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What To Consider Before Choosing a Printed Circuit Board Manufacturer

Printed Circuit Board Manufacturer

How does one choose the right manufacturer for a Printed Circuit Board? Choosing the right PCB manufacturer can make your product or program a success, but the wrong one can lead to a lot of grief.

To guide your decision, some pointers to consider are:

Quality is a key issue when selecting the right PCB manufacturer. It’s key that your design is delivered as required and to the defined specifications without errors in.

  • Dimensions
  • All holes drilled and accurately positioned
  • Passes bare board test
  • Minimum board warping (although some of this can be due to board design)
  • Materials compliance Etc.

The first question to ask is whether the (PCB) Printed Circuit Board Manufacturer can work to the specifications you require. Can they accept the files in the format provided and produce a board to the required specification: number of layers, type of PCB material; tolerances; specific requests, etc? Use a detailed checklist to ensure they are able to meet all your criteria.

Cost is another key factor. Reducing costs is part of making a product successful, however but as had been said, the joy of a lower price,is forgotten long before the grief of poor quality has been overcome. Balancing cost and quality is essential to achieving success.

Timescale. Ensuring deadlines can be met is a major factor that should be considered when selecting a PCB manufacturer. Short lead-times are great, but is a quick turn capability the right solution for longer term production?

Relationships – the ability of a company to cooperate and build a relationship is another key factor. It is difficult to quantify, but if the PCB manufacturer is able to work alongside the PCB assembly and design areas, then synergy can bring significant advantages and you may want to consider as a a significant factor is selecting the best PCB company. A cooperative relationship help issues to be resolved quickly, and can help provide feedback both ways to improve processes and productivity to benefit all parties.

Material Sourcing – another key question for many companies looking at selecting the right PCB manufacturer will be where the materials are sourced. Some low cost manufacturers may look to sourcing materials from the lowest cost source, and as a result the boards may not be consistent, varying in performance from batch to batch. You want to make sure that the PCB manufacturer can deliver a UL approved circuit board that meets the required standards:

  • RoHS (Restriction of Hazardous Substances): – This regulation has been in effect for many years and it governs the amount of the hazardous substances allowed in manufactured electronics worldwide.
  • REACH (Registration, Evaluation and Authorization of Chemicals): – This European program details the chemical used in manufactured electronics and they are evaluated for their effect on the environment and population.
  • Conflict materials: – This particular regulation could be of major importance for any company working in or supplying the US. It is a regulation that seeks to provide better visibility into the raw material supply chain, specifically when ores are sourced from conflict zones like the Eastern Congo.
Production Capabilities – It’s worth matching the capabilities of the PCB manufacturer to the likely quantities of printed circuit boards that need to be supplied for your program. It may be that prototype PCBs are required and these will have very small quantities, or it may be that small production run quantities are needed before volume production is to start. Match the PCB manufacturer capabilities to what is needed.

Companies set up to manufacture huge quantities of PCBs for large production runs may not be able to accommodate small quantities, and conversely a small company normally set up to produce prototype PCBs or small production quantities could easily be overwhelmed by large orders.

Selecting the right PCB manufacturer is not always easy. However it is of key importance to any PCB assembly or electronics equipment manufacturer. The time spent selecting the right PCB manufacturer is well spent and can pay major dividends in the long term. Develop a plan to review / survey potential supplier’s capabilities which address, at a minimum:

  • Quality
  • Cost
  • Delivery
  • Relationships
  • Material Sourcing
  • Production Capabilities