When you are getting closer to PCB fabrication, the end cost of such electronics is your biggest concern. So, to minimize the unnecessary expenses, you need to know well the cost factors affecting the end price. Let’s discuss the unavoidable expenditures and the ways to reduce them.
For starters, it is essential not to let moisture in during the manufacturing process.
The first decision to make regarding PCB fabrication is laminate material to use. The conventional options here are FR-4, Rogers laminate, Teflon, Ceramic, and others.
The mentioned significantly differ in their properties, scopes of applications, and prices. It is not always (never) that the most affordable material from the no-name brand is the best option, so choose wisely.
Well, all the manufacturers offer three standard PCB dimensions: 18 X 24″ (457 x 610mm); 18 X 21″ (457 x 533mm); 21 X 24″ (533 x 610mm). Ordering any of those will not affect the price significantly.
However, the cases of constructing custom or micro PCBs are not unheard of. Such options will naturally result in an instant price surge for obvious reasons.
Besides, you should consider the panel utilization, so it uses the board space effectively. Sheets of unseparated PCB sheets may have, for example, two rows and three columns. Having 1 column and three rows may not be unavoidable but will result in higher margins and ineffective use of material.
In the case of fabricating multilayer boards, the end price per PCB naturally increases on a layer-by-layer basis. For example, adding each 1-2 extra layers causes a 30-40% price increase consequently. Therefore, 10-12 layer PCB may cause three times more than 1 or 2 layer PCB.
It is explained by the increase in production steps involved in the lamination process and the complexity of the design creation.
As a rule of the thumb, thicker boards are more expensive to produce. They are more difficult to laminate and require way more material. It is not like 3 mm PCB is going to cost three times more than 1 mm PCB, but close to it.
But the important consideration here are the dimensions, components mounted, design, etc. Sometimes, thin PCBs with improper design are more costly to produce than thick but simple boards.
Traces in any PCB design is an essential aspect. There is a correlation between trace width and carrying capacity. Besides, cross-sections correlate with the thicknesses of the copper coating. The latter is impacted by components mounted, vias, pads, etc.
The big idea here is to prevent a trace from carrying more capacity than it is intended for. It will cause excessive cross-sectional areas. So, there is a need to enlarge the trace width that reduces the available space. Not sticking to trace and space rules lead to either poor PCB quality or extra expenses in compensating for the problem.
Unsurprisingly, the method of PCB finish impacts the cost significantly. Your options here are HASL, LFHASL, OSP, Immersion Silver, Immersion Tin, ENIG, ENEEPIG, and others. Some of them are just generally more expensive to apply than others. Still, the end cost heavily depends on your supplier’s capacities.
That’s something that is difficult to state for sure, but larger batch sizes typically result in quantity discounts. But it heavily depends on the load of a supplier, its capacities, and other factors. The best approach here is to ask a supplier directly what batch sizes are optimal and balance productivity, quantity, and turnaround time.
Shipping such fragile electronics as PCBs can be fairly expensive. Some of them must be packed with components mounted; others require electrostatic bags. Besides primary, there is also secondary packaging. So, such expenditures can be quite notable.
In the case of custom PCB fabrication, you definitely need your boards to undergo extra rounds of testing. Intricate designs and extra requirements add to the number of checks to run, which heavily impact end costs.
These are typically contoured edges, side-plating, and extremely tight solder mask clearance. In case of requesting any of those, the complexity of a design will rise drastically. It also concerns unique other unique design requests such as an unusual hole or vias diameters, etc.
Delivery of large batches of fragile components typically results in higher costs. These even do not directly depend on the distance but rather on vehicles used and the number of delivery requests.
In essence, average costs for PCBs may fall somewhere in the range of $10-50 per board. Still, there are multiple factors to consider, so you should request a quote from a trusted supplier first to get a better understanding of the intended PCB design fabrication end price.
It is more cost-effective to transport one large batch using a proper vehicle than several smaller batches. It is especially significant to manage orders when you cannot purchase from a local supplier.
Ask your manufacturer if it can store your components in a warehouse for a little while longer so you can use your most affordable and efficient delivery option.
Try not to request too tight dimensional consistency and accuracy, as it will result in the need to adjust an equipment unit. Besides, it will slow down the entire production.
Besides, try to stick to the standard holes, vias, traces, and other element sizes. It will make your design way more cost-effective and simplify the production overall
As a continuation of the previous advice, try not to overwhelm your PCB design with unnecessary variations. It means that the sizes of holes, vias, margins, etc., must be the same throughout the design. There is no solid reason for making plenty of different design elements.
Here are the management tips that are the most effective. Ensure that the components are supplied properly and always available at every PCB manufacturing stage. Look for finding alternatives to the least cost-effective components. Do not use the components suspected of being counterfeit.
The thing is that vias really add to the final price. But their quantity can be reduced in the PCB designing stage. It also may happen that some types of vias may win more space in your design and be more cost-effective than others. Generally, you should try to simplify your design as much as possible.
In case if approached correctly, your PCB end cost may be multiple times lower than preplanned. But you need to follow these tips and partner closely with your supplier in order to achieve a balance between quantities, quality, turnaround time, performance, design complexity, and other parameters.
Aim at achieving cost-efficiency in all the phases and ways. There is always something to adjust before and during the fabrication and in the shipping stage. Better process management may also save millions of dollars so pay close attention to it as well.
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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….