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PCB Components and Laminates: Navigating the Cycle of Obsolescence

Epec Engineered Technologies
Written by Epec Engineered Technologies
Posted on May 15, 2024 at 8:47 AM

In the rapidly advancing world of electronics, few areas are as subject to constant change and innovation as printed circuit board (PCB) technology. The components and laminates that form the backbone of these vital circuit boards are continuously being revised, updated, and even rendered obsolete by the relentless pace of progress.

As an engineer immersed in this dynamic field, it's crucial to stay ahead of the curve and anticipate the next wave of developments.

Learn Our Insider Tips for Selecting PCB Laminate Materials

Obsolescence: A Constant Companion

The obsolescence of components and PCB laminates is an inevitability that we must embrace. As new materials, manufacturing processes, and design requirements emerge, the once cutting-edge becomes increasingly outmoded. The cycle of obsolescence for electronic components like PCBs is primarily driven by several factors:

  • Technological advancements: The electronics industry is characterized by rapid technological progress, with newer, faster, and more efficient components being introduced frequently. As new technologies emerge, older components may become obsolete or less desirable, leading to a shorter lifecycle.
  • Product life cycles: Many electronic products, including those containing PCBs, have relatively short life cycles. Manufacturers often introduce new models or versions of their products regularly, rendering the previous generation obsolete or unsupported after a certain period.
  • Component availability: Electronic components are manufactured by various suppliers, and their availability can be affected by factors such as market demand, supply chain disruptions, or discontinuation of production by the component manufacturers themselves.
  • Cost and performance considerations: As new components with better performance or lower costs become available, manufacturers may choose to phase out older, more expensive, or less efficient components to remain competitive and meet customer demands.
  • Regulatory and compliance changes: Changes in regulations, standards, or compliance requirements (e.g., environmental regulations, safety standards) can sometimes necessitate the use of newer components or the redesign of existing PCBs, leading to the obsolescence of older components.
  • Market demands and consumer preferences: Consumer preferences and market demands can shift over time, driving manufacturers to introduce new features, designs, or functionalities that may require the use of newer components and the phasing out of older ones.

The cycle of obsolescence for PCBs and electronic components can vary depending on the specific industry, application, and product category. In some industries, such as consumer electronics or computing, the obsolescence cycle can be relatively short, often measured in months or a few years. In other industries, like industrial automation or aerospace, the obsolescence cycle may be longer due to stricter compliance requirements and longer product lifetimes.

Manufacturers and designers often employ strategies like component lifecycle management, obsolescence management, and component substitution to mitigate the impact of component obsolescence and extend the usable life of their products and PCB designs.

Isola Changes on the Horizon

Isola will cease production of the following low-volume products by June 30, 2024:

  • FR402
  • ED130UV
  • FR405
  • G200
  • A11
  • IS415
  • FR408
  • Terragreen
  • S680
  • IS680AG

What Are the Alternatives?

For FR402, ED130UV, FR405, G200, A11, you can go with 370HR/185HR or even FR408HR, all which meets these needs. For FR408 and IS415, we always requested sub to FR408HR.

Terragreen, meanwhile, is similar to Tachyon100G or AstraMT, but these are not direct replacements since Terragreen is halogen-free, so assume if you don’t need halogen-free, you would be using T100G or Astra. If you do need halogen-free/high-speed, then you would be using IS580.

Printed circuit board manufactured with Tachyon100G laminate

Printed circuit board manufactured with Tachyon100G laminate.

And, when it comes to IS680 and IS680AG, suggest considering the Dk of the application you are looking for. In terms of IS680, the only product Isola does not currently have a replacement for is the 2.8 Dk. For 3.20 and 3.33, it depends on the thickness required, but there are some constructions of Tachyon 100G you could use. For example, a 5 mil 2x1078 has a 3.19 Dk. For the other Dk values, you can use I-Tera MT40 (RF/MW). These are designed to line up with the Rogers 4350 products. For the IS680G, you can substitute the Astra MT77 since the Dk is also 3.0 and the loss is better.

Embracing the Future of PCB Laminates

While the obsolescence of PCB components and laminates may seem daunting, it also presents exciting opportunities for innovation and growth. As engineers, we must remain agile and adaptable, continuously seeking out and embracing the latest advancements in our field.

One such advancement is the emergence of high-performance laminates, such as those based on liquid crystal polymer (LCP) or advanced ceramics. These materials offer superior thermal and electrical properties, enabling the development of smaller, more efficient, and higher-frequency circuit boards.

Additionally, the rise of additive manufacturing techniques, such as 3D printing, has opened up new avenues for the production of customized and intricate PCB components, allowing for greater design flexibility and optimization.

Navigating the Obsolescence Landscape

By adopting a proactive approach and designing in multiple vendor parts at the early stages of product development, manufacturers can effectively mitigate the risks associated with component obsolescence.

One of the primary strategies for mitigating component obsolescence is diversifying the supply chain by integrating multiple vendor parts into the design phase. By doing so, manufacturers reduce their dependency on a single supplier, thereby decreasing vulnerability to disruptions caused by component discontinuation.

Designing in multiple vendor parts requires careful consideration during the initial stages of product development. Engineers must evaluate the compatibility, performance, and reliability of alternative components to ensure they meet the required specifications and standards. By conducting thorough research and testing, manufacturers can identify suitable alternatives that offer comparable functionality to the original components.

Furthermore, collaboration with suppliers is essential to ensure access to a diverse range of components. By fostering strong relationships with multiple vendors, manufacturers can leverage their expertise and resources to secure a reliable supply of parts. Additionally, maintaining open communication channels enables manufacturers to stay informed about industry trends, technological advancements, and potential risks related to component obsolescence.

Moreover, proactive lifecycle management is crucial for staying ahead of potential component obsolescence issues. Manufacturers should continuously monitor the lifecycle status of key components and develop contingency plans to address potential obsolescence risks. This may involve stockpiling critical parts, negotiating long-term supply agreements with vendors, or redesigning products to integrate newer technologies.

Additionally, leveraging emerging technologies such as FPGA (Field-Programmable Gate Array) technology can provide manufacturers with greater flexibility in adapting to component obsolescence. FPGA technology allows for reprogramming hardware functionality, enabling rapid adjustments to accommodate changes in component availability.


In the end, the obsolescence of PCB components and laminates is not an obstacle to be feared, but rather a testament to the dynamism and innovation that drives our industry forward. By embracing this ever-changing landscape with an open mind and a commitment to continuous learning, we can position ourselves at the forefront of technological progress, shaping the future of electronics one circuit board at a time.

Topics: Printed Circuit Boards

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