As the economy gained momentum in late 2009 and early 2010, engineering organizations, like every other business sector, sensed promise that a strong, self-sustaining recovery was kicking in. However, as government spending to stimulate the economy trailed off and businesses concentrated on rebuilding their inventories, the growth rated started to slow – a pattern that continued through the summer. Long-term economic growth rate – trending at about 2.5 percent – is not much better, but several market reports released by industry analyst NanoMarkets this year indicate that there are indeed some bright spots for the EMC community. EMC materials and components markets had until recently been considered highly mature, with few opportunities for firms that were not well established in this field. However, the dramatic increase in the use of radio frequency emitters in the recent past has given a boost to the industry. In addition to the most visible drivers for the EMC protection markets such as the rise of WiFi and 3G mobile communications, less obvious opportunities are appearing, including the spread of wireless-based navigation systems and electric and hybrid vehicles in the automotive industry and EMI/RFI and electromagnetic pulse concerns in military electronics. (Smartphones generated 46% of traffic in May 2010, up from 22% two years ago, and 24% of traffic in the U.S. came over Wifi, according to mobile advertising marketplace AdMob. U.S. handset-based navigation usage rose to 24% in 2010 vs. 19% in 2009). New business revenue opportunities for conductive coatings are emerging from developments in the display, lighting, solar panel, battery and sensor markets. The makers of conductive coatings will also have the opportunity to capitalize on the growth in e-paper and touch-screen displays and the resurgence of crystalline silicon photovoltaics. The conductive coatings used for antistatic applications are mostly bulk materials and this is also true for the coatings used for EMI/RFI shielding, which the analysts believe is another area of growth as communications move from wired to wireless. Conductive polymers and nanomaterials are gaining importance in the EMI/RFI sector and there is a robust market for laminates and tapes, as well as higher value component products such as enclosures, cabinets and specialized cables, filters and cables. Finally, increased miniaturization of PCBs and hard drives coupled with ever smaller devices on computer chips will increase the threats of damage and costs caused by static electricity which will, in turn, provide the ESD products and coatings market with growth for years to come. Thus, even as uncertainty remains pervasive throughout the global economy, EMI engineers can take heart in their industry’s resiliency.
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