Printed Manufacturing 101: The Beginner’s Guide on PCB Fabrication and Assembly
A Printed Circuit Board (PCB) has been elevated to belong to the most essential inventions by the modern man. Can you imagine a world without your precious gadgets and electronic devices? Can you imagine a world where industries have lost the capabilities of mass-producing materials and goods that other industries are dependent at?
Everything revolving around us and our way of life is in some way or another influenced by Printed Circuit Boards or PCBs. Even future inventions and innovations in science and technology will surely require the need for PCB manufacturing companies. Basically, these amazing pieces of design and circuitry are and will always be part of our everyday lives.
In this PCB beginner’s guide, we will take a look at the world of PCB manufacturing, which is the core component of electronic manufacturing services. We’ll delve into PCB fabrication and assembly. We will also quickly discuss how most PCB manufacturing companies deal with the intricacies of PCB manufacturing along with their customers.
This guide’s purpose is to help newcomers understand how the PCB industry works and how other industries benefit from the former. We also aim to help you in choosing among all the PCB manufacturing companies out there who can fit and help you in the development of your PCBs.
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Introduction to PCB Manufacturing
PCB manufacturing process steps: How is PCB manufactured ?
PCB Manufacturing Cost Calculator and Breakdown
How to reduce PCB manufacturing cost effectively while maintaining quality
How to choose a PCB manufacturer
Conclusion and How Circuitsify Can Help
Chapter 1. Introduction to PCB Manufacturing
1.1 What is PCB?
A Printed Circuit Board is a module of electronic components that are interconnected in a self-contained structure. The board itself serves as a mechanical support while the multi-layered design connects electrical and electronic components together in various forms such as conductive tracks, pads, and other features.
The direct current passes through the network pathway made from copper. This network is either attached or soldered—commonly termed “printed”–across the surface of an insulated board, also called the substrate.
Surface-mount, the latest technology in PCB manufacturing is widely used in a multitude of industries today. It is cheaper to produce, smaller components can be used, and has a faster production process.
1.2 Types of PCB
There are three main types of boards currently used today in PCB manufacturing.
Single-sided PCB – Considered the first generation of PCB, these boards are used for simple digital devices. They are made of an R4 base and have rigid laminate made of woven glass epoxy material. During PCB fabrication phase, a layer of copper of varying thickness is applied.
Double-sided PCB – These boards possess the same base as single-sided boards. The main difference between them is that copper of varying thickness covers both sides of the board.
Multi-layered PCB – This type of board uses copper foil instead of coating. The foil is made into layers that alternate between the copper foil and base material. Multi-layered PCB fabrication and assembly is the current trend nowadays as products requiring PCBs are getting more complex.
Chapter 2. PCB manufacturing process steps: How is PCB manufactured ?
- 2.1 PCB Fabrication Process Steps
- 2.1.1 Board Imaging
- 2.1.2 PCB Inner layer Etching / Copper Patterning
- 2.1.3 PCB Lay-up and Lamination
- 2.1.4 PCB hole drilling
- 2.1.5 PCB Copper Electroplating
- 2.1.6 PCB Outer Layer Etching
- 2.1.7 PCB solder masking
- 2.1.8 Silkscreen Application
- 2.1.9 Bare Board Testing
- 2.1.10 The PCB Prototype
- 2.2 PCB Assembly Process Steps
- 2.2.1 Solder Paste Stenciling
- 2.2.2 Pick and Place
- 2.2.3 Reflow Soldering
- 2.2.4 Inspection and Quality Control
- 2.2.5 Through-Hole Component Insertion
In electronic contract manufacturing, the PCB manufacturing process is dependent on its phases and sub-phases when it comes to the duration, the costing, and end results. A clear understanding of the entire PCB manufacturing industry is necessary for entrepreneurs, inventors, and for hobbyists who want to dabble with electronic circuits.
To be able to have a clear picture of the whole PCB manufacturing process, let us explore the phases and sub-phases accordingly.
Printed Circuit Board manufacturing has two major phases — PCB Fabrication and Assembly. Each phase is also comprised of several steps. Let us look at each step and briefly discuss the activities involved.
Take note that both PCB fabrication and assembly processes are done in a sterile environment to prevent contamination of the product and its components.
2.1 PCB Fabrication Process Steps
This is the initial phase wherein the PCB layout is designed and created.Some PCB manufacturing companies describe PCB fabrication as the copper removal phase. Others describe it as the creation of tracks, holes, and notches in preparation for PCB assembly.
The following are the steps of PCB fabrication in chronological order.
2.1.1 Board Imaging
Computer-aided design software is used to generate PCB fabrication data. The data is then passed on another software, the CAM (Computer Aided Manufacturing). PCB manufacturing companies have their own standard of layout data.
The following are the functions of the CAM:
- Data Input (PCB fabrication data) using PCB manufacturing company standards.
- Data Verification to check if PCB fabrication and assembly requirements are met.
- Compensations/Adjustments for deviations
- Digital Tools Output/Image Transfer
The board image is created either by film or directly on the board using laser technology. The tracks are created using a photographic process. In this first stage of the PCB fabrication process, the copper on the PCB is covered with a thin photoresist layer. At the end of the process, only the areas of the board where tracks are needed are covered with the resist.
Software used by PCB manufacturing companies has improved through the years making design and manufacturing discrepancies and errors completely avoidable.
2.1.2 PCB Inner layer Etching / Copper Patterning
The pattern is replicated through the PCB fabricator’s CAM system. The design, along with its layers are etched. This technique is also used in the manufacturing of hybrid circuits.
Ferric chloride is the most common chemical used in etching. PCB manufacturing companies have several options in their handling of the copper on the board.
The methods involved may depend upon certain situations.
For large volume production, Silkscreen and Photoengraving are used.
For small volume production, film, laser resist ablation, PCB milling, and laser etching are used.
The printed circuit pattern or the utilization of copper is also described based on the methods that are used during PCB fabrication. It can be subtractive, additive, and semi-additive.
Subtractive – these methods remove copper from an entirely coated board.
Additive – these methods uses electroplating and other complex processes where materials are added to the exposed areas of the bare board. This makes them capable of bonding ions. Copper is then added as plating.
Semi-additive – the most common method used, a reverse mask is applied while copper is added on the unmasked areas. Best used for multi-layered boards.
2.1.3 PCB Lay-up and Lamination
This is for boards that are composed of several layers (multi-layered). The layers are precisely arranged then bonded together. Pins are used during this stage of PCB fabrication to keep the layers aligned. With the aid of the computer, the layers are heated and pressed together using high pressure.
The production of electronic circuits has become more complicated with the development of new technology. In the PCB fabrication stage, PCB manufacturing companies find it impossible to create connectivity using just two sides of the PCB. Dense microprocessors and similar complex boards would always require multi-layers.
That is quite a challenge in PCB fabrication as a considerable degree of accuracy and control is required. Multi-layered boards also require much thinner individual boards. The more layers the PCB is designed to have the thinner the individual layers should be.
The lamination process is defined as pressing a set of copper layers under high temperature and pressurewith the aid dielectrics in order to cure the bonding material and form a PCB laminate.
It is important to note that a board with multiple layers requires more steps in the development compared to single-layered boards.
2.1.4 PCB hole drilling
Holes, also called vias are drilled through the PCB with accuracy. To maintain accuracy, drill bits made of solid tungsten carbide are used.
The holes are required in order to connect the different layers together at designated points.
However, drilling with mechanical bits may increase the costing of the PCB fabrication whenever very small vias are required. This is due to high wear and tear rates. In these cases, laser drilling is used.
In PCB fabrication, a software called drill file is used in the drilling process.
The holes are then deburred and checked for any unwanted materials, especially at the edges before it completes the PCB fabrication and assembly stages.
2.1.5 PCB copper electroplating
Copper is the standard conductor used in PCBs. Plating is done to make sure that the vias or electrical connections between layers have conductive walls. It can also contribute to the bonding of the layers.
It is imperative that the solder material to be used is compatible with both the PCB and its components. Matte solder is usually used as it fuses and bonds better with bare copper. Tin may be also applied to protect the plated copper before the board is sent to the PCB fabrication’s next phase.
2.1.6 PCB outer layer etching
Usually, most outer layers are pre-plated with copper. The unwanted copper is then removed through a process called etching.
Etching can be done in a number of ways. The methods used dependon the amount of copper and other materials involved.
A solder mask is applied after the PCBs are etched and rinsed with water. Any exposed copper is coated with solder, nickel, gold, or some other anti-corrosive material.
2.1.7 Solder Masking
There are some areas of the PCB that do not need to be soldered. These areas are covered during PCB fabrication by a solder mask, also called solder resist.
One common solder mask used today is the LPI (liquid photoimageable solder mask). The mask protects the copper traces of the board against oxidation and prevents solder bridges from forming.
2.1.8 PCB Silkscreen
The PCB Design software used by PCB manufacturing companies generates a silkscreen that is used as a guide to print text and place other small printed identification marks on the board.
It is often necessary for PCBs to have printed text or idents to help in fault finding as well as serve as guides during PCB fabrication and assembly.
The IPC requires PCB manufacturing companies to provide such markings for tracing purposes in situations where problems may occur.
The silkscreen method is usually done after all the processes of the PCB fabrication have been completed.
The following equipment is used in conventional silk screening:
- Laser photoplotter for initial filmproduction
- UV printer
- Spray developer
The silkscreen process utilizes specially formulated inks and uses standard fonts. Any deviation or addition to the standard process will accrue additional costs.
Here are examples of markings brought about by silkscreen application:
- Component ID
- Test points
- PCB numbers
- PCBA numbers
2.1.9 Bare Board Testing
The PCB fabrication process usually ends with a bare board, with no other component installed. The bare board is tested for shorts and opens. The testing can be done using the CAM system’s program in which it instructs an electrical tester to check the voltage that appears on each of the specific contact points and nowhere else.
Once board testing is done, the PCB will either be shipped as a bare board or proceed to the PCB assembly process.
2.1.10 The PCB Prototype
Most PCB manufacturing companies normally agree with their clients to produce a prototype first before proceeding to mass production—something we also highly recommend.
A prototype is developed normally. It undergoes all stages of PCB fabrication and assembly and is tested under the same quality control protocols as that of the mass-produced products, although some deviations may be possible. PCB manufacturing companies are wise enough to keep the PCB prototype development cycle as close to the real thing to keep the PCB fabrication and assembly with fewer changes as possible.
2.2 PCB Assembly Process Steps
The second phase of the PCB manufacturing process is called the PCB Assembly or PCBA. This involves an additional number of steps that are incorporated to ensure the quality and functionality of the product. In the assembly process, the PCB is used as a baseline and it determines how long or how costly will each step be.
The results of each step below are thoroughly checked for compatibility issues. Necessary adjustments are then applied accordingly by the PCB manufacturing companies.
2.2.1 Solder Paste Stenciling
The first step in PCB assembly is applying a solder paste to the board. A thin, stainless steel stencil is positioned over the PCB. Solder paste is then applied to the specific areas where components are to be installed.
The solder paste is composed of miniature metal balls that are composed of a mixture of lead, Silver, and copper.
When it comes to commercial PCBA production, mechanical equipment is used to keep the PCB and solder in place. An applicator is used to ensure that the solder paste is applied evenly and appropriately.
2.2.2 Pick and Place
In this stage, a specialized robotic tool is used to place the surface mount parts (SMD) on the designated areas. These SMDs will be soldered on the board surface. This process is fully automated to help manufacturers perform the tasks accurately.
2.2.3 Reflow Soldering
This method is necessary to ensure that the solder paste has completely solidified and the board components are all integrated. The PCB is placed on a conveyor belt that passes through a huge equipment called reflow oven.
The board is heated slowly until the temperature reaches 250° Celsius. This temperature melts the solder. As the conveyor reaches the cooling equipment, the solder solidifies in a controlled way. This results to permanent attachments of the SMDs to the PCB.
Two-sided PCBs will require separate stenciling and reflowing for each side.
2.2.4 Inspection and Quality Control
This is the step that ensures each assembled PCB is tested for functionality. There are a lot of steps involved in the fabrication and assembly of PCBs. It is possible that during one of those steps, the connection gets disrupted. Inspection and quality control is done throughout the entire PCB manufacturing process.
Common methods used in the Inspection process are:
This is usually done by the designer during and after the PCB fabrication process as well as in the PCB assembly phase to ensure the quality of the products. This method though has been deemed impractical, inaccurate, and obsolete as more volumes of products are manufactured. The reliability of quality control gradually deteriorates over time as human inspection skills do. Most PCB manufacturing companies has made manual checking a supplementary quality assurance method instead.
Automatic Optical Inspection
Also called the AOI, this method uses equipment with high-powered cameras in viewing a large batch of PCBs. The cameras are positioned strategically at various angles to analyze the solder connections. Light reflection is used in determining poor quality solder. The AOI functions at high speed and is very efficient in checking huge volumes of PCBs in a relatively short period.
X-ray machines are also used in inspection although to a lesser degree. The x-ray method is best used in checking complex and multi-layered PCBs to see hidden areas and layers. Most sophisticated PCB manufacturing companies apply x-ray inspection in their factories. This method can be used in the PCB fabrication and assembly stages.
2.2.5 Through-Hole Component Insertion
Some board types involve other components aside from the basic SMDs. Plated-through-hole (PTH) parts may be one of these components. A PTH is a type of fully-plated hole in the board. The holes are needed by PCB parts to send signals from one side of the board to the other.
Soldering paste does not work on holes like this. Either or both of the options below are used:
This involves a group of workers who are responsible to manually insert a designated PTH at their station. This may be tedious and expensive as the process depends on the number of PTH that need to be inserted in a PCBA cycle. As much as more and more companies are trying to avoid using designs with PTH components, the latter is still widely used today.
Wave soldering is an automated approach of manual soldering that works differently. The PTH component is positioned in place as the PCB travels through another conveyor belt. The belt passes through a sophisticated oven where the bottom part of the board is washed using a wave of molten solder. All the pins on that side are soldered instantly.
This method may be difficult for double-sided PCBs as soldering the whole side would not render the desired activity and may have an effect on any sensitive electronic part.
2.2.6 Final Inspection and Functional Test
A final inspection is conducted once the soldering of the PCBA process is finalized. This process involves the testing for PCB functionality, just like the bare board testing, but this time with all components attached.
The test validates the PCB at various paces —from a simulation of common circumstances where the board is used to other varying circumstances.
That’s it. The final inspection and functional testing just precede the shipping of the products that are ready to be used.
Chapter 3. PCB Manufacturing Cost Calculator and Breakdown
- 3.1 PCB Bare Board cost breakdown and calculator
- 3.1.1 PCB Raw materials cost
- 3.1.2 PCB Board Size and Thickness cost
- 3.1.3 PCB Layer Count cost
- 3.1.4 PCB Quantity and lead Time cost
- 3.1.5 PCB Fabrication and Lamination Process cost
- 3.1.6 PCB Production Process cost
- 3.2 PCB Assembly Cost
- 3.2.1 Component Cost
- 3.2.2 Assembly Labor Cost
- 3.2.3 Non-Recurring Engineering(NRE) charges
Now that the PCB manufacturing processes and quality assurance have been dealt with, it is time to discuss and briefly explain how the computation of costs in the PCB industry is done. Some first-time buyers find it confusing when PCB manufacturing companies tell them that the costing varies per customer.
Simply speaking, the customer’s requirements directly affect the PCB manufacturing companies’ approach towards the production processes. We will discuss the particulars under both PCB fabrication and assembly processes that may ramp up the PCB manufacturing costs.
Keep in mind that the latest reports from PCB manufacturing companies show that there is a 7% average increase in demands for PCB fabrication and assembly. Data from China also showed a doubled growth rate in Printed circuit production.
The competition grows fiercer everyday leading to a shortage of raw materials prompting interventions from governments as well as self-limiting regulations coming from PCB manufacturing companies. Cost analysis is very important. If your products have a need for PCB fabrication and assembly, make sure you understand the factors that can greatly affect PCB manufacturing.
Here are the factors that impact the PCB manufacturing cost:
3.1 PCB Bare Board cost breakdown and calculator
Production of the bare board itself involves a lot of factors that can greatly affect the total cost—a notion PCB manufacturing companies most likely tell you upfront.Basically, bare boards with multiple complex features will also cost more than a simple one as more steps are added into the PCB fabrication and assembly development.
3.1.1 PCB raw material cost
There are various choices of materials used in PCB manufacturing. From the number of sheets required to the amount of copper to be used —all of the details that are included in the design can surely add up to the costs. The materials themselves will dictate how costly or cheap the entire process cost.
A flexible board costs more than a rigid board. Using additional materials like fiberglass, polyimides, gold, silver, nickel, lead, epoxy raisin, and increasing fire resistance also cost more. Careful selection of materials is recommended.
It is also advisable to discuss with your PCB manufacturing company the list of raw materials they are using. Look for opportunities in which you can save on the materials’ cost during the PCB fabrication and assembly phases.
3.1.2 Board Size and Thickness Cost
Similar to the raw materials, the size and thickness of the board are huge factors to be considered when looking into the production costs. The bigger the size, the bigger the number of raw materials needed during PCB fabrication and assembly. There’s also the size of the PCB relative to the panel, the raw material that is cut into smaller dimensions.
Example: A single standard panel can produce more 3 inches x 4 inches PCBs compared to cutting it into 2 inches x 6 inches PCB.
The cost of manufacturing a board size of 2 in x 6 is much higher than that of a 3 in x 4 in.
This due to a higher scrap count yield by the former compared to the latter.
The most common and basic material thickness used is 0.062 inch. Any preference thicker or thinner than the standard will also alter the cost.
3.1.3 PCB Layer Count Cost
Here’s something that needs clarification. We get a lot of questions about this matter. Layer count involves the number of layers that consist of a single PCB. This factor is a major cost determinant in PCB manufacturing.
A single-sided and a double-sided PCB basically cost the same. It is the number of layers which makes the costing soar.
One specific cost determinant is the number of layers. Moving to a four-layer board from a double-layered one can double the price.
3.1.4 Quantity and lead Time Cost
Estimating PCB is also affected by the quantity and lead time from PCB fabrication and assembly until the delivery date. Quantity and time frame should always be considered. This can make or break your budgeting.
Some PCB manufacturing companies demand a required minimum number of pieces to be paid. Let’s say you just need 5 or 10 piecesproduced, you still have to pay for 20 pieces.
The general rule is: The smaller the quantity and time needed in the production-to-delivery time frame, the more it would cost.
Ordering by bulk minimizes the cost significantly as manufacturers are likely to give discounts.
3.1.5 Fabrication and Lamination Process Cost
Another thing that might add to the cost is how much processing a multi layered PCB requires outside of the standard process. Different materials required for lamination play a crucial role in determining the cost of the PCB manufacturing. But you need not worry about it if you only require single or double sided PCBs. Moreover, additional costs will also be incurred when there is additional PCB fabrication that needs to be done to the finished board. These include things like counterbores, countersinks, complex routing, controlled depth drilling etc. These costs vary greatly depending on what is required.
3.1.6 PCB Production Process Cost
There are a lot of choices one candiscuss with their chosen PCB manufacturing company when it comes to the methods to be used in the PCB fabrication and assembly processes. Choosing between gold plating, Hot Air Levelling (HAL), routing and punching, and deciding between dry film pattern and silkscreen can affect production cost.
The difficulty of the whole PCB manufacturing process is also a factor in the costing. Even using the same materials and exact steps and processes, the difficulty level of the PCB fabrication and assembly can change the pricing. Different hole diameters, irregular board sizes, and complex tracings can make engineers of PCB manufacturing companies scratch their heads.
Choosing between a full scale PCB manufacturing deal versus a PCB fabrication only can also save customers in terms of additional expenses and burden. A turnkey type of PCB manufacturing company can help you with this.
3.2 PCB Assembly Cost
The assembly phase of the PCB manufacturing is composed of interrelated processes that have an effect on the costing. Several factors are also included when discussing PCB assembly cost. Some of these factors include:
- Drill size and count
- SMT versus through-hole
- Assembly methods
- Via fill
- Blind versus Buried Vias
- Technology (e.g. soldering)
- Complex parts
- Payment methods
3.2.1 Component Cost
Component cost is another factor in the determination of the total expenses. Oftentimes, the PCB manufacturing companies and their clientsinitially arrive atan agreement regarding thetype of relationship they will be having. This aforementioned agreement has a cascading effect towards the PCB fabrication and assembly phases—-or the whole PCB manufacturing in general.
The price of the components used in the PCB manufacturing varies alongside its quality. Components made of better materials will cost higher than the standard ones. Some PCB components are also rare and hard to find, further adding to its pricing.
3.2.2 Assembly Labor Cost
Labor costs may or may not affect the costing, particularly in high volume orders and the degree of automation involved. However, the more human interaction required in the process, the more labor cost becomes a factor.
The labor cost depends on the region where the boards are being assembled. This is a big one.
The labor cost in Asia, particularly China is much lower compared to that in North America or in Europe. A rise in the demand of PCB manufacturing companies coming from China is rapidly on the rise in the last decade.
Even the largest international brands and government agencies have tapped the services of PCB manufacturing companies who have connections from China due to the cheap labor costs involved. This is also a reason why every facet of PCB fabrication and assembly are sent offshore.
3.2.3 PCB Non-Recurring Engineering charges
These Non-Recurring Engineering charges are comprised of three basic components: set-up charges, tooling charges and electrical test charges. The set-up portion is essentially the cost for the PCB manufacturing company’s CAM Engineer to review your PCB design and perform a Design for Manufacturability assessment, plot films for individual layers, generate an electrical test program as well as the associated paperwork/traveller for the order. The ‘traveller’ has all pertinent workflow instructions to manufacture your order correctly and on-time. Set-up charges are layer dependant and typically cost around $50/layer.
The second portion is tooling charges, which is the overhead rendered by using die to reduce board cost in large quantity during the PCB fabrication and assembly process. A simple outline die can cost about $1000 whereas a complicated push-back die can cost you up to $4000.
The last part is the electrical test charges. There are a variety of tests that can be performed related to PCB manufacturing, with electrical test being the most common test. It is usually conducted to make sure that the board is electrically sound and they include basic open and shorts test of the PCB. In regard to the specification standards, IPC Class 2 is a The most common standard for final printed circuit board and quality processes inspection is IPC Class-2. Again, depending upon the specifications of the board Class-3 type of standard might be required. This upgrade usually calls for additional processes like coupons & cross sections to be included in the manufacturing process. If you are in need of Class-3 process then you might want to make yourself ready to pay additional 15% to 20% of the overall cost of the project.
Chapter 4. How to reduce PCB manufacturing cost effectively while maintaining quality
The costs associated with PCB manufacturing may seem overwhelming to new players in the industry. Designs that are not optimized and done poorly or by inexperienced PCB manufacturing companies can be sources of a lot of problems.
However, prudent planning and decision-making can eliminate further problems and budget stretching down the line. It is just a matter of balance and optimization.
Here are some tips that surely can help you in your decision-making process that is a must in the PCB fabrication and assembly development:
4.1 Optimize your Board Size
Make sure the design covers all possible spaces available –physically and functionally. Effective utilization of the panel is a must. Check the unused spaces between parts and components. If some slots are not necessary, don’t use them.
Just remember: When in doubt, keep the board size smaller for smaller costs.
4.2 Utilize Materials Efficiently for Better Yield
We do not suggest going all-in in using materials of inferior quality. Determine which aspects you would consider being the selling point of your product. Investing premium materials on those aspects. Dealing with PCB manufacturing companies who know about some trade secrets will surely help with that kind of predicament.
On the other hand, consider the quality of the materials and components you would want to use.
Ask yourself these questions:
Will your choices hamper the quality of your PCB fabrication and assembly, and subsequently your final product?
Can you afford to take the risks of replacing defective boards to unhappy customers?
4.3 Standardize your Holes and Vias
Both Holes and vias choices can save you a ton or break the bank. The structures affect the lamination cycles. An increase in the number of variations in the creation of these structures also means more lamination and drillings are needed in PCB fabrication.
Remember: The smaller the hole, the higher the cost. Smaller holes, typically those below .4 mm need precise machinery.
Through-hole vias tend to be cheap while blind and buried vias are more expensive. The latter two are only used in high density and more complex circuitry. Avoid them if you can.
Chapter 5. How to choose a PCB manufacturer
Choosing a PCB manufacturing partner to handle your production needs may not be easy. There are a lot of PCB manufacturers out there with similar offers and schedule. There may be offers of pricing for PCB fabrication and assembly that are similar or even lower than others.
The competitiveness between PCB manufacturing companies will vary according to several factors and it is never easy for customers to reach the best decision. It is easier said than done.
Pricing is not the only parameter to consider when making a decision. A cheap supplier may also mean these PCB manufacturing companies yield poor quality products. There are a lot of production adjustments during PCB fabrication and assembly that need to be considered by both parties.
Here are a few guidelines you must understand and utilize when choosing a suitable manufacturing partner for your PCB fabrication and assembly:
5.1 Determine the type of PCB manufacturer you need
PCB Fabrication Only–If you just need the board fabricated for you and have another party do the procurement of other parts/components as well as the assembly.
PCB Fabrication and Assembly – The partner will provide a fully assembled PCB and deliver it to you. You are required to supply them with the needed parts and components.
PCB Turnkey Manufacturing – This type of partner is responsible for fabricating, assembling, and procurement of all the materials and components used in the production. You just need to specify the design. Fully built and ready-to-use PCBs will be sent to you.
5.2 Determine your desired turnaround time
Remember that the PCB manufacturing process follows a lot of steps that are strictly implemented. There just a few PCB manufacturing companies who can accomplish such tasks in a certain time frame.
Some PCB manufacturing companies are able to produce 500 pieces in a matter of days up to a week. Other manufacturers also may add additional costs depending on the specifications and coverage of your agreement (See number 1 above).
Another aspect to consider is if you want the PCB manufacturing company to perform either the PCB fabrication side or both PCB fabrication and assembly.
5.3 Determine the manufacturer’s ability to meet requirements and quality
This is a key guideline for every transaction with any manufacturer. We suggest making a checklist that includes the following:
- First of all, look at their track record.
- Check the quality of the PCBs they produce.
- Look at their quality control process.
- Inquire about their capabilities in procuring hard-to-find materials and components.
- Ask them of their standards as well as their protocols in the fabrication, assembly, and delivery processes.
- Check their capacity to produce the desired volume that you need.
- Ask about their payment methods.
- Check if they can provide certifications on your PCBs.
5.4 Determine how much you are willing to pay
Of course, everything boils down to the principles of costing versus profit. The highest of quality and the competitiveness of your products depend on your preferences —and the price you are willing to pay.
Most PCB manufacturing companies perform quality assurance protocols for every phase of the PCB manufacturing process.
Chapter 6. Conclusion and How Circuitsify Can Help
The PCB industry has grown substantially in the last decade or so, thanks to the concepts of Big Data and Internet of Things. Every gadget and electronic devices coming out in the market today are designed to contain a more complex form of PCB that enables a higher degree of functionality and connectivity. The race to produce high-quality products among PCB manufacturing companies is on.
The PCB industry conversely has adapted to the changes of the times. The development of new technology has made PCB fabrication and assembly even faster, leading to a shift to PCB usage instead of its older counterparts.
The Printed Circuit Boards industry is moving forward. PCB manufacturing companies continue to expand in order to face the challenges and demands for PCB fabrication and assembly from various industries. The demands are in the millions and there’s no slowing down.
Newcomers and starters in the PCB industry don’t need to fret or worry. There’s still too much space in the industry for you to grow. But time is of the essence. It is high-time a decision should be done if you want to go full throttle in making your PCB design a reality.
Circuitsify specializes in the design and development of PCB design, fabrication, and assembly among others. We serve to a wide range of other industries that include telecommunications, security surveillance, health care, automobile, construction, and consumer.
Name any phase in the development of an electronic product and you have our assurance —we deliver.
Our expert and dedicated engineers in our office located in Los Angeles, California are ready to serve to your PCB and electronic production needs. Circuitsify has also offshore PCB manufacturing factories located in Shenzhen, the “hardware silicon valley of China.
If you need help with PCB manufacturing, fabrication, and assembly that is inexpensive but of good quality, just give us a call.