The world's economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic has led KReseach to assess that Thai printed circuit board shipments will grow roughly 20.1-24.1 percent in 2021, or equivalent to USD1,573-1,626 million. The increase is expected to be bolstered by strong demand for products in the ICT category as a result of increased investments in 5G infrastructure projects, following their slowdown during 2020, which will in turn help boost demand for 5G and related network equipment. Additionally, the recovering consumer confidence is likely to cushion demand for consumer electronics, such as smart devices, including smart home appliances and smart watches. The restored consumer sentiment will also help car sales revert to growth even though car production has partially been pressured by a global shortage of computer chips, though this issue is expected to subside during 2H21. Moreover, demand for electronic medical equipment, both portable devices for measuring vital signs (body temperatures and blood oxygen levels) and medical diagnostic devices, will continue to grow, albeit at a slower rate due to uncertainties surrounding the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, even though it has subsided somewhat.
In spite of this, Thai PCB exports are expected to be rife with a number of downside risks that must be closely monitored, especially volatile operating costs, including direct costs driven by high copper prices or international freight costs. In addition, a global shortage of computer chips may continue to pressure PCB supplies somewhat. Meanwhile, the Thai PCB industry may experience challenges ahead, including de-globalization in export markets, particularly China, where investments in the manufacturing of simple PCBs are being diversified to nearby countries, for instance Vietnam, which may become Thailand's rival in PCB production in the future. To avoid increased competition in the production of simple PCBs, Thai manufacturers must upgrade their PCB products by using advanced technologies because sophisticated PCB products will not only offer them higher profit, but also will be in line with the manufacturing trend of smaller smart devices in the future.