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Electronics Manufacturing Opportunities and Challenges for India’s Burgeoning Aerospace Industry

India’s Aerospace and Defence (A&D) market is estimated to grow to around $70 billion by 2030 with government encouragement and improving infrastructure. There are opportunities beyond commercial and military aviation. Private players are entering new areas like unmanned flight, space transportation and commercial satellites.

When most people think of India and space, they see VSSC and ISRO. In recent years, several impressive private startups have entered the domain. These startups are driven by strong R&D, and they are changing the profile and perception of Indian high-tech. Here are just a few:

  • Asteria Aerospace combines robotics and AI to create customised hardware products and software solutions for UAVs.
  • Bellatrix Aerospace, incubated at IISc, develops in-space propulsion systems and orbital launch vehicles.
  • Agnikul was incubated at IIT Madras, and is part of the Airbus Accelerator. This company uses 3D printing to build launch vehicles and engines.
  • Dhruva Space, based in Hyderabad, is a National Award-winning start-up that offers full-stack space engineering solutions from ground stations to launch solutions and satellite platforms.
  • Skyroot Aerospace is developing Earth-to-space transportation systems for both materials and people.

These startups, and many others like them, are based on the combination of decades of space research expertise from ISRO and VSSC, and the new generation of IT entrepreneurs. The new entrepreneurs have an understanding of how to win over investors with deep pockets and the appetite for risk.

This industry faces two unique challenges: massive amounts of capital and long development cycles. Companies in this area are not just developing software. They are building physical products which must go through an extended design, development and testing process, are highly regulated and require precision engineering.

Ancillary manufacturers of aerospace components and assemblies face new challenges to supply these startups. Aerospace-grade materials and components require special design, materials sourcing, transportation, manufacture and storage.

  • PCBs used in aerospace equipment must be able to withstand extreme temperature, high humidity and excessive vibration.
  • Their lifecycle must be measurable in decades.
  • In some cases, replacing a PCB may be nearly impossible – for example, a PCB used in a GPS satellite.
  • Aerospace PCBs must be absolutely uncontaminated to perform reliably.
  • PCB size is severely restricted by the high cost of transporting equipment to space.
  • Aerospace PCBs are also highly complex, requiring double-sided and multi-layered designs.

Many of these challenges have no Earth-bound equivalent. Replacing a PCB in an aircraft engine is expensive, time-consuming and complicated, but it is possible; replacing one used by an orbiting satellite is near-impossible. Solving these challenges requires new and revolutionary thinking at every step of component/assembly manufacture.

Podrain works with several of these startups. We are AS9100-certified as a top-quality manufacturer for the aviation, space and defence industry. Podrain is one of the few EMS companies in India with this level of quality. This is an exciting new industry for us. There are many new challenges and problems to solve. The possibilities are only growing.

Will private spacefaring companies be able to sustain and be profitable in the long run? India’s low-cost, improvisational manufacturing philosophy and engineering expertise make Indian EMS companies perfectly positioned to manufacture aerospace components. Podrain sees huge domestic and international potential for Indian EMS companies as space becomes democratised. Podrain stands ready to seize the opportunity.

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Complex assemblies – some samples

Telit ME910 / LE910

Part number: ME910 / LE910
Telit ME910 / LE910
  • Part Number: ME910 / LE910
  • Make: TELIT
  • Dimensions: 28.2 X 28.2 X 2.2 MM
  • 4G LTE, CAT 1, 4
  • Mobile IoT 3GPP REL 13, 14 – LTE CAT M1, NB1, NB2 
  • 3G and 2G Series
  • Voice Capable Variants – Volte, Analog, and Digital Audio
  • Certified with Regulatory Bodies and Mobile Operators Worldwide
  • Multiple I/O
  • Optional GNSS

Digi International : CC-WMX-JN58-NE

  • Part Number: •CC-WMX-JN58-NE
  • Make: Digi International
  • Dimensions : 29mm X 29mm X 3.5mm
  • Description : Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, 802.11A/B/G/N/AC, Bluetooth v4.0 Transceiver Module 528 mhz  Surface Mount

Quectal: EG95EXGA-128-SGNS

Quectal: EG95EXGA-128-SGNS
  • Part Number: EG95EXGA-128-SGNS
  • Make: Quectel
  • Dimensions: 29mm X 25mm X 2.3mm
  • Description: Cellular, Navigation Beidou, Edge, Galileo, Blonass, GPS, GNSS, GPRS, GSM, HSPA+, LTE, UMTS, WCDMA Transceiver Module – Antenna not included Surface Mount

Telit: GE310-GNSS

Telit: GE310-GNSS

Part Number: GE310-GNSS

Make: TELIT

Dimensions: 18mm X 15mm X 2.2mm

Description:  Automated Manufacturing Process Friendly. Miniature and Futureproof footprint. BT 4.0 Transceiver. GPS, GLONASS, Galileo and Beidou navigation, Ideal solution for applications such as asset management, utilities, and telematics. Battery-friendly operation with 2.8V GPIOS.

Quectel: EG91NAFB-512-SGNS

Quectel: EG91NAFB-512-SGNS
  • Part Number: EG91NAFB-512-SGNS
  • Make: QUECTEL
  • Dimensions: 29mm X 25mm X 2.3mm
  • Description: Cellular Navigation on Beidou, Galileo, Glonass, GPS, GNSS, LTE, UMTS, WCDMA. Transceiver module- Antenna not included surface mount

Honeywell: LGA_299_35MMX35MM_BETTER_SOM

Honeywell: LGA_299_35MMX35MM_BETTER_SOM
  • Part Number: LGA_299_35MMX35MM_BETTER_SOM
  • Make: Honeywell International Inc.
  • Dimensions: 35mm X 35mm X 6mm
  • Description: SOM , I.MX6 SOLOX-2 , 4GBYTE EMMCFLASH , 1GBYTE DDR3L

New Technologies Inc: A-365-MQ-A00

  • Part Number: A-365-MQ-A00
  • Make: New Technologies Inc
  • Dimensions: 22.5mm X 15.05mm X 1.13mm
  • Description:  The A-365-MQ Fingerprint sensor is a fingerprint scanner in an LGA Style package. The sensor is based on capacitative contact technology with hardened surface and enhanced ESD immunity.
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complex assemblies

Metal BGA

Electronics have become essential to daily life. Everything from refrigerators to military aircraft contains electronics. Today’s critical advanced assembly challenges mainly fall into three categories: performance, usability and productivity. To build and visualise product designs quickly and economically, engineers must address all these challenges.

On the other hand, manufacturing techniques are becoming more advanced and aesthetics are increasingly in demand. Project lifecycles and budgets are constrained. Sometimes, these constraints mean that DFM standards are overlooked in PCB design. For example, if the PCB has to fit in a box of fixed dimensions, the PCB design has to be tweaked accordingly. Or, components with different reflow profiles may be used on the same sid

Newer design houses or inexperienced engineers and designers may be prone to these mistakes. But not validating designs with tool and industry standards is bad practice. Here are just a few examples:

Pad mismatch

 If the copper termination pad separates partially or completely from the board, it can be hard to identify the fault; the pad may look intact as the solder usually remains attached to the component. The cause is usually mechanical strain that begins during testing, manufacturing, vibration while being transported or even when connectors are attached. PCB performance is impaired and performance is inconsistent. Extensive or even destructive testing may be required to positively identify the cause. Podrain follows a painstaking process to minimise the risk of damage from pad mismatch at each step.

No silkscreen. 

The silkscreen does not impact the electrical functionality of a PCB, but it is still extremely valuable as it provides essential information when assembling the PCB. It provides simple visual feedback that helps to catch deeper problems. It is not merely for aesthetic purposes. It is information that should not be separated from the board. Unique ID numbers, warning symbols, certifications etc. should be displayed on the board. At Podrain, we treat correct and comprehensive silkscreens as an integral part of the PCB.

THT vs. SMT components. 

When SMTs were developed in the 1980s they were expected to completely replace THTs. But THTs and SMTs are not always interchangeable. THTs offer reliable and useful in test and prototyping applications where frequent manual adjustments and replacements are needed. But SMTs are almost always more efficient and cost-effective. Podrain’s extensive experience in a wide range of applications gives us the expertise to know which type of components to use for a given project.

Incorrect polarity marking. 

To prevent polarised component packages from being inverted during assembly machine setup or manual soldering, accurate polarity marking is critical. It is only necessary for land patterns that have a specific rotation during assembly. Incorrect polarity markings can cause equipment damage, short-circuiting, serious injury, fires or even explosions. Podrain follows stringent Post Assembly Inspection Process protocols to visually validate that assembly insertion is done correctly

Incorrect component separation. 

Most designers are used to PCB clearance rules for spacing between traces in a single layer. However, many design houses overlook PCB clearance between layers. Today’s circuit designs often involve a single PCB with power and controls on the same substrate. This may put high-voltage traces close to low-voltage signals, creating a risk of arcing. The resulting sparks can permanently damage the port of the low-voltage component. Podrain designers and engineers keep ourselves up to date on the latest IPC-2221B design standards to ensure optimum manufacturability with minimum risk.

Podrain’s customers have brought us some interesting design challenges.

A top manufacturer of electric vehicle charging stations found that the PCBA yield was below 90%, lower than expected. The company approached Podrain to investigate. The issue was all the more challenging because the assembly was ROHS. Planning and finding the right profile, especially on a PCB that uses BGA + LGA, is an art.  By devoting our experienced people to solve this, we iterated through a range of 11 temperature profiles in a reflow oven within just 2 days to find the solution.

Another customer set us the challenge of setting the right profile for a board designed with a heavy BGA connector having multiple ceramic BGAs, including micro BGAs, on a 2mm thick PCB. The issue is these kind of connectors use very high temperature for soldering. 265 degree Celsius plus is needed for soldering but a normal BGA can tolerate only 245 to 255 degree Celsius. We designed and conducted multiple trials by changing the solder paste for each profile. After 15-20 trials supported by some fixtures, we were able to determine the best profile for the customer’s board.

Podrain has solved many such complex assembly design challenges for our customers.

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Access to capital: the Msme money maze

Capital Access that looks easy on paper is difficult in practice

The government’s Make in India strategy demonstrates how important MSMEs are to India’s growth story, but capital is still hard to get. If you are considering launching a startup, here are some things to keep in mind:

KEEP FRIENDS, FAMILY AND FOREIGN FUNDS CLOSE

Most credit schemes are aimed at MSMEs that are at least three years old. If your company is newer, informal sources like family and friends must be part of your fundraising strategy. Quite often, this means looking abroad for help. Even if you are looking at a VC / PE funding, the Indian ecosystem is in its infancy and you are likely to go beyond India’s borders. But this can lead to a problem. Indian financial institutions need at least 75% Indian ownership to qualify you for most of their loan products. This is intended to encourage Indian entrepreneurs, but as a startup that might be considering all options for support – make sure foreign investors hold less than 25%.

CAUTION: COLLATERAL AHEAD!

Typically, financial institutions ask for collateral that equals (or exceeds) the loan amount. This can be a term deposit or a mortgage on your home. Indian financial organizations are very cautious about lending. Read the loan terms carefully and include all supporting documentation with your application. 

PLEASE MIND THE GAP

The Small Industries Development Bank of India (SIDBI) was established to bring MSMEs and capital together. This is excellent news for MSMEs but the execution is not perfect. Rules can be unclear and confusing. Decision-making does not always follow the on-paper criteria. If your application is rejected, you may not know why.

Government schemes to support MSMEs working on Covid-19-related projects face similar challenges. Companies that qualify for credit on paper may still be rejected without an explanation.

WHAT CAN CHANGE

Podrain’s experience has taught us that patience is key. It also helps to have an experienced, trusted financial advisor or mentor who understands the options and provides guidance on processes and documentation. Some signposts and directions from financial institutions will make navigating easier.

MSMEs should be able to quickly and easily understand what each regulator is responsible for. Clearly stated eligibility rules for each scheme and a simple explanation of the risks and benefits of each option will help entrepreneurs who are not always financial experts make the right choice. A single-window approach to clearances will make MSMEs’ search for capital much easier. Regulators can also help to match MSMEs with the right funding source for their needs. We can then rely on financial institutions and their lending officers for guidance on the right capital products and schemes. 

Financial institutions also need to look beyond traditional collateral-based criteria. Very often these show only the borrower’s existing financial strength and not the intent to repay. To help new MSMEs get started, lenders may consider performance-based criteria to approve loans. For example, whether a startup pays its employees’ salaries, its taxes, and its statutory dues (GST, PF, etc.) on time is a good indication of its intent to pay. Market-based criteria used by PE/VC funds may also be used with modifications that reflect the lower risk appetite of the lender. These forward-looking strategies are consistent with the idea of financial institutions as partners in the Indian MSME growth story.

By adopting a partnership mindset, financial institutions can make capital more easily accessible to MSMEs who want to Make in India.

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The Art of Quick Turn Prototype Manufacture – Some learnings

As a PCB assembly and manufacturing unit, we face several challenges in ensuring we can meet the turnaround time our clients ask for while still delivering a quality product. This is a short post on the challenges we face and how we solve them.

6 M framework based thinking helped Podrain find solutions for quick turnaround manufacture

Managing Part Availability Delays

Every manufacturing organization has dealt with issues in this area. The critical part is held up in customs. A normally reliable supplier doesn’t have stock just now. The wrong part got shipped. The list of such issues can be long. Our clients purchase the parts for us in most cases because we are a “job-work” oriented partner, but there are many occasions when the part isn’t available on time but the end date to finish the manufacture is the same!

We’ve seen clients work hard through the day and the part reaches us at the end of the regular workday. We have adapted by having a 3 shift operation in place so that we can take up the order manufacture at any time and ensure client timelines are met. We also ensure that our strongest team members are available on the late shift. It can be tough working late at night on an important order and we put our toughest people on the job to make sure it gets done right.

There are some consumables, that we must order and here we invest in supplier relationships. Our stencil suppliers, for instance, deliver within a few hours because they know they can trust our volume commitments and payment cycles.  

Kit Condition Checks First

For larger clients who have their own kitting teams, 99% of the kits arrive in good condition and we can start manufacture immediately. However, many of our clients are startups or design houses that are still experimenting. The parts are directly shipped to us without kitting checks at the client’s end. 

We solve this by frontloading our effort in checking kits. Where other manufacturers would ask two people to run kit checks, we allocate 6 people. And we work with the client to solve for deficiencies right away – if there is a part shortfall can we run a smaller batch? Is there additional testing we can do on a smaller batch, while we wait? Is there an alternate part or source we have seen that we can connect them to? We work flexibly with our partners to ensure their goal is met.

Data Package Standardization

In the past when we accepted all client data packages as-is, we would spend a day verifying the documents – gerbers, assembly drawings, additional assembly instructions, etc. – and then mapping them to our process to ensure there were no misses. Working with our clients we realized many of them were flexible on giving us this information in a format that we requested. This saves us time and ensures we can follow a Total Quality Management process even within a 48 or 72-hour manufacturing turn. 

We’ve used the 6 M framework – Manpower, Method, Machine, Material, Milieu and Measurement to think through problems and find some of these solutions. I highly recommend this to anyone working in Manufacturing or even in other industries.  

That’s it for this month. I’ll write again with more of our learnings next month. 

If you want to know more about Podrain and our electronics manufacturing services contact us and we will get back to you at the earliest

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Automotive

Increasing Share of Electronics in AUTOMOBILES

Many recent news articles have pointed out the effect of semi-conductor chip shortages on automobile output. There will be 7.7 million fewer vehicles produced and over $210 billion in revenue lost in the year 2021 according to some reports.* This has taken many consumers – who don’t realize the extent of shift in automotive technology – by surprise. 

 Cars now contain more electronics than ever and their share is only growing. According to this research report from McKinsey & Company, software and electronics have become the focus of most automotive companies.  Power Electronics, growing at 15% , sensors at 8% and ECU’s /DCU’s growing at 5% plus will drive the global size of the automotive electronics industries to $469 billion by 2030. 

At Podrain Electronics we are working with automotive OEM’s and other players as they ride the wave of change. 

Automobile OEM’s are shifting gears into electronic mode:

Automobile components that were previously electrical or mechanical systems are now getting an electronic layer.  For example, we have worked with a major Indian automotive manufacturer on the prototype “anti-pinch” window sensors for their new range of SUV’s.  The electric motor, which operates the power window is fitted with a sensor that can sense any obstacle and stops the winding action. Parents of fidgety children who like to put their hands out of a window or pets who like to stick their noses out into the breeze can drive easier, knowing this technology will keep them safer.  

This example is the tip of the iceberg. Sensors are being used in engine, power, steering, braking and acceleration systems converting automobiles from electro-mechanical machines to electronic & software devices. For examples, a tire manufacturing OEM client of ours is integrating electronics to create a Tire Pressure monitoring system that will enable them to optimize tire pressure based on weight of the load, road and environment conditions.  The ability to remotely monitor the performance of their products opens up new opportunities to provide extended support , warranties and differential pricing for them.This is only one example of an OEM whose product and commercial model are changing to suit the times. 

Fleet Management & Allied Services need electronics in automobiles: 

We have supported clients for GPS and Vehicle Tracking Systems manufacture – another growing space of automobile electronics. There are several use cases for Fleet Management Solutions. They help track on-time arrival and departure of vehicles, fuel consumption, route monitoring and modification, safety tracking etc. Fleet management solutions and Asset Tracking are often done by other businesses and not by the Original Equipment Manufacturer. According to Mordor Intelligence this will be a USD 22 billion in 2026** and we certainly expect to help many of the companies in this area. 

The future of mobiility – whether you choose a traditional fossil fuel vehicle, an electric one or a hybrid – certainly involves electronics! 

If you are looking for electronics manufacturing services support for your company contact us and we will get back to you at the earliest.

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Solder Paste

Solder Paste Choice

Solder paste printing attaches surface mount devices to printed circuit boards. Over 70% of Surface Mount Technology defects are driven by solder problems.* The choice of solder paste can make a huge difference. As devices and their components become smaller, the solder connections are also correspondingly finer. Its hard to fill apertures for these small devices with coarser type 3 solder paste. Type 2 solder paste is almost never used on Printed Circuit Boards. Rather, it features in power and industrial products where the chip package is bigger.  

 

Until 2017, India had easy access only to type 3 solder paste which has 25-45 microns powder size. While it is possible to use type 3 solder paste for lead pitch between 0.3mm and 0.02mm , the reliability and durability of the boards reduces. Type 4 solder paste yields better results in our experience. We also use a Solder Paste Inspection system to ensure the right amount has been used.

 

Podrain has been sourcing and utilising type 4 solder paste, even though it entails a 20%-30% higher cost for the past 4 years. Now, we see an across the industry move to Type 4 solder paste  and even the manufacture of Type 3 solder paste is coming down. We are currently evaluating switching to type 5 solder paste which has a powder size of 15-25 microns for components that need to go on the smallest PCB’s. 

 

So when you are looking for a provider to make your PCBA’s, go beyond looking at the machines on the assembly line, and ask what solder paste is used. 

 

*Biemans. 2011. “5D solder paste inspection merits beyond 3D technology.” Global SMT and Packaging 8-13 

References

https://blog.gotopac.com/2020/03/13/solder-paste-types-powder-sizes-for-smt-dispensing/

https://scholarworks.rit.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=10208&context=theses

 

 

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Shyam and Rajesh

SiliconIndia Article

SiliconIndia

Printed Circuit Boards (PCB) constitute an integral part of many (expensive) electronic devices. The costs of failure of undertaking a full production run without adequate testing of the PCB are

very high. The ideal answer is a strong prototyping process which can help in identifying any design or performance issues. However, finding the right Electronic Manufacturing Service (EMS) partner for this early stage where volumes are small and the turnaround needs to be quick can be challenging.

Podrain Electronics, unlike other EMS providers ca- ters to this niche market of prototyping on small volume. Having high-end machines to build and test PCBA’s, Podrain caters to the complete needs and requirements of the customer. The company specializes in the supply of products with a fast turnaround without compromising on the rigor of testing. The typical customers for Podrain’s prototyping services are Start-ups and hardware design companies. “Prototyping needs us to be very flexible,” explains Shyam Chandran, CEO of Podrain Electronics. “We work most Sundays. There was one occasion when a client came in at 8 PM in the evening, wanting some- thing to be ready for a VC presentation the next day. We worked overnight. While we charge a higher price for such a quick ask, the result for our client can be priceless”, adds Shyam. The company has expertise in delivering complex assembly – BGA, PoP, LGA and other new modules that are introduced in the market. Podrain has the capability to assemble thin as well as flexible PCBs.

“Podrain Electronics caters to the niche market of prototyping on small volume.”

Rajesh Rajagopal, Director of Operations says, “We are seeing a trend for slimmer devices overall. One of our builds was for a smartwatch prototype for a leading Indi- an brand determined to deliver a world class product. We had to assemble a PCB of 0.4 mm thickness with a 0.2 mm BGA package. We constantly invest in keeping up our learning so that we can deliver the type of cutting edge products our clients design. We love this challenge

Shyam and Rajesh have both been in the EMS space for over 20 years with different organizations. They met while working for an EMS company in 2013. They put together the idea of Podrain Electronics specifically to cater to a gap they saw – an engaged EMS willing to work in the prototyping space using the type of high-end machines that the final manufacturing process will involve. In the past 3 years they have found many takers for these services. Shyam takes care of the business side, while Rajesh manages the technical and operations aspects.

The duo has big plans. Podrain is ISO 9001:2015 certified. The company has continued to invest in new- er machines including an X-Ray inspection machine. In addition to PCB assembly, Podrain does complete box build assembly. A set of reliable partners supply the plas- tic enclosures, sheet metal and cable harnesses which are then assembled, tested and packed out of Podrain. They are also doing evaluation kits for silicon chips for leading semi-conductor manufacturers.

The prototypes the company has partnered on are maturing into higher volumes and clients are requesting pro- duction support. The current location in Bommanahalli is just off the ORR and close to the start-up hubs of Koramangala, HSR Layout, Indiranagar, Jayanagar etc. But it’s pretty full. “We need to grow to keep up with our clients. We hope to start a bigger production facility in the near future. Perhaps in Electronic City, Bengaluru”, says Shy- am. And what about the original prototyping idea? Shyam further adds, “We will continue with this and start more prototype friendly units”. Rajesh continues, “Perhaps even one in Austin, Texas. The future is bright for us”.

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India

Is India Poised for an electronic manufacturing services boom?

PODRAIN ELECTRONICS: PROTOTYPE PCBAS WITHOUT COMPROMISING ON QUALITY.

India’s Electronics Manufacturing Services Industry is poised to grow six-fold to $152 Billion in the next 5 years according to some industry body estimates. Podrain certainly believes this growth forecast is possible.

Our increasing participation is being driven by a few factors. 

We have a large market within India for electronics in different sectors. Whether it is cars and tyres, electronic vehicles and their charging stations or medical equipment, products from all of these industries are set to have high-end electronics embedded in them. Products that were previously electrical or mechanical are being upgraded with the addition of electronics. Intended for both the global and local markets, India’s 700+ electronics manufacturing services companies can all grow and there will be room for more players too. The speed with which Ola Electric has ramped up its manufacturing capacity or the success that Dixon Technologies has seen in contract manufacturing are examples that have been making the news in recent times. 

At Podrain, we have witnessed this potential over the past 4 years. We’ve worked with traditional companies looking to move into the new digital age. Can adding electronics help a tyre manufacturer offer new business models? Can a traditional watch manufacturer move into the digital wearables business? Can a UPS perform better, delivering uninterrupted up time despite frequent power failures? 

We’ve also worked with startups building products that are completely new and innovative – a medical testing device smaller than your set top box. Or an under the pillow device that can revolutionise healthcare. Or a monitoring system that allows parents to safely track their children. The possibilities imagined by our clients promise an exciting future. 

Besides the push by private companies there is increased government focus on improving indigenous manufacturing capabilities in defence and aerospace. 

Apart from demand side drivers, there are supply side factors influencing India’s position in the Electronics Manufacturing space. COVID 19 disrupted supply chains globally and many  players, who had never looked past China are now looking at other countries to base manufacturing operations. Major global manufacturers such as Hon Hai, Electroplast, Wistron are setting up facilities in India. The government has also been incentivising manufacture of electronics products with tax breaks, more attractive labour laws, SEZ creation etc. 

The future looks bright for the Electronics Manufacturing Sector globally and for India in particular.

 
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