University Responds as Demand Grows Across the Industry

PCB close-up
UMass Lowell’s planned Massachusetts Electronics Manufacturing Evolution Laboratory on North Campus will help train students and industry workers in the design and fabrication of PCBs.


Media contacts:Emily Gowdey-Backus, director of media relations and Nancy Cicco, assistant director of media relations 
What is the most in-demand element in each piece of consumer technology we use every day? Printed circuit boards, or PCBs.
Today, as world demand continues to grow, the global market for PCBs reached $86.18 billion in 2023, and is expected to hit nearly $141 billion in less than a decade, according to Precedence Research.
In an effort to mitigate this demand, educate the next generation of tech experts and partner with leading manufacturers, UMass Lowell will establish the Massachusetts Electronics Manufacturing Evolution Laboratory. 
UMass Lowell Engineering Dean and Mechanical Engineering Professor James Sherwood will serve as the project’s principal investigator, with Bradley Mingels, director of workforce development for professional and undergraduate education at the university’s Francis College of Engineering, as co-PI. 
“Currently, there are more than 2,400 unfilled jobs in electronics manufacturing in Massachusetts,” said Mingels. “The MEME Lab will help address this critical and growing shortage of talent by developing a workforce skilled in electronics hardware preproduction, process development and inspection.”
Located on the university’s North Campus, the project is supported by a $500,000 Massachusetts Skills Capital grant, which will facilitate the purchase of equipment for the facility. The grant program is offered by the Massachusetts Workforce Skills Cabinet and funded by the state through its capital budget.
The grant will fund the procurement of equipment for fabricating multilayered circuit boards, component pick-and-place equipment and solder reflow ovens for finishing boards. UMass Lowell’s collaboration partners, which include LPKF, Nano Dimension and Essemtec, are also donating a portion of the equipment, together with associated software and technical support.
Through the MEME Lab, UMass Lowell students will gain insights into how PCBs are made, their physical limitations and their performance. 
“This is a new and novel approach,” said Mingels. “Students will develop in-demand skills as well as a deeper understanding of the two sides of the PCB industry.” 
According to Mingels, PCB manufacturing was prevalent in the U.S. in the past, but most went offshore over the past two decades. “This could be an opportunity to bring many jobs back onshore, especially for some of the more complex PCB designs, reducing our dependence on out-of-state and overseas fabricators,” he said.