As electronic products increase in functionality, interconnects increase in pin count, bandwidth capability and more. As portable electronic products shrink, the connector must reduce in size, as well. Expect the product to survive in harsh environments and the connectors and cables had better be up to the task. Meeting these requirements and more has meant growth for the connector industry.
Bishop and Assoc. Connector Industry Forecast projected connector industry growth of 12.6 percent worldwide and 9.5 percent in North America in 2006. The highest growth regions were China at 32.4 percent accounting for $6.6 billion of the total $40 billion and the Asia-Pacific region at 19 percent accounting for $5.1 billion. Specific areas of high growth include computers & peripheral, medical and transportation (non-automotive) applications.
Ron Bishop, president of Bishop and Assoc., says automotive is now the largest market for connectors worldwide. "Connectors get their growth from the automotive industry first because of the number of vehicles that are manufactured and they get a second hit because of the electronic content that continues to increase on automobiles," says Bishop.
Market research firm Fleck Research focuses on connectors, cable assemblies, backpanels and related interconnect devices. The company says sales of these products were $37 billion worldwide in 2005. Commodity connectors account for 36 percent of the total with application-specific, proprietary and semi-proprietary products making up the rest.
According to Ken Fleck, founder of Fleck Research, "The commodity portion is growing more rapidly than the others." This is because of the extensive usage of commodity products and their low cost. "It will edge up in the low 40s, 41 or 42 (percent) within the next few years," he says.
Competing in the connector market has meant change in many respects. Rugged fiber optic is just one of the areas.
This section addresses the trends in industrial connectors, industrial cables, terminal blocks, fiber optic interconnects, pc board connectors, automotive and rugged connectors.