If you are a manufacturer of electronic devices, you need some of the best circuit boards for your high-quality products, naturally. But these days, there are so many suppliers that choosing complicates significantly.
Some PCB providers are not trustworthy, others do not offer end-to-end manufacturing or have no Quality Management in place. See the key factors for picking the right manufacturer.
Production process capability is what instantly outlines the limitations of your partnership with a particular PCB supplier. Here are the ways in which it can be manifested:
This is a matter of scaling the sizes of batches of PCBs fabricated. Even if you need only a limited supply of electronic components, for now, your volume production will likely rise. You do not want to face turnaround time breaches, poor quality of components, and other scalability issues.
These include everything from the choice of laminate materials to the via drilling solutions and techniques of finishing available.
You want the tech stack and manufacturing option that a supplier has on board to be as extensive as possible. Again, this way you will not have to urgently find another partner should you have a new project or some adjustments to add to the existing design.
This is the ability of a manufacturer to cover your most specific tech requirements. For one, the minimal tolerance that the machine on the production line can ensure. Examples of production process capabilities are:
The production capabilities of a PCB supplier are of the uttermost importance. Consider the discussion of those the primary matter of a business meeting. They directly define if the supplier can fulfill your tech specifications for electronic components.
The manufacturing process is to be carefully looked after for maximizing product quality and minimizing rejection rates. A trusted PCB manufacturer must have appropriate certification in the first place.
The international standard a supplier must be certified by which is ISO 9001. Such certification indicates that the production facility is run as per strict requirements to management systems. You may be confident in the high level of customer service of such a provider.
Your trusted supplier may have some other certificates, such as IATF 16949. It is simply the evidence that it has been certificated to fabricate components for a specific industry. For automotive one, in this example.
Besides, PCB manufacturers must conduct material inspections. It is to ensure that the components, solder paste, laminate materials, etc., are of high quality. Without this practice, the end PCB quality can be questioned once again.
There are other optional compliance standards that a PCB manufacturer may opt for to add to its credibility.
In absolutely any case, a PCB supplier must have some solid quality assurance practices implemented in the workplace. These include but are not limited to:
The purpose of such interventions is to ensure that solder mask, solder joins, additional components for assembly, laminate material, copper traces, and other major factors were not failed in the process.
The end result of proper Quality Assurance is the minimization of poor-quality printed circuit boards and an increase in their reliability overall.
Besides, in the PCB industry, a supplier typically has to send a small selection of their PCBs to regulatory organs. Those conduct independent testing and issue quality certifications for goods produced. It is also important to ensure that the PCB manufacturing service provider covers this need as well.
The good Quality Assurance practices implemented in the production process are a crucial contribution to your electronic devices’ quality as well.
Having an ordered batch of PCBs delivered within discussed and agreed deadlines is of equal importance. Turnaround time of your products fully depends on the timely supply of components after all.
There are two aspects to consider here. First is the service delivery times. In other words, it’s how fast the manufacturer actually produces your components and has them in its warehouse available for shipping.
Another aspect is the shipping time. You either deliver PCBs yourself, rely on a supplier’s means of transportation, or request third-party transportation service provider assistance. In any case, make sure that under no circumstances are electronic components not shipped by the time your factory needs them.
There are so many aspects to consider when it comes to charging circuit board designing, prototyping, fabricating, and shipping. That’s why PCB manufacturers have extensive pricing policies as a rule. You should not be afraid of reviewing lengthy bills since those rather serve for optimizing costs rather than charging you a top price.
What you should focus on is the competitiveness of the cost offered. Depending on your project, PCB manufacturers may offer essentially different pricing. The rationale is the cost of one or another process (fluctuates a lot from provider to provider) that is put into the end price.
What to do about it? Request several free quotes from different suppliers and see which of those seems more reasonable. But remember: the one who offers the lowest price is not necessarily the perfect fit for your project. Also, make sure that there is no hidden pricing, such as shipping costs or anything.
When you request PCB Fabrication services, you need to provide a supplier with Project files — Gerbers and BOM. The first is something like a blueprint for a PCB, while the second is the list of components for assembly and raw materials for fabrication.
See examples of those files in the images below.
If your PCB design is not well-tested, you need a supplier’s engineer team to take a good look at it. Just in case there is something wrong and must be fixed before running production.
Alternatively, you may need to prototype PCBs to test the design concept. Anyway, it’s better if a trusted supplier does have a professional support engineering team rather than doesn’t.
That’s an interesting point to discuss. You see, most suppliers you are likely to communicate with are not actually service providers. Those are platforms that connect you to one of the numerous PCB shops. It is extremely difficult to control the production quality when you do not communicate with your service provider directly or cannot visit the factory.
Make sure your communicator is the actual service provider with a real factory to implement your request.
But the mentioned is not all the aspects to consider. There are more of those:
It is frequent that manufacturers of electronics do not create PCB design requirements themselves. It means that you need assistance from a separate service provider (not the best option) or from a PCB supplier itself.
The latter option is regarded as the best-case scenario. It’s possible to achieve the same desired result by using different design options. But the end manufacturer can set the design process in the way your PCB can be more effectively produced. Just due to omitting/ changing some tech specifications or components for the sake of production.
Anyway, it’s beneficial if your trusted PCB provider has a board design as a distinct service line overall. From a certain standpoint, it also contributes to the credibility of such a supplier.
Actually, producing a PCB does not always mean fabricating a completely functional board. Roughly, such manufacturing can be divided into three steps: fabrication of laminate material, fabrication of PCB, and PCB assembly.
For some reason, manufacturers of electronics do not always outsource all of the mentioned to one supplier only. PCB suppliers may not produce laminate material themselves (there are enough trustworthy providers of those like Rogers company). Yet, some companies prefer not to share both Gerbers and BOM with the same provider.
But if it is not your case, you definitely would want your trusted supplier to have a PCB assembly service line. This way, you will have completely functional PCBs as the end result.
Besides, you also want a provider to have a decent range of assembly methods. Just for reference, there are the following types:
This will ensure that each distinct PCB design will be approached in the best way possible. Or that you have the choice between more expensive and more affordable options.
Choosing the right PCB manufacturer may be one of your crucial business decisions. The suppliers contribute to the quality of your products, after all.
While making up your mind, consider focusing on the mentioned criteria. Each of them serves as an indicator of the quality of your future partner’s services and their suitability for your projects overall.
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PadPCB is a professional PCB solution supplier in Shenzhen, China. We help our clients with everything from PCB design to the final mass production….