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AI servers spawn strong demands for PCB

“AI servers have higher requirements on chip performance and transmission rate, and usually need to use high-end GPU graphics cards and higher PCIe standards, which will drive the value of AI server PCB to increase significantly.” Fangrong Technology Senior Engineer Zhou Di told the Financial Associated Press reporter.

With ChatGPT out of the circle and AI booming, the bullish demand for AI servers has injected vitality into the sluggish PCB market.

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Known as the “mother of the electronics industry”, the PCB is an important component of the server, responsible for the server chip base, data transmission and connection of various components. Listed companies such as Avary Holdings, Victory Giant Technology and Shennan Circuits, all claim that their PCB products are used in the field of AI servers.

Chip upgrades also drive the advancement of the PCB industry, and AI servers have significantly increased requirements for PCB layers and PCB materials.

Market is optimistic about AI servers

Market is optimistic about AI servers
Market is optimistic about AI servers

TrendForce predicts that in 2023, the shipments of AI servers (including GPUs, FPGAs, ASICs, etc.) will reach nearly 1.2 million units with an annual increase of 38.4%. It accounts for nearly 9% of the overall server shipments, and will cover nearly 9% of the total server shipments by 2026.

According to data from research institutions, the value of AI server PCB is 5-6 times that of ordinary servers.

Module boards, coupled with the current mainstream AI servers adopting a two-layer structure, have greatly increased the demand for PCB board area, such as SLP, high-end HDI, high-frequency and high-speed PCB, etc., which also bring warmth in the sluggish industry cycle. In addition, FC-BGA packaging substrates are also growing simultaneously due to rising demand for GPUs and CPUs. Chinese PCB manufacturers Shennan Circuits and Fastprint Circuit Technology are expanding rapidly.

Based on the AI server design scheme, the amount of CPU and GPU will increase significantly, the optical module and the entire packaging process will benefit, and the amount of Anylayer HDI and ABF carrier boards will increase significantly.

Also read: CPU vs GPU – what is the difference

The iteration of AI server PCB at the technical level gains more attention

The iteration of AI server PCB at the technical level gains more attention
The iteration of AI server PCB at the technical level gains more attention

With the gradual landing of AI application scenarios, imaging, games, machine vision and other fields are developing rapidly, and the AI server PCB that undertakes the functions of server chip base, data transmission and connection components is ushering in a new generation.

AI servers require PCB boards with higher computing power, higher speed, and larger capacity for transmission. Thus the requirements for materials will also be higher. Specific to different manufacturers, there may be differences in product design.

From the perspective of internal structure, the boards and components of AI servers and ordinary servers have similarities. The former may have higher requirements on some devices or boards, and it is not necessary to upgrade all devices.

Elvis Hsu said, “At present, PCIe 3.0 generally has 8-12 layers, 4.0 has 12-16 layers, and 5.0 platforms have more than 16 layers, and AI servers even use more than 20 layers, so the grade of CCL PCB materials used with them also needs to be To achieve a very low loss. The corresponding dielectric loss factor Df value needs to be reduced to 0.006-0.005 or even lower.

In summary, after the AI server upgrades the PCB material and technical requirements, the maturity of the connection process of each layer and the reduction in production costs are average. It will take time for everyone to overcome.”

In addition, the AI server PCB also puts forward higher requirements for design flexibility and resistance. While the process is optimized, related products are expected to usher in a rise in volume and price. Fan Zhiyuan, chief researcher of electronic components of Sinolink Securities, said: “The value of AI server PCB is 5 to 6 times that of ordinary servers. With the implementation of AI large models and applications, the market demand for AI servers is increasing, and the market expansion is imminent.

Taking DGXA100 as an example, of the 15,321 yuan stand-alone value, 7,670 yuan comes from the carrier board, and 7,651 yuan comes from the PCB. So PCB manufacturers with better layout on the server PCB are expected to be the first to benefit.”

Many PCB manufacturers get already for laying out the market

Many PCB manufacturers get already for laying out the market
Many PCB manufacturers get already for laying out the market

The global PCB leader Avary Holdings recently stated on the investor relations platform, “AI server is one of the key development areas of Avary, and the company already has manufactured corresponding products.

With the exponential growth of global data traffic and the acceleration of global information construction, as the most important computing power infrastructure, servers have seen significant growth in global shipments and market size. PCB is a key component for the operation of servers. In order to seize market opportunities, the company plans to invest 1.12 billion yuan in the construction of annual production of 3.38 million square feet of automotive boards and server boards.

Also read: Discovering all about automotive PCB and PCBA

Meanwhile, the company will continue to innovate, continuously improve the technical level and product development capabilities, and maintain cooperation with world-class customers.”
Victory Giant Technology, which has supplied AI server PCB-related products to Nvidia, said, “The company has been constantly innovating and creating according to market changes, keeping abreast of customer needs, continuously increasing R&D investment, and constantly optimizing and upgrading the advantages of superior products.

The core technology has launched a variety of high-end high-density boards, high-end high-end high-frequency high-speed PCBs, GPU graphics card PCBs and other AI server-related products to meet customers’ needs for high-end PCB products. The GPU accelerator card in the AI field will bring The product structure has changed, and the company is expected to usher in a new growth point.”

Olympic Circuit Tech told, “The company already has ordinary server PCB products. In terms of AI server PCB, it is currently in the research and development and docking stage. We will actively respond to customer needs and develop related businesses such as AI servers.”

In the medium and long term, the PCB industry will still show a growth trend in the future. According to the data of Prismark, a research organization, the compound growth rate of global PCB output value from 2022 to 2027 is about 3.8%, and the global PCB output value will reach about 98.388 billion US dollars in 2027. China’s major PCB manufacturers have formed their own competitive advantages and bargaining power in various segments.

In 2022, the total output value of China’s PCB industry will reach 44.2 billion US dollars, accounting for 54.1% of the world’s total. Manufacturers are seizing the development opportunities of the AI server PCB track, which is expected to further consolidate China’s leading position in the PCB industry.

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