PCB manufacturing is often costly as it involves lots of processes. Especially, some factors increase the cost, such as a large production, PCB with many vias, very small holes and traces, and a circuit board loaded with components. But, the increase in cost is non-linear, if the board quantity is double, it won’t make the total fabrication cost double. As PCB manufacturing involves both fixed and variable costs. The price per PCB reduces with a reduced order due to the tooling cost involved. Fixed costs in PCB Board Assembly include:
- Stencil-making cost
- Design testing
- Many others
Different pricing strategies can help you reduce assembly costs. PCB design also affects assembly cost, so focus on it. Likewise, you should select the right manufacturer, in this case. Let’s discuss some proven ways and strategies which can help you have an economical PCB.
Consider Cost While Designing a PCB
Design is the first step of any PCB, so you should do it carefully in terms of cost. You must see if your design will have standard manufacturing or not. The DFM is important in this case, as it guides you about assembly costs and how to reduce them. The following design considerations can help you have a low-cost PCB.
- The number of layers affects the PCB cost, so more layers mean an expensive board.
- The type of vias is another element that affects a board’s cost. If the PCB has small diameter vias, its cost will increase. Similarly, a large number of vias also increase the PCB cost. You can reduce the board price by managing the via count without compromising the board function.
- PCBs should have an appropriate size according to the assembly equipment. The design has to be functional and cover the required area. You can add panels only if they are essential. Smart devices have small and complex PCBs which are not cheap as many people think.
- The shape of the PCB also can increase or decrease the cost. Traditional circuit boards are either square or rectangular, and they are economical. However, PCBs having special shapes are expensive.
- The finishing material is another factor involved in PCB pricing. The surface finish helps in a better electrical function and also makes the soldering process effective.
You can also use other design strategies to reduce the PCB cost according to your experience.
BOM is Mandatory
You must have the bill of materials ready before PCB manufacturing and smt assembly. The BOM consists of materials, components, and assembly items. Makes sure that BOM has all important entries, such as
- The Manufacturing Firm’s Name
- Part Numbers
- Components Quantity
- Reference Designators
- Notes Or Comments
- BOM Level
- Components Replacement
- Some Others
You can also use the already available BOM template provided by assemblers and it can also help you get the right quotation. Don’t forget the component replacement while preparing the BOM, as advanced electronics result in the rapid upgrades of PCB components. The assembly time might prolong if you don’t find the replacement item, so they need an evaluation before time. A fast quote can help you have your PCB assembly faster.
Know the Component Distributors
You must know where to get cost-effective and durable components for a circuit board. You can also trust the manufacturer or assembler in this regard, as they know how to get cheap components at a wholesale price. Eventually, you can have a PCB within your budget. You can also ask the manufacturer to give you the invoice for all purchases.
Learn To Manage the PCB Volume
More PCBs mean a cost-effective assembly, as you can assemble them all with the same tools. Your order can be low, medium, or high, depending on your requirements.
Manage the Lead Time
Different assemblers calculate the lead time differently, and you should know what is more effective. You should also know if PCB manufacturing will start the same day when you pay or if it’s the order day, or else. Generally, a longer lead time will reduce the PCB price.
Check For Inspection Costs
Both designers and manufacturers test a PCB to see if it works well. If you are getting a testing service, be aware that its price will affect the final price of the board. Generally, the PCB inspection increases its final cost but you can control it by getting your product inspection service from the manufacturer. Individual PCB inspecting companies can cost you more, besides, it involves more effort.
You can have a product test according to your needs and design standards to ensure that it’s exactly what you want. Some inspection methods are as below:
- Automated optical inspection
- Visual test
- Automated X-ray
You can choose whatever suits you according to the nature of the Printed Circuit Board like it can be simple or complex. In the case of high-volume production, you can inspect the initial or first article before a full-volume inspection. As it reveals the issues that you can resolve in the beginning and prevent big damage. Eventually, less money would waste, and you will have an effective circuit board. It would be better to have a long-term PCB assembler, instead of changing it quite often.
Select An Economical Assembler
- There are many firms that offer PC Board assembly and manufacturing of which some charge very high, some are normal, and some are cheap. Try to select an assembler according to your budget without sacrificing the quality of the circuit board. Make sure the company is reliable and has professionals who can well handle the entire process.
- You must check if the assembler has a proper certification in this field or if he is just a quack. Some standard certifications in the U.S. are UL, ISO9001, RoHS, and others.
- Make sure the assembler uses advanced tools to create an effective PCB. As SMT is popular in this regard, it should be done with the right equipment.
- The manufacturer should be capable enough to develop all types of PCBs, as some boards have complex designs. Moreover, he should be able to handle a large volume of production.
- Make sure you get a design from a professional, instead of getting it from the manufacturer. A professional engineer should be your choice if you want a flawless and functional circuit board.
- The labor cost is also important, especially in hand assembly which is often higher than the automated cost. Generally, the labor cost is low in Asian countries than in the U.S. or Europe.
What Drives The Fabrication Cost Of Printed Circuit Boards?
There are some core factors that drive the fabrication cost of a PCB, so you should consider them while calculating the manufacturing price, such as:
- The type of plating can also increase the PCB cost. Like, OSP, ENIG, or immersion silver can increase the PCB cost, by up to more than 8%. Whereas tin-lead plating has standard prices.
- Small vias increase the per PCB and tooling price
- Smaller conductor means more cost
- Heavy copper increases the PCB cost
- The substrate materials like Roger’s can increase the PCB cost, whereas FR4 is cheap.
- However, more boards mean less cost per PCB.
- More components per board can also decrease the PCB cost.
What Drives The Assembly Cost Of Printed Circuit Boards?
Similarly, some factors drive the assembly cost of a PCB, and you should consider them while calculating the manufacturing price, such as:
- The quantity of unique parts also affects the PCB pricing. Such as, if the unique components are more in quantity, they will increase the assembly cost. However, you can reduce it by ordering high-volume production.
- The type of assembly also matters in calculating the PCB pricing. SMD can cost you 50% higher than a through-hole PCB assembly.
- A double-sided circuit board costs more than a single-sided PCB as it goes through an assembly process twice. Moreover, the NRE price is also high for a double-sided assembly.
- The cost of a single and a double-sided BGA becomes 20% higher than SMD and it is an additional cost as the premium cost is already there.
- Hand assembly can cost you more than machine assembly, especially in larger productions. Whereas, automated assembly won’t make the cost double if the PCB order is doubled. Generally, automated assembly involves different types of costs, including machine programming.
However, these strategies don’t end here, as there are still so many other factors that can affect the total price of a PCB. You can also follow your own experiences in this case. You can easily manage the total cost of the circuit board if you know each process well, from design to assembly and the selection of the material.
Many factors can increase the PCB cost, but you can reduce it by following various strategies. Hand assembly can cost you more than machine assembly, especially in larger productions. The type of assembly also matters, such as SMD can cost you 50% higher than a through-hole PCB assembly. You should also select an assembler according to your budget without sacrificing the quality of the circuit board.
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