6 Tips for a More Affordable PCB

Pcb fabrication process

The costs associated with printed circuit boards (PCB) depend on a number of factors. The prototype assembly process is fairly simple but small changes can make a big difference in the overall PCB prototype assembly process. The PCB itself had a revolutionary impact on electronics and the United States circuit board and electronic component manufacturing industries are worth about $44 billion, as of 2014. If you are looking to lower the costs associated with PCB fabrication and assembly process, here are some tips to help you accomplish that goal:

  1. Remember, the smaller you can make your PCB, the better. When you are working on your prototype assembly, you should always be thinking about how you can make the PCB smaller. That may seem like an obvious point to make but it is important enough that it is worth mentioning. As circuit boards get larger, their price goes up as well. Keep them small to keep your costs down.
  2. Use fewer layers. Just as making the PCB larger will increase the cost, so too, does adding more layers. If you need additional power, more ground supply planes and/or to get more routing space, you may not have any choice but to add layers to your circuit board. The same holds true if you are looking to reduce the noise level or control the trace impedance. The problem is that if you go with a board that has four layers, the cost will be about double the cost of a board with two layers. If you can do what you need to do with fewer layers, you should do what you can to do that.
  3. Use a standard shape. Sometimes when people are working on a prototype assembly, they think they can do more when they use a different or irregular shape for the circuit board assembly. The problem that this brings up is an increased cost. The printed circuit board assembly services will cost more when you decide to use a shape that is not the traditional shape. Standard shapes are rectangles and squares. As much as you can, you should make it a point to use one of these shapes to keep your costs down. As a corollary to this, internal cutouts should not be a part of your design unless you have to use them. They also add to the cost of the PCB assembly process.
  4. Do not use though holes. One benefit to using through holes is that they can give you better mechanical bonds but most electronic devices do not need this level of support and surface mounting provides enough of a bond. The thing about surface mounting is that it does cost a lot less than when through holes need to be drilled in a circuit board. When you are working on your prototype assembly, think about what your actual needs are. You may find that while you would like to use through holes, they are not really needed for your products. When you have multilayers in your PCB, you make the process of its assembly a lot more complicated with through holes and that is another way they add to the cost. If after you think about it, you find you absolutely need through holes, design them to be as big as you can. That can make the drill process a little less pricey.
  5. Use standard colors. In the same way that using a non-standard shape will add to the cost of the circuit board assembly, changing the color to something that is not standard will have the same impact on your costs. Currently, the color that is preferred by the industry is green. Remember, this is not a part that people are going to see. You will add a significant amount to the cost of the PCB if you decide you need another color.
  6. The quicker your board can be made, the less it will cost. Anything that adds to the time it takes for your PBC assembly, the more it will end up costing. Just think about this while you are designing your board.

All of these tips are pretty basic but it is easy to overlook the basics when it comes to PCB development.

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