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The post-pandemic connector market

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused substantial disruption across the engineering sector over the last 18 months, with businesses facing challenges such as changing market requirements, stock shortages and longer lead times.

The electrical connector market was no exception to this but despite the disruption caused by the pandemic, the interconnects industry is now seeing rising demand.

Electrical connector orders were up 71.5% in April 2021 compared to a 19.4% decrease in 2020, according to recent data from Bishop & Associates. The same study showed that sales were up 43.4% in 2021, compared to a 17.2% decrease in 2020. This growing demand for electrical connectors is directly related to growth in key markets such as renewable energy, construction and automotive.

Renewable energy applications

There is no doubt that interest in renewable energy continues to grow. This has led to expanding applications and an increase in the renewable energy electricity trade. Advancements in renewable power and power distribution technology have led to increased demand for high-capacity interconnection lines, driving growth in the electrical connector market.

Renewable energy connector applications go beyond massive power grids — applications like hybrid and electric vehicles (HEV/EV) and net metering for solar homes also impact the industrial connector market.

Connectors in construction

The compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of the building and construction industry is expected to expand by 5% between 2021 and 2028, driving increased demand for electrical connectors, according to data published by Grandview Research. Keep in mind that this is not limited to new construction, but also includes the refurbishment of existing infrastructure.

Another key aspect of this growth lies in the expansion of infrastructure taking place in many developing countries. The growing infrastructure includes transportation and expansions in power generation, smart grids and electrical distribution. In particular, updates and expansions to transportation infrastructure will include rail signalling and rail tunnelling, requiring reliable railway connectors.

Automotive connectors

The automotive sector, which is expected to experience a strong demand related to various factors, is heavily influencing the post-pandemic demand for connectors. These factors include more stringent quality and reliability standards, the development of highly advanced electric systems and increased demand for HEVs and EVs.

Reliability and quality standards are a few challenging aspects of the automotive market. This requirement has driven a demand for designs involving smart connectors with EMI/RFI suppression, versatile miniature connectors and UL-recognized and RoHS-compliant connector solutions.

The adoption of advanced electronic systems such as system diagnostics, driver assistance and infotainment have also greatly influenced the automotive connector market. Infotainment, in particular, will have a positive impact on the need for communication connectors.

The demand and interest in HEVs, EVs and autonomous vehicles are rapidly increasing. In fact, there will be over 37 million EVs on Great Britain’s roads by 2050 according to National Grid ESO’s Future Energy Scenarios 2021 report. This demand puts extra pressure on engineers to develop harsh environment connector solutions that are efficient, reliable and lightweight, offering a weight reduction between 20 and 30% compared to traditional solutions.

The global market for cables and connectors was valued at $78bn in 2019 and is expected to reach $120bn by the end of 2026, growing at a CAGR of 6.3% over the next five years, according to data from Absolute Reports. The key to keeping up with the increased demand for cables and connectors is an emphasis on high performance, reliability and efficiency.

Author details: Shaun Findley, European Director of Product and Purchasing at PEI-Genesis

Shaun Findley

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