Printed circuit boards are the core of most electronic devices. These boards offer electrical connections to components. Also, they perform a huge role in electronics manufacturing. Printed circuit boards differ in terms of sizes, number of layers, application, and type of material used. Due to these discrepancies, their costs vary.
Furthermore, certain factors contribute to the variation in price. However, there are cheap boards and expensive boards. Also, the complexity of a board can contribute to its high cost. As we all know that cost is one of the major factors considered when using a PCB for electronic manufacturing. Therefore, it is crucial we understand why PCB costs vary.
Factors that Affect PCB Cost
A printed circuit board can be very small, yet very expensive. In as much as size may determine the cost of a board, manufacturing complexity plays a crucial role. Therefore, there are several factors that determine the cost of printed circuit boards.
Type of PCB material
PCB manufacturers use various materials like solder and fiberglass among others to fabricate a circuit board. Also, PCB manufacturing involves the use of several materials. However, some materials are more expensive than others. The conductive layers of PCB can comprise silver, copper, or gold.
The type of material you use will contribute to the manufacturing cost. For instance, gold is very expensive. Therefore, when gold is used as the conductive layer of a PCB, it will result in high cost boards. Sometimes, PCBs need higher-grade materials since they need to have higher frequencies. The material of a printed circuit board will affect its performance.
PCB assembly type
There are three different techniques of assembling printed circuit boards. These techniques include through-hole assembly, surface mount assembly, and the combination of both. Surface mount assembly is less expensive and faster. Therefore, surface mount boards are less expensive than through-hole boards.
Through-hole assembly is more expensive because it requires drilling a bare PCB. Also, this technique may require hand soldering. Through-hole technology helps to achieve a strong physical connection. However, some PCB manufacturers opt for the combination of SMT and THT.
PCB size and layers
Printed circuit boards are available in different numbers of layers and sizes. Circuit boards used in high-tech electronics usually feature several layers. Boards that feature a single layer are less expensive than those that feature more than one layer. Multilayer boards will result in a complex manufacturing process. Also, the manufacturing process will require the use of more materials. In the long run, this will affect overall manufacturing cost.
PCBs used in high performance applications require several components. Therefore, they require several layers stacked on each other. Also, bigger boards are more expensive than smaller ones. The space consumed by these components increases price. The increase in price is a result of the time it takes to manufacture boards with several layers.
This is a significant factor that determines PCB cost. PCB manufacturing process requires the expertise and skills of professionals. These professionals use automated machinery that requires skills to operate. The cost of labor influences the overall PCB manufacturing cost.
Most PCB companies always employ experienced workers to fabricate circuit boards. Therefore, these workers demand a certain amount of money as wages or salaries.
Printed circuit boards are quite different from other products. This is because when you order PCBs in bulk, you will pay less. Therefore, ordering in large quantities is better. Once the manufacturer has designed the prototype, other manufacturing processes become easier.
Creating the prototype is what seems expensive. This is a major reason small orders may cost more per piece. Most companies give discounts to large orders.
There are different testing methods employed by PCB manufacturers. While some testing methods are expensive, some are very cheap. If quality control tests involve evaluating several components, this can influence cost. Testing is a crucial aspect of board manufacturing. Therefore, it is usually adopted in the production of boards.
Some PCBs require special interior designs. These designs involve creating cuts to fit the casing of a device. Any board that involves complex processes will require precise equipment. In the long run, this will have an impact on PCB cost. Also, the complexity of a board will affect the time it takes to create a PCB design.
How to Save Cost on PCB Assembly
There are several ways you can reduce PCB assembly cost.
Go for large batches
An economic rule in circuit board manufacturing is to order in large batches. The volumes of bulk quantities affect the price of each product. Manufacturing in large quantities will reduce PCB assembly cost. This is what we refer to as economies of scale. However, this may not be an ideal option for people who need a PCB for a prototype.
Adopt onboard panelization
This is another way to save a few bucks from your PCB assembly. For example, when a printed circuit board is in panels, they result in better circuits. Also, they reduce the amount of materials used in PCB manufacturing.
Know how to design circuit boards optimally
You can achieve PCB cost reduction by designing printed circuit boards optimally. Factors like layer count, shape, and via technology contribute to the final cost of PCBs. Therefore, you can redesign each of these elements to minimize the cost of PCB assembly. For instance, you can redesign the PCB if it has a complex shape.
Choose economic friendly materials
The choice of your PCB material will determine the performance of your circuit board. Also, it will affect the cost of PCB manufacturing.
Create a comprehensive bill of materials (BOM)
A comprehensive BOM helps you determine if you can change any material to reduce costs. Also, a good BOM should feature replacements parts for every component.
Reduce the number of vias
This is a very good way of saving money when fabricating a board. More vias increase PCB assembly cost. Therefore, you can reduce the number of vias in your PCB to save money.
Materials Utilized in Circuit Boards Manufacturing
Remember that PCB manufacturing deals with using several materials. Each of these materials contributes to the performance of your PCB.
FR4 is a flame retardant PCB material commonly used as the base layer of most printed circuit boards. Also, this material provides a great level of thickness and rigidity in your PCB.
Solder masks are usually green in color. This material is always on top of the copper layer. Also, it functions as an insulator. Solder masks help to ensure the copper traces are protected from any contact with another metal.
Copper foils are in varying thicknesses. Some printed circuit boards feature copper thickness of 1 oz per sq.ft. The requirements of a PCB application will determine the copper thickness. However, a printed circuit board that features the thinnest layer will perform well.
Silkscreen is often applied to the solder mask layer. Also, the silkscreen helps to add customized symbols, numbers, and letters to a printed circuit board. A good silkscreen layer enables manufacturers to easily assemble a printed circuit board.
How much does a Printed Circuit Board Cost?
The cost of fabricating a printed circuit board will be between the range of $10 and 3100 per circuit board. Also, PCB cost varies among manufacturers. While some manufacturers charge high PCB cost, some charge low PCB cost. Furthermore, optimization is a prime factor for PCB designers.
Printed circuit boards are expensive due to the cost of the basic materials used. The average cost of PCB assembly is between $0.02 and $0.05 per square inch. However, this price may vary based on several factors like overhead expenses and labor rates.
A good example of an expensive circuit board is a 32-layer PCB. Also, this kind of PCB is very complex to fabricate. Therefore, it will cost hundreds or thousands of dollars to fabricate. Furthermore, you can’t really know the exact price a PCB will cost, until you already have your PCB design. When manufacturing PCBs, you need to keep quality in mind.
Factors to Consider When Choosing a PCB Manufacturer
Cost is a strong determinant when choosing an assembly company. Asides from cost, there are certain factors you need to consider when choosing a PCB manufacturer.
A manufacturer with a good reputation will employ state-of-the-art procedures and machines. Also, this type of manufacturer will ensure they meet your demands. Therefore, it is advisable you opt for a board manufacturing company like RayMing PCB and Assembly. This PCB companies have a long standing reputation. Also, you should ensure the company you choose offers the services you need.
The lead time deals with the time it takes to manufacture a product. It is one of the factors you need to consider when choosing a manufacturer. Longer lead times can lower assembly costs. There are several processes involved in manufacturing PCBs. Also, shorter lead time can increase assembly costs. However, if you want to receive your final PCB within a short time, it is better to inform your PCB manufacturer.
It is important you consider the type of technology used by a manufacturer. Some PCB manufacturers employ sophisticated technologies. Therefore, this helps to enhance the quality of their PCBs. Also, the adoption of automation in circuit board manufacturing enhances production time and board performance. Therefore, you won’t have to wait for a long time to receive your orders.
This is an important factor you need to consider. You want a manufacturer who is responsive enough to meet your demands. Manufacturers offering great customer support are more likely to produce quality PCBs.
There are some factors to consider when employing board manufacturing services. The specialization of your board manufacturer matters. You don’t want a PCB manufacturer that specializes in smartphone PCBs to design boards for refrigerators.
How to Reduce SMT Assembly Cost
There are other ways to reduce the cost of PCB assembly. Also, avoiding certain mistakes and going for some cheaper options can help to reduce costs in PCB production.
Solder paste inspection
The inspection of solder paste is a great way to minimize cost in your PCB projects. This is because minimizing solder defects earlier. Therefore, solder paste inspection is an essential step in SMT assembly. When manufacturers undergo this inspection, it helps to reduce manufacturing costs. Also, it helps to enhance the quality of your PCBs.
Reflow soldering process involves melting solder paste to generate intermettallic compound (IMC). Therefore, this aids the connection of component pins and board. Also, the temperature profile in the reflow soldering process helps to cover the temperature rise and preheating.
Chip mounting is crucial in SMT assembly process. Also, PCB manufacturers use chip mounters to complete the chip mounting process. Chip mounters differ in terms of their mounting capability and speed. Also, high-speed chip mounters are usually used to place some components. High-speed chip mounters can place small components quickly so that they can adhere to the solder paste on pad.
Inspection and test
Inspection and test play a major role in the cost of SMT assembly. PCB manufacturing is complete when the manufacturer evaluates the performance of the board. You can reduce cost without compromising high quality. Test or inspection plays a critical role in impacting the quality of PCBs. This is because the inspection process reveals defects in the PCB.
Some assemblers offer efficient PCB inspection. It is better to have PCBs tested in the assembly house. Also, the PCB assembler will offer a low cost on inspection. This will require less cost compared to those that specializes only in inspection.
All the components used in board manufacturing come with a price. As the prices of components keep increasing, the overall circuit board manufacturing cost increases. The PCB industry keeps experiencing some changes. The increasing price of PCB materials is one of the challenges faced by this industry.
However, there are other factors that affect PCB cost asides from the cost of materials. Also, it is crucial to choose a PCB assembly service that meets your budget. Control is crucial in the early stage of PCB design. The overall cost of manufacturing a board is one of the sole determinants of the choice of your PCB assembly company.