By ordering a prototype PCB in the USA, it is possible to avoid a lot of headaches subsequently. Although the designer wants to make sure the final PCB will work as they anticipate, a prototype PCB helps in estimating:
- Time frames for Production
- Manufacturing costs
- Board quality
Whether the circuit board is simple or complex, investing in a prototype pays off by eliminating or at least reducing changes to a large extent that could upset schedules. For a designer, it is always better to rectify any faults or omissions in the layout by using a prototype rather than find them in the final PCB. They must make sure the design is right, so that hundreds of production PCBs may not go to waste.
Prototype PCB Cut Costs
Designers must put in a lot of effort to determine the final cost of a prototype PCB. Competent PCB prototyping services available in the US can provide benefit comparisons in depth and cost calculations to make the designers goals simpler.
Contrary to popular belief, it is not only complicated circuits and boards that require making a prototype. In fact, we offer PCB prototyping services for all types of boards.
Factors Affecting Prototype PCB Costs
Just as each PCB differs from the other, prototype PCBs also do not conform to one size fits all; with several factors going into determining the final cost. Some important considerations for cost of prototype PCBs are:
- Size — The larger the overall size of the board, the more expensive it will be.
- Material — PCB materials are available in various types, with some materials more expensive than others are. High performance materials will be more expensive.
- Complexity — The final cost will depend on the board complexity. A large number of components, high density traces, large number of layers, heavy copper, all will push up the final cost of the board.
- Turn Around — Rapid prototyping to meet deadlines will be more expensive. However, the prices are most effective for higher build times.
Engineering Costs of Prototype PCBs
Greater the complications in the prototype PCB, more is the time taken, and hence, higher the cost of PCB printing in the US. Engineering cost can vary substantially depending on the design, complexity, and engineering specialty of the board. The various engineering costs are:
For simple designs, PCB manufacturers assume basic processes, with regular costs. However, for very small boards, with many layers, and complicated designs they may charge more for the extra processes.
Although two layer boards are the most common, some designs may require 4, 6, 8 or even more layers. While boards with few layers are cheaper to make, those with higher number of layers usually have blind or buried vias that substantially increase the prototype board cost to almost double. In most cases, designers prefer to use through-hole vias instead.
Primarily, this depends on the total number and type of components on the prototype PCB. Further, the assembly costs may go up if there are fine-pitch components present. Use of lead-less packages such as BGA or QFN may push up the assembly costs further. If the prototype has components on both sides of the board, PCB prototyping services may charge higher.
Apart from the cost of production and assembly, PCB prototyping services also add the cost of the electronic components that the board uses. For complex circuits, the cost of electronic components may override others.
Designers prefer to use original branded ICs and modules to achieve the functionality they desire. For prototype PCBs, they may prefer alternate cheaper sources of resistors, capacitors, and connectors with the same specifications.
Although this is an optional expense, some designs require testing of prototype PCB assemblies. Testing ensures the prototype PCBs are of functional quality.
Designers must provide the test method to the PCB manufacturer. Once the manufacturer has assembled the prototype samples, they test it to confirm the functionality according to the test method. For instance, for BGA assembly, an X-ray test is necessary to avoid chances of dry solder or shorts.
The PCB manufacturer will add transport and freight costs as necessary to deliver the final prototype samples. For inland deliveries, the manufacturer may prefer to use a reliable courier to deliver the prototypes quickly and without damage.
Estimating the Price Range for Prototype PCBs
Working with a PCB prototyping service makes it easier to estimate the final price of a prototype PCB. Depending on the design and materials, the prototype cost may vary from only a few dollars for the bare board alone to hundreds of dollars for the assembled PCB.
There is too much dependence on design, size, complexity, components, materials to assume any general estimates for the final cost of prototype PCBs. The number of production boards also affects the price. As a general rule, a smaller production batch will make prototyping more expensive. For instance, PCB prototyping services will charge more for prototyping boards that have only a batch of 10 for final production, but less if the final production batch is for 1000 boards.
Time to Prototype
The difference in board design makes it difficult to closely estimate the time to prototype a PCB. PCB printing in the USA may take only 24 hours to prototype a simple two-layer design with low to medium complexity. More complex boards may take a week or two.
PCB prototypes costs depend to a large extent on production volumes. Large production volumes will lead to lower costs for prototypes. The difference in PCB prototype costs may be substantial when the production volumes move up from 20 to 200.