If you are aware of the printed circuit board assembly process, you know it is an expensive and rigorous process. Clients usually come up with some unique requirements and with a tight budget at the same time which makes the entire situation tricky as you need to balance out both of them. Things get tougher as you go for high-volume PCB manufacturing. So, it is important for you to find ways to keep your costs in-line without compromising on the quality and efficacy of the PCBs.
In this article, let’s dive in to understand how one can trim down the costs of the PCB fabrication process and keep your clients happy.
What are the costs involved in the PCB Fabrication Process?
To know what are the costs involved in the PCB fabrication process, first focus on the manufacturing pipeline. PCBs are small in size yet they involve extensive costs in getting the high-precision and high-quality product out into the market. There are numerous processes involved in developing PCBs like soldering, packing, shipping, multilayer printing, substrate creation, inspection, silk screening, surface finishing, and testing. With so many varied processes involved, the manufacturing costs are going to jump up.
Let’s walk you through a few ideas where you can cut back your costs and make your PCB manufacturing pipeline efficient.
1. Examine design choices
Address PCB fabrication costs by understanding various design choices like board material, blind/buried vias, vias on pads, panelization options. Taking off the blind/buried vias or vias on SMT components reduces the PCB fabrication costs greatly. Another way to optimize your PCB fabrication cost is the panelization option where multiple designs can be ordered together. Panelization of the designs together reduces the overall setup cost. You can also go for ENIG surface finish on your PCBs as it is a standard within the PCB fabrication method.
2. Size of the boards
Common misconception is that you can reduce PCB costs if you reduce your board size. But the size of the board may not be the right determinant. Of course, medium to large size boards usually cost higher. But reducing the PCB size may actually increase the cost as it requires high precision fabrication. Also, this may increase the cost as we have to add slots and drilled holes for which additional tooling is required.
3. Fair Assessment of Bill of Materials
Assess the clients’ bill of materials for all the full turnkey PCB orders. If there are any expensive components in the BoM, you can see if you can procure those components from any authorized vendor at lower prices. Discuss with your clients if they are willing to go for cheaper substitutes. If clients have a pre-arranged mechanism to procure parts, you can explore that way. Some contract manufacturers will have leftover stocks from the previous orders which can be used as they come at lower prices.
4. Optimize your Packages
Get rid of extremely small and miniature packages. You can instead opt for large production that can reduce your overall costs. Besides, there are lead-less packages like BGAs and QFNs that usually require special care and attention while assembling. You can go for alternatives by swapping your components for lead parts like QFPs. This reduces the overall PCB fabrication cost.
5. Follow best DFM practices
By following the best DFM practices, you can avoid excessive expenses in the PCB assembly. Optimize the layout for the soldering process and avoid any rework expenses. Don’t place the components forcefully through the manual assembly process. Smaller parts placement requires high precision to avoid rework. Leave enough room for debugging and automatic testing to ensure the efficacy of the PCB assemblies.
6. Components and Materials
Get your components and materials from multiple sources to avoid being at the whims of a single vendor. Never put all your eggs in one basket and lose the leverage in contract negotiations. If you are satisfied with the quality of the components, you can quickly move to other sources without causing any impediments to the manufacturing process. Relying on a single source may also result in delays due to unforeseen situations.
Never go for counterfeit components or illegitimate parts that result in premature failures and affect the board’s performance. Keep an eye on the component life cycles to make sure that they are in working condition for the entire duration of the PCB.
7. Put conflicting priorities to rest
PCB fabrication process is a costly and complicated process and some conflicting priorities are inevitable between the engineers and the clients. Focus on the cost reduction and set up a committee to arrive at a conclusion on where to trim your expenses. Stick to the precise designs and tools agreed upon. Maintain a solid partnership with the suppliers and vendors who can be reliable and responsible. This also reduces unnecessary overheads.
8. Choose your service provider wisely
Make sure your contract manufacturer is well-certified to have solid capabilities and follow appropriate quality regulations. With enough experience, they can prevent some costly mistakes early on. They must also have well-maintained equipment to provide uninterrupted and high-precision PCBs. Be sure of your projects’ requirements and budgetary limitations. Do your research on the company’s experience, projects, client satisfaction, quality check mechanisms, and success rate. This ensures to avoid unnecessary costs and keeps your reputation intact in delivering high-quality products.
Companies like Mer-Mar Electronics have been providing cost-effective PCB fabrication and assembly all the while maintaining high-quality standards. Whether you need a small volume or a high-volume production run, our brilliant engineering team strives to reduce the assembly and fabrication costs for our client’s PCBs. We take a fresh and case-by-case approach to determine what are the elements that are affecting the cost of production and how they can be tweaked or altered without compromising the functionality and quality of the PCBs.
You can reach out any time and ask our PCB assembly specialists about the quotes that match your budgetary targets. You may also contact our manager to review your quote and find out the cost-reducing options.