What You Need to Know About Cheap PCB Fabrication, Design & Assembly
You’ve likely heard the saying “you get what you pay for,” and while it might not be true for everything, the adage is definitely applicable to printed circuit boards. We know many businesses and organizations are in the market for cheap PCB manufacturing and assembly, but there’s a few important considerations you should know before placing your next order.
5 Main Factors That Affect PCB Cost
There’s a lot that affects the price of a printed circuit board. Here are the main points to keep in mind:
1. Number of layers and PCB size
The greater the number of layers (and the bigger the board), the more expensive the project.
2. Order quantity
The price of the PCB will decrease if you order more boards.
3. Turnaround time
How quickly do you need your PCB? A quick turn fabrication (in as little as 24 hours) will typically result in a higher cost.
4. Material selection
Printed circuit boards are only as good as the materials they’re made from, which means the right high-quality materials will result in a PCB that not only works properly, but also lasts for the expected lifespan of the product. The cost of materials typically increases when the printed circuit board contains gold, blind or buried vias, or via filling. This is because of an increased number of processes needed for fabrication. Line and width spacing below 6 mils may also increase the cost.
The kind of technology a company uses for PCB design, fabrication, and assembly — including for quick turn capabilities — will impact the price. Companies that use more advanced technology, which typically results in a better board, often feature higher prices.
How Do PCB Companies Cut Costs?
Many PCB providers cut costs by using less expensive equipment, which also means the equipment is less advanced. You want to look for a provider who has the following:
- State-of-the-art technology
- The ability to make circuit boards and assemble the components within the same facility — without shipping fabrication overseas
- Advanced knowledge of how to design for manufacturability and the potential cost drivers of a project
- Certification to work with a variety of industries
Challenges of Using a Cheap Provider
Cheap PCB providers just want your business — nothing more. A high-end provider, however, wants to impart their engineering knowledge and expertise to ensure you have the best possible printed circuit board. They see you as a partner, not just another PCB order.
One of the biggest issues with using a cheap PCB manufacturing and assembly provider is that they typically make IPC Class 2 boards as opposed to the higher end Class 3 boards, which have tighter tolerances and are generally the most dependable.
The reality of the PCB quoting process is that numbers may change, even with high-end providers, due in part to design complications or unexpected technology considerations that may arise down the line.
Cheap PCB providers, however, often provide wildly inaccurate quotes, failing to think ahead about any potential challenges and complications and instead just tacking on additional costs as they encounter them. A reputable, high-end company has the experience and knowledge to think ahead and explain potential costs to clients ahead of time.
You want a PCB provider who is honest and transparent about every part of the process — even if that means their quote might be a bit higher than someone else’s.
Cheap Providers vs. High-End Providers
If you truly care about receiving a quality printed circuit board, partner with a high-end provider and forgo the cheap alterative. Sure, it might cost you a little more, but you’ll likely avoid any additional costly surprises (and possibly a headache or two). Plus, in some cases, customers may find themselves turning to a high-end provider for help after receiving a mishandled and problematic PCB from a less expensive company. Save yourself the time and money and go with the best from the start.
Searching for a High-End PCB Provider?
Look no further than Cirexx. We keep up to date on the latest technology and equipment and our dedicated engineers can help you select the right materials for your project. We have all the knowledge and experience to answer your questions. We’re transparent about all aspects of the PCB layout, manufacturing, and assembly process (including quoting), and we invite you to contact us if you have any questions or need additional information.