Several Practical Tips to Reduce PCB Cost

With the advancement of electronic technology, printed circuit boards have taken over the circuit connections inside electronic devices. Electronic manufacturers are eagerly looking to obtain high-quality PCBs at lower costs, but this comes with certain challenges. The entire production process is complex, involving circuit design, inner and outer layer patterns, lamination, testing, and multiple production stages. Any defects or unnecessary designs can result in wastage. To make your project more cost-effective, FS Technology provides this guide to help you reduce PCB manufacturing costs. Let’s get started!

Tip 1: Optimize Design

Optimize Design

The key to reducing PCB costs lies primarily in the pre-production design phase. This phase determines fundamental aspects like circuit structure and material usage, which directly impact the production process and costs. For instance, increasing the number of layers raises production complexity and error rates. Additionally, choices of materials, such as Rogers and ceramic substrates, are pricier compared to FR4 and CEM-3. Therefore, designers should understand the specific project performance requirements before commencing the design to avoid unnecessary wastage.

Furthermore, high-density layouts can lead to circuit defects, causing project delays and increased costs. To address this, it’s advisable to check DFM rules to ensure that the design models can be realized. These design reviews emphasize particular networks, specific components, and trace routes, reducing the likelihood of rework. Here are specific measures for design optimization:

  • FR4 material is often preferred for its higher cost-effectiveness.
  • Establish a comprehensive component library to avoid redundant component design.
  • Maintain a rule-based, compact PCB layout design to reduce material usage and losses during panelization.
  • Optimize space utilization by employing the best minimum trace width.
  • Back up designs to prevent data loss and redundant work.
  • Use more advanced EDA software to obtain more design optimization suggestions.

Tip 2: Manufacturer Selection

Manufacturer Selection

Can you find a manufacturer that admits they are subpar? This is clearly impossible, as nearly all companies claim to be high-quality and low-cost, but is that the reality? To determine this, you need to establish a series of filtering strategies to get the best results.

What kind of manufacturer can reduce costs for your project?

First and foremost are manufacturers from Asia, such as China and India, where labor costs and prices can significantly reduce your project’s costs. Secondly, there are companies that provide online quotes. These companies operate on a model of assembling orders, but we won’t comment on the quality aspect. Additionally, some manufacturers leverage their engineering teams to help clients optimize and upgrade designs to address cost issues at their roots.

Unlike in other aspects, leveraging a manufacturer’s advantages to get lower PCB costs doesn’t always work, as different companies have different focuses and your needs may vary. Are you an unwaveringly price-sensitive customer, a service-oriented customer looking for an experience, or a strict quality enthusiast? All of these factors will influence your choice.

For example, companies like FS Technology do not fall into the low-cost manufacturing category; we emphasize high quality and excellent service. First, have international qualifications and certifications like ISO9001, RoHS, and UL to ensure the quality of their PCB board production. Second, turnkey services save you a significant amount of time. More importantly, provide one-on-one service that is difficult for other companies to achieve. If you’re facing difficulties in choosing a manufacturer, this article, ‘List of PCB & PCBA Manufacturers in China,’ will help you!

Tip 3:Order Volume and Delivery Time

Order Volume

The order quantity and unit price have an inverse relationship, meaning that the larger the order quantity, the lower the unit price. When the prototype is manufactured and the design is verified, the project transitions to the mass production phase. At this point, it is advisable to establish a long-term partnership with a manufacturer to avoid the high costs associated with changing suppliers. If the required quantity of PCBs for the project is moderate, it is recommended to leverage economies of scale to reduce costs rather than producing in multiple batches.

Furthermore, during the negotiation phase of collaboration, delivery time is a consideration. However, the current trend shows that more customers are seeking rapid turnaround services, indicating that they may not have detailed project planning and require expedited production. Expedited services often incur additional costs. Taking FS Technology as an example, we use automated equipment for PCB manufacturing services, which means that the production speed of the assembly line is fixed. We do not equip more assembly lines for a single order (one assembly line costs approximately $700,000). To expedite production, we may need to prioritize orders and require employees to work in shifts 24 hours a day, and these costs are eventually passed on to the customer. To avoid these additional expenses, planning the project’s progress is a good starting point.

Tip 4: Inspect Thoroughly

PCB inspection to reduce PCB rework costs

Inspect the manufacturer’s quality control system to ensure that it incorporates comprehensive testing into the PCB manufacturing process. First, during the production process, conduct AOI inspections after the inner and outer layer circuits are manufactured. Second, perform X-ray inspections after bare board fabrication to check the integrity of the inner layer circuits. Visual inspection is also important, as it helps identify surface defects such as anomalies in thickness and warping.

The production process is a pipeline operation, and if one board is flawed, subsequent productions may also have defects. In-process inspections can prevent the occurrence of large-scale errors, thus saving on production costs and time.

Conclusion

PCB production is a time-consuming, labor-intensive, and costly process. With increasing demands for intelligence and compactness, this process has become more complex, requiring boards to accommodate more components in smaller spaces. Therefore, we must never compromise production quality for the sake of achieving low costs!

Further Reading

PCB Assembly Cost Driver Analysis and Price Calculation

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