amount of pressure is applied when elements are handled and assembled on the PCB. The flexible arms of these robots enable them to complete most physical work more effectively and quickly than humans (see Figure 5). It includes the use of automated optical inspections (AOI), automated x-ray inspections (AXI), and other methods. Cobots can visually check electronics assemblies to ensure that soldering, component alignment, and other physical properties are correct (see Figure 5). Yet another example of Cobot is Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMRs).

They do more than locate, track, and move products on the shop floor. They can perform pick and place operations. These AMRs autonomously move across the facility alongside the workers, automatically learning and sharing the most efficient travel routes. Using self-driving robots in this way can help reduce order cycle time by up to 50% and provide up to twice the picking productivity gain.

Cobots are a crucial instrument to the concept of smart factories as they increase process flexibility, boost productivity, maintain quality and safety, making them a wonderful cost-effective asset in modern EMS industries (reflected in Figure 4).

Benefits of collaborative robots
Figure 4: Benefits of collaborative robots
Robot inspecting PCB
Figure 5: Robot inspecting PCB
A robotic arm installing a CPU
Figure 6: A robotic arm installing a CPU

3D printing for adaptive manufacturing: The real-time data and advanced technologies used in adaptive manufacturing help factory managers streamline operations and react fast to shifting consumer preferences and product variants. 3D printing, with its distinctive capabilities and advantages, has revolutionized the manufacture of complex and specialized parts. Unlike conventional production methods, multilayer circuitry (including RF circuits) can now be printed in 3D on non-flat, flexible surfaces (see Figure 8). Engineers can take advantage of 3D printing to create complex structures with embedded electronics, encapsulated sensors, and antennas. A state-of-the-art multi-material, multilayer 3D printer can generate entire circuits in one step — including substrate, conductive traces, and passive components. This machine is designed for product development and rapid prototyping applications as well.

Companies can take advantage of 3D printing to quickly iterate and test product designs before committing to large-scale production. 3D printing allows the production of intricate and specialized parts and products that would be difficult or impossible to fabricate using conventional processes. Figure 7 shows an egg-shaped speaker sample developed using a 3D printer. A wide variety of materials, including plastics, metals, ceramics, and even biocompatible materials, are supported by 3D printing. This flexibility is advantageous for adaptive manufacturing since it allows companies to create many products for various sectors and applications.

3D printers make customised consumer electronics a reality. Companies can also produce personalized keyboards, USB stick cases, and electronic enclosures via 3D printing. To know more about advance 3D printing and printers click here.

A 3D-printed egg-shaped speaker cabinet
Figure 7: A 3D-printed egg-shaped speaker cabinet
A 3D-printed prototype of a circuit board
Figure 8: A 3D-printed prototype of a circuit board
A 3D-printed antenna
Figure 9: A 3D-printed antenna

Miniaturisation and smart packaging: Evolving consumer preferences and continuous technological advancements have led to two transformative trends in the Electronic Manufacturing Services (EMS) sector: miniaturisation and smart packaging.

Miniaturisation: The demand for increasingly compact and lightweight wearables, IoT devices, and consumer electronics drives miniaturisation. Compact electronics yield better performance because smaller parts reduce the distance signals need to travel, minimize heat generation, and enhance energy efficiency. miniaturisation also allows for more components to be integrated within a single package (Figure 10). Such integration saves costs, improves reliability, and reduces power consumption. With the wide variety of technological devices being developed, the IC and substrate size and shapes vary drastically by product. Nanonet sensors and forksheet FET are a couple of recent developments in miniaturised electronic components.

Smart packaging: Consumers opting for smart packaging can receive real-time product information, such as expiration dates, usage guidelines, and product legitimacy. Chip-on-board (CoB) is a specialized process in which integrated circuit chips are attached to any substrate or board. The entire user experience and product safety are improved. Companies can also use smart packaging to monitor the status of products along the supply chain, preventing losses from theft or spoiling. In sectors like pharmaceuticals and perishable commodities, spoilage prevention can be crucial.

Smart packaging
Figure 10: Smart packaging

Organic electronic and energy management: Organic materials have technical applications and can manufacture eco-friendly, low-cost, ultralightweight, and flexible devices with different optoelectronic or electronic functionalities. Wearable electronics, flexible sensor technology, and next-generation packaging are examples of organic electronics. For more advanced medical devices, such as glucose sensors for diabetics, heart rate monitors, and other biometric instruments, biocompatible electronics have become an automatic choice.

Compared to inorganic semiconductors like silicon, organic electronic materials work on low operating voltage, resulting in lower processing temperatures. This lower processing temperature lowers the amount of energy needed during production. For example, organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDs) are more energy-efficient for display applications because they can generate light at lower voltages than conventional LEDs. Additionally, organic electronic materials often have lower leakage currents, which can assist with low-power and energy-efficient device operation.

The thinness of Organic electrochemical transistors (OECTs) makes them especially attractive for developing neuromorphic hardware and wearable or implantable smart bioelectronics. Their remarkable sensing and analog memory capabilities allow them to sense different stimuli and detect signals, light, and temperature. OECTs are capable of 10-bit analog states (and retaining them).

Designers can incorporate organic electronic materials into energy-harvesting devices like organic photovoltaics (OPVs) to turn ambient light or generate electricity. This electricity helps run remote, low-power, or energy-constrained applications.

Some organic materials used in electronics can be biodegradable or recyclable and can thus reduce the environmental impact and energy consumption associated with electronic waste (e-waste) disposal.

Environment sustainability: The electronics industry, to comply with global trends and environmental sustainability, are working towards improving energy efficiency and reduction of energy consumption.

Life cycle analysis (LCA)
Figure 11: Life cycle analysis (LCA) and carbon footprint optimisation

A sustainable strategy for e-waste management is extended producer responsibility (EPR), also known as product stewardship. For instance, new material and packaging types subject to EPR programs can be accommodated by AI infrastructure within days to weeks of first noticing the new object type. As soon as the AI becomes aware of the object, it shares that knowledge with all other facilities so that they can all learn from one another and have a greater influence. This information can be the foundation for ongoing EPR-driven audits with visibility for all stakeholders, such as recyclers, producers, non-profit organizations, or governmental bodies.

Attaching robotic systems to materials recovery facilities (MRFs) can help better sort recyclable items. Robots are fitted to the existing conveyor and sorting systems to do this. The recycling and recovery rates can be improved using AI-powered robots that adapt to varying packaging and recovery methods.

EPR block diagram
Figure 12: EPR block diagram


The EMS industry continues to evolve, driven by dynamic market demands and technological advancements. These advancements are changing the processes by which electronic products are designed and produced, creating opportunities for efficiency and innovation. AI and ML are increasingly integrated into EMS processes to enhance efficiency and quality control. These technologies allow defect detection, predictive maintenance, and process optimisation. The future of EMS promises lower production costs, more efficiency, and a steady progression toward more complex and networked electronic systems if businesses adopt these trends.


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