PCB Cost Calculator

The Age of PCB Cost Calculator: Determining the Cost of PCB Manufacturing

Circuit boards have played a pivotal role in electronics since their inception. Because of this, PCB engineers constantly engage electronic contract manufacturers for their printed circuit board needs. The comprehension of the design, fabrication, and assembly aspects prove instrumental for engineers, other aspects like finding the right manufacturer matter. The most pivotal yet often overlooked aspect entails the cost of manufacturing, something that a PCB cost calculator can effectively alleviate.

 

The PCB Calculator and Its Role in Determining the Cost of PCB Manufacturing

Cut-throat competition in the field of electronics means the significance of getting quality manufacturing at reduced prices cannot get understated. Most engineers, therefore, have to prepare their fresh designs and production run planning with a cost estimate in mind, besides other crucial factors like assembly, fabrication, components, shipping, and other vital aspects of the project’s production process.

A lot gets into the PCB production project and thus requires adequate planning to prevent cost overruns. To determine the manufacturing costs, most engineers can resort to looking up a PCB cost estimator online. As much as the avenues can prove alluring, it often proves risky. Most of the available online tools can prove inaccurate, as they possess component prices and manufacturing price quotes.

Instead of combing through distributor websites and utilizing error-prone printed circuit board cost calculator, it can serve you better to use credible supply chain tools in suites like Altium Designer, Eagle, etc. Such tools will offer a simple yet powerful method of scouring the electronics supply chain besides helping with sourcing crucial data on various components. For instance, if you utilize Altium Designer, you can get a lot more beyond helping with the PCB cost estimate development. You can also derive from the suite the best set of other design features within the same environment.

The fact that printed circuit board materials and component prices tend to shift in line with market trends influences the accuracy of the PCB quote calculator. Therefore, the PCB cost calculator needs to account for such changes to provide accurate estimates of the manufacturing process.

 

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Crucial Factors that Drive the Prices of New PCBs

pcb cost estimator

A lot of factors play an instrumental role in driving the cost of PCB production. However, most costs cannot be attributed to the designer because it often proves out of their control. Some of the costs get set by manufacturers, while electronic components distributors establish some. However, a PCB designer or engineer who needs a PCB cost calculator has to understand the major drivers of printed circuit board costs.

Design Time

The period it takes to design and implement a printed circuit board influences its production costs. For instance, complex designs that take longer to design will drive the costs higher. Critical contributors to the complexity of the board include the PCB size, number of layers, and uniqueness in terms of material choices and other considerations.

Number of Electronic Components and their Prices

A densely populated printed circuit board will cost more, owing to the number of components required. It implies buying more components from suppliers than a less populated board that only needs several essential components. Electronic components come with different costs. For instance, a passive component cannot compare to an active component. Similarly, as a case example, a diode will also come at a different price than a transistor. So the type of component and their numbers on a PCB will impact the overall cost of the PCB.

Fabrication Lead Times and Cost

The cost of fabricating a PCB depends on the specific manufacturer. Many PCB fabricators exist, with each having its tailored pricing mechanism. For instance, besides expensive yet qualified labor, a large company with the latest technologies and equipment will price their PCBs higher. The opposite also holds, though finding a balance between high quality and affordability of the printed circuit board proves key.

The lead time is also an instrumental aspect that can drive up or drive down the printed circuit board price. For instance, if you want your circuit boards fabricated after putting in the order, the contract manufacturer must take extra measures to ensure its success. For instance, the immediate sourcing of your PCB materials, allocating additional workforce to your project, and suspending their other production process for your stead. Because of this, it will cost more to process or fabricate your PCB fabrication order. On the other hand, with longer lead times, manufacturers can allocate resources as they wish because of the leeway in time, which drives down the cost.

Assembly Services

The type of assembly service influences the overall cost of the market-ready printed circuit board. For instance, PCB boards and components that need plated through-hole technology approach will cost more because of the manual nature of the process. Additionally, drilling the holes takes more energy, resources, and time than the automated surface-mount technology approach.

While the type of assembly gets determined by the type and application area of the printed circuit board, it is vital to consider the right one for your targeted application area. For instance, plated through-hole technology method suffices for PCBs designed for rough environments that experience plenty of vibrations. Surface-mount tech for PCBA designs applies to a lot of primary application areas of the PCBs.

Material Cost of the PCB Substrate besides Cost of Consumables

The type or choice of PCB material influences the price of the ultimate printed circuit board. For instance, standard PCBs get laminated with the FR4 material, though they often cannot suffice for circuit boards having a high-intensity application. FR4 comes at a lower price compared to other material types like Arlon, ceramic, etc.

Additionally, the amount and cost of consumables needed to produce the PCB can also add to the overall cost of the market-ready PCB.

Layer Count, Board Size, and the Number of Drill Holes

Board sizes of printed circuit boards can come in three sizes (most common), with the area influencing the fabrication costs. More board area implies more material deployed (dielectric and conducting layer materials) besides more components. The same applies to multiple layers, with every additional layer incorporating more material. Such extra PCB materials add to the overall material costs and, by extension, the PCB. Further, extra layers require more work and THT technique which can prove more expensive.

The number of drill holes also influences the price of printed circuit boards. Extra drill holes require more resources (time and labor) and thus cost more.

NRE Costs from the Assembler and Fabricator

The NRE cost of an individual manufacturer determines the overall cost of the PCB. However, this varies from one manufacturer to another—for instance, the cost of pick and place programming, inspection, and reflow soldering. The cost can also accrue from the development of electrical testbeds and solder stencils. The more the services you need (including the different types), the more it will cost.

 

All the enumerated cost drivers can become challenging to determine precisely within the PCB cost calculator. However, it does not stop fabricators from having some widgets on their sites to help customers with cost calculation estimates of the boards. But it is possible to get accurate electronic component costs through the supply chain visibility attribute. It has become possible to establish the best electronic components for use in your printed circuit board design.

 

Role of Supply Chain Tools as the Ultimate PCB Cost Calculator

Supply chain attributes on a PCB design software suite can prove pivotal for a PCB design team. The team can utilize the information in finding the right electronic components besides the best prices. For the sake of this section, Altium Designer will serve as the perfect design software suite sample to help comprehend the concept. The software provides a lot of information to engineers or designers and integrates besides providing supply chain visibility.

The software (Altium Designer) has evolved and incorporated supply chain management by aggregating data from numerous distributors into one location. For instance, it has the “manufacturer part search” button to assist with finding electronic components or parts. It also provides verified electrical specifications and footprints to incorporate into the schematics and layout of the printed circuit board. The parts or components can get downloaded instantly into the component libraries. Additionally, you also get to enjoy the aggregate costing or pricing data, MOQs, besides stocks. You can directly view the three from the utility, which then helps you as the designer in determining a perfect MOQ, electrical performance, and price balance.

 

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Essential Aspects of and Benefits of the Altium Designer Suite

The available supply chain details or information in Altium designer assists the design team in developing a PCB cost estimate during the early phases of design.

It is a pivotal aspect of the design review when it comes to spotting compatible components. Such compatibility helps combine them, leading to benefits from price breaks, spot EOL components, and preparing the BOM (bill of materials) for the PCB manufacturer.

The PCB manufacturer part search window in the suite helps with the quick identification and sourcing for components besides the related design’s electrical data. Designers can rapidly import the printed circuit board component footprint to their design libraries.

 

Altium Designer’s Supply Chain as a PCB Cost Calculator

One of the initial steps of finding components, sourcing data, and footprint data entails opening the “manufacturer part search” window. However, the supply chain tends to change rapidly, which can hamper a design team’s processes. For instance, finding the desired electronic components out of stock before rolling out the manufacturing run. Printed circuit boards can also become OEL or obsolete. Therefore, it is prudent to identify and eliminate such mistakes early to make sure the long-lasting longevity of the product.

Immediately the designers begin planning the manufacturing run, the ActiveBOM tool comes into prominence, especially in looking at the circuit board supply chain. It allows users to view a comprehensive set of distributors, prices, MOQs, part numbers, lead times, and component stocks during the creation of the BOM. The step also proves the last in the entire process, and thus the designer can rapidly identify potential sources of components in their desired volumes. In some instances, alternative electronic components have to get picked and placed in the PCB layout.

 

Automatic Compilation of Manufacturing Documentation in Altium Designer

The design software suite has become instrumental in solving supply chain challenges by establishing partnerships with leading electronic distributors. But the creation of the bill of materials denotes the initial step in manufacturing PCBs. Other crucial files also have to get generated and include Gerber files, assembly, and fabrication drawings, among other documents.

Such tasks can prove time-consuming and may require numerous programs. However, Altium Designer streamlines the entire process. Additionally, the “out job” utility, besides the “project releaser” tool, allows designers to generate their manufacturing documentation promptly. It becomes unnecessary to export the printed circuit board layout to another or external program. What it means entails taking the data straight from the PCB layout and schematic. Further, designers also get the opportunity to customize different aspects of the deliverable package to meet the manufacturer’s needs.

Crucial Aspects of the Automatic Compilation of Manufacturing Documentation
  • Picking components becomes vital for developing a printed circuit board cost estimate for the new or novel product. The sourcing tool, therefore, needs to prove part of the PCB design.
  • Upon selecting the desired components necessary for the design, the software suite streamlines the whole design process besides assisting you to remain productive.
  • The utility “ActiveBOM” provides the penultimate look at the circuit board supply chain and assists in finalizing the production order. A PCB cost calculator, therefore, cannot offer this kind of accuracy or detail.

 

The Different Types of PCB Cost Calculators

The importance of determining the cost of different aspects of the printed circuit board production process only means having a cost estimator for each stage. It can vary though this section will cover the PCB assembly cost calculator, the flex PCB cost estimator, and the PCB design cost, calculator.

 

1. PCB Assembly Cost Calculator

The assembly of printed circuit boards often proves a complex process. According to the stipulated assembly design instructions, many tiny electronic components have to be fixed accordingly on the small board. Consequently, many PCB engineers and designers entrust assembly companies with this process. However, determining the cost of the assembly process can become difficult. Further, uncertainty on whether the processor design will have hidden costs can also prove unsettling.

A PCB assembly cost calculator plays a critical role in determining accurate cost estimates for PCBA. It mostly comes embedded in the websites of the various PCBA companies like RayMing PCB and Assembly. Some of the distinguishing attributes of the PCBA cost calculator.

Features

  • Assembly Component Number: The field proves mandatory and assists the printed circuit board assembly team in identifying the PCBA project.
  • Assembly Service Order Type: Most printed circuit board assembly houses require clients or customers to pick from the diverse service order forms.
  • The type features the customers supplying a portion of the components, whereas the PCBA Company sources for the rest.
  • The Consigned. It is a form where the client sends the board, complete with all the necessary parts in one kit.
  • Quantity of Boards to undergo Assembly: It refers to the number of boards that have to get assembled. The printed circuit board assembly (PCBA) cost calculator offers a range of 1 – 100. However, when the quantities extend beyond 101 to about 50000, it becomes crucial to appeal for a quote.
  • Distinct SMT Parts: It represents the overall number of distinctive SMT component numbers in the BOM. The components get mounted on the board surface, though such component values should not exceed or equate to the total SMT placements, QFN/BGA/leadless placements.
  • Surface-Mount Placement: It infers to the amount of SMT placements on every board. It discounts any form of QFN/BGA/leadless placements and fine pitch. It allows you to enter values in the range of 0 to 10000. Further, placement values beyond 10001 to about 50000 need a request for a quote.
  • Fine Pitch Placement. It represents the overall number of the fine pitched components. A component gets regarded as fine pitched when the distance between the center and the pin proves 50mil or less.  In instances of higher than 51 to about 500 mil values, getting a quote from the assembler becomes necessary.
  • It also entails the QFN/BGA/Leadless placements, unique through-hole components, board types, assembly sides, and lead-free RoHS. Others include assembly service lead times and comprehensive assembly information.

 

2. Flex PCB Cost Estimator

It is a vital tool for engineers or designers when developing flexible printed circuit boards. It entails the completion of the layout design and involves the production cost control for important flex PCB projects. Controlling the number of layers and board sizes proves crucial.

Important Flex PCB Cost Estimator Aspects

  • Layers prove the most significant aspect, and whether the single-layer flex PCB proves sufficient.
  • The types of flex boards matter, and whether they come in a panel or single pieces also plays a role. Consideration for the material use rate becomes vital in cost estimation for flex PCBs.
  • The minimum track or spacing must prove 2-3 mil, while the minimum hole size should not prove less than 0.25.
  • The gold finger has two alternatives for flex printed circuits in immersion gold and hard gold. However, hard gold proves more expensive.
  • The flex PCB connector possesses three options in FR4 stiffener, Pi stiffener, and Aluminium stiffener.
  • Immersion gold proves the common surface finish.
  • The more the quantity, the lower the price of fabrication
  • Increased material use rate with size reduces the price

 

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3. PCB Design Cost Calculator

The concept behind calculating the printed circuit board design and layout cost proves relatively simple. It entails estimating the overall number of hours as a factor of the hourly rate. It, therefore, uses an estimation mechanism where the time spent coupled with the determined hourly rate applies.

The demonstrable history of estimating the printed circuit board cost has ensured the evolution of the pricing methodology. It deploys a structured methodology that applies to a standard formula adapted to accommodate outstanding items. The PCB design cost calculator requires a set of documents to get generated, especially for new clients or customers. To obtain a quote for the PCB design, you need the following information.

Documents or Information Needed

  • Bill of materials (BOM
  • Schematic, containing the original design file
  • Mechanical information that comes as IDF, DXF, PDF, or simple X-Y dimensions
  • Other essential files that calculate the PCB design entail the Netlist, the routing rules or constraints document, and the placement floorplan. Another crucial file comes in the form of the component datasheets. It only applies to parts or components possessing the layout notes.

Estimating the Baseline Time

It becomes possible to estimate the period needed for the PCB design process, especially after understanding the PCB design. Some of the critical activities needed to account for the period determination include placement, library creation, routing, and output. A formula taking into account the component PIN, nets, components, layer number, and the board’s surface area attaches a value for the activities.

Estimating the Adders Time

The baseline value gets adjusted using adders, which influence the typical time used in completing a PCB design. Common adders include the density of the component pins, routing density, timing requirements, routing topologies, HDI, and Aero or Mil.

 

Determining the Hourly Rate

The overall time determined in terms of hours get subjected as a factor of the rates range, typically $90 – $150/ hour. Factors that affect this rate can include the seniority of the designer, turnaround time, EDA tool, technologies, business volume, and onsite requirements.

 

Final Remarks

Determining the cost of printed circuit board manufacturing becomes helpful in setting and sticking to the budget limits and selecting a decent PCB manufacturer. It helps if you understood the insights provided to estimate the PCB costs through the PCB cost calculators canvassed. Such tools will save you time when designing your PCB and increase the accuracy and reliability of the manufacturing cost estimations.

 

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