The prices of copper and copper clad laminates (CCL) used in the manufacture of printed circuit boards (PCB) are soaring and then used in almost all types of electronic devices. According to reports, Digital ageDue to the shortage of copper foil, the manufacturing costs of PC motherboards and graphics cards are rising, but the only question now is how much the manufacturer will pass on to the end user. According to some of our quick calculations, the impact of copper foil shortage may be most obvious in low-end equipment, and the more expensive high-end products may have less impact due to their high prices.
Due to the huge demand for electronic products, it is no secret that chip manufacturers cannot produce enough semiconductors. This is the reason for the high price of chips. But in addition to actual chips, various electronic products use PCBs made of glass fiber and copper foil.
The price of copper rose from USD 7,755 per ton in December 2020 to 9,262 USD Today (September 28, 2021) per ton. Due to rising prices of copper and energy carriers, the cost of copper foil has soared by 35% since the fourth quarter of 2020. As you might expect, the price of copper clad laminate (CCL), a basic component used to make PCBs, has risen due to the costs associated with copper foil and energy prices. The trickle-down effect continues, and now PCB quotations are also rising.
This will affect the cost and possible prices of various electronic products, but PCs, motherboards and graphics cards will bear greater pricing pressure than other components because they tend to use large PCBs with a higher number of layers.
Each PCB is built with multiple CCLs, depending on the number of layers. Each CCL is composed of several pieces of glass fiber plastic impregnated with epoxy resin, which are stacked together and then covered with copper foil about 0.035 mm thick (or even thinner) on both sides.The traces on the motherboard are formed by etching away unnecessary copper using a process used in microelectronics production (you can read more about the process here).
Each ATX size CCL (305×244 mm) uses approximately 23 grams of copper (we calculated here), but high-end motherboards use at least eight layers of PCB (ie eight CCLs), so it consumes at least 184 grams of copper (maybe more, but we will stick to this number). Therefore, before processing, one ton of copper is enough to build 5,434 eight-layer motherboards, which means that an ATX motherboard consumed $1.42 worth of copper in December, while today it uses $1.70 worth of copper. But that was before we added the cost of converting copper into a usable form, and before the upcoming price increase.
Although the cost of copper per motherboard has not increased significantly, the cost of copper foil and copper clad laminate Production Increased due to the rise in copper prices and energy carrier prices.
Now a roll of 0.0005 inch copper foil (width: 12 inches, length: 1200 inches) costs USD 423According to our estimates, such a roll is enough to hold about 62 ATX-sized CCLs, which means that each CCL requires 6.8 US dollars or each eight-layer ATX PCB requires 54 US dollars of copper foil. Please keep in mind that this is an estimate, and motherboard CCL manufacturers hardly use off-the-shelf copper foil. In addition, due to the pandemic, there has been an increase in transportation demand and high transportation costs, leading to an increase in other secondary costs.
Overall, due to various factors, the cost of copper, copper foil, copper clad laminate, PCB and manufacturing has increased significantly. However, the price increase will not stop. Chinese copper clad laminate manufacturers recently announced price increases for their PCB customers. Digital age Claim. According to reports, copper foil suppliers are also considering increasing processing fees to copper clad laminate manufacturers in early 2022, which is why the latter is now negotiating with customers to provide them with reasonable products while ensuring a substantial profit margin.
In addition to the demand for PCs, other factors are also pushing up the prices of PCB and CCL. Copper prices are rising not only because of high energy prices, but also because of the increasing demand for copper wires as many applications switch from aluminum wires to copper wires. The transition to renewable energy requires brand new power generation equipment, which further increases the demand for copper wires.
At the same time, as operators transition to 5G networks, they need appropriate equipment, including base stations and network systems that happen to use a large number of copper wires, and high-level PCBs that use many CCLs. The growing demand for such equipment will naturally put pressure on copper foil manufacturers, CCLs and PCBs.
Should we be worried?
The price of copper hit a record high in June, but has since fallen and is currently at the level of 2010-2011. Macro trends. However, it is not the price of copper itself that affects the cost of electronics, but the price of copper foil. The current price of copper foil is quite high.
Although the cost of copper foil, CCL and PCB is soaring, its impact on the prices of graphics cards, motherboards, laptops and desktops will be different.
For entry-level motherboards with low profit margins and retail prices of $100 to $200, a 10% increase in the price of one of the key components will be obvious. This also applies to inexpensive electronic products that use relatively complex PCBs and relatively inexpensive active components (for example, entry-level PCs). Therefore, if you buy budget hardware, you may need to consider your purchasing strategy.
The cost of active components (processor, memory, PMIC, etc.) still accounts for the largest share of electronics manufacturing materials (BOM-the price of building products). Therefore, even if the price of copper foil increases by 10%, it will hardly affect the price of high-end motherboards currently retailing at US$350 to US$900, because manufacturers may absorb the increase without passing it on to end users. There is a similar statement about the graphics card and its retail price: even if the price of a component increases by 10%, the graphics card using it will hardly become more expensive at retail because it has already been sold at a high price. Therefore, if you buy expensive equipment, you may not have to worry about the prices of copper, copper foil, CCL and PCB.
But in addition to pricing, there is also a demand side. The world is deploying more electronic products than ever before, so many factors will affect the pricing and availability of electronic products before the supply chain is ready to support this demand.