Printed circuit boards prove pivotal to the functioning of any electronic device. It can include your digital watch, smartphone, or large and complex industrial electronic devices. A PCB helps a device’s components communicate through electronic and electrical signals to serve their intended purpose. But regardless of the type of device, information on the type, make, and functionality of a PCB becomes instrumental in informing your purchasing choices. Otherwise, you can end up buying the wrong printed circuit board.
Are you an electronics enthusiast interested in buying PCB elements? Well, you might think that you have it figured out until you get to the market. But, unfortunately, PCBs can confuse you, especially when it comes to the right fit for your intended function. Therefore, the best buy PCB needs to have the crucial components and prove equally suitable to the intended device’s purpose. So what goes into shopping for a suitable printed circuit board?
Buying a Printed Circuit Board
Sometimes, the best way to shop for a PCB entails first understanding the type of PCB you want before shopping. Different types of PCBs exist, and each has its advantages when it comes to usage. For instance, an Eagle PCB can prove markedly from a Breadboard PCB. Secondly, you need to know the best place to get such a printed circuit board. Plenty of organizations produce PCBs with fluctuating quality, customization options, and prices. Therefore, you have to understand the available options, pricing, and other aftersales activities to get the best buying PCB experience. Finally, you have to understand the avenues available to you regarding the PCB ordering process. Companies differ in their approaches as some prefer you to order PCB online while others have alternative in-person arrangements.
Considerations to Make While Buying PCB
- Suitability of the PCB to your circuit needs
- You will be amazed by the numerous PCB types available in the market. PCB types include the single-layer PCB, double-layer PCB, multi-layer PCB, rigid PCB, flexible PCB, and rigid-flex PCB. Therefore, if you aim to use your PCB order for industrial, medical, aerospace applications, then a multi-layer PCB might prove more suitable. For other uses such as cameras, calculators, etc., a single-layer PCB can suffice. Additionally, the technology used to manufacture these printed circuit boards also differ, and you have a likelihood of finding them with names such as Eagle, Kicard, etc. It becomes instrumental that in such situations, you do not get confused. Further, for testing and troubleshooting purposes, you should buy a breadboard PCB.
The bottom line for all this entails knowing all the available PBCs and what type suits your intended application the best before buying.
- Pricing of the printed circuit boards
- Make a decision to buy PCB board based on the pricing of that specific board. It can include a single-layer, multi-layer, or double-layer. Please note that all PCB products or services providing companies such as the RayMing PCB and Assembly use a cost-related model to attach price tags on diverse PCB products. For instance, a multi-layer printed circuit will cost more than a double-layer and single-layer PCB due to the technicality involved in the manufacturing process and more materials for the components. Additionally, companies charge more when it comes to customization services. Therefore you will have to use more money to buy these PCBs that align with your specific and unique attributes.
- Manufacturing company. Plenty of companies produce printed circuit boards, but the quality and type of service differ from one company to the other. For example, some companies will provide manufacturing, fabrication, and assembly services, while some can only fabricate and assemble. Therefore, it becomes crucial to canvass and find the best company that will provide the required PCB at an affordable price and quality and excellent customer care service. The type of company and their product distribution services will also impact whether you can conveniently buy from them or not. For instance, if a company only provides PCB products within a specific territory or if it can allow you to place an order and buy online, complete with shipping services. Therefore, examine this crucial factor when buying a PCB to reduce potential disappointments.
Additionally, can the company produce your customized PCB design? The company you opt to procure a PCB from should have the capacity to customize the unique features you want to incorporate into your printed circuit board.
How to Order for Printed Circuit Board
Once you figure out what kind of printed circuit board you want and consider earlier stipulated, it becomes instrumental in placing an order of the PCB from your preferred PCB Company. But, before you order, try and gauge whether the manufacturing company you have settled on only produces standard sizes or short runs as well. It will assist you in buying an inexpensive set without any need to pay upfront for a large custom PCB batch, especially when you only want a single or two pieces.
- Develop a circuit schematic and design. The two components become crucial for any printed circuit board, as you would not require a PCB board without a circuit. A variety of tools exist that you can use in creating a schematic. However, use a tool that will not only allow you to simulate the circuit’s behavior but test it as well. It should also allow you to develop at least a single working prototype and ensure functionality as designed before making the order.
- Design your PCB. It is the next step after making the schematic and can prove tasking and a bit time-consuming. Here, you must demonstrate the technical know-how to route the tracks and how their outlay affects your circuit’s performance. However, provided it’s a simple one for the initial circuit, the process can become less tasking. In addition, a lot of manufacturers have specific design software solutions for your use in this process. Thus, it becomes critical to search for these, complete with instructions on using them in their respective websites.
Additionally, note that you will have to set your project dimensions based on the customary sized board the company offers, as you will likely get these from your order. Otherwise, the manufacturer may decline to build your PCB at the specified price.
An excellent benefit of using such design software entails the standardization of the output files into the Gerber format. It is a file format that gets used for plotters when the actual track-printing occurs on the board. Therefore, any tool you choose to deploy needs to have the export option that will allow you to export your design in the Gerber format.
- Double-check your design. Cross-checking and ensuring everything is in order becomes critical at this stage. Therefore, ensure the prototype, design, and board layout have no mistakes to avoid the costly replacement, especially after procurement of the boards. Once you have ascertained that everything is in order, you can upload the Gerber files, pick the board you want, and pay.
- Once you receive the board from the manufacturer, check for any shipping damage and manufacturing defects like broken boards, defective and incomplete tracks, and undrilled holes. The process becomes vital before embarking on the soldering process of parts. It will allow you to replace parts quickly if you spot defects besides saving your costs on the replacement parts.
How Printed Circuit Board Get Priced
PCBs have a diverse range of reliability, complexity, price, and quality points. However, the typical circuit board can cost as low as fifty cents to about three hundred dollars based on your requirements. But the cost of PCB gets influenced by many factors, including the following.
- Assembly type. The type of assembly can drive the cost of a printed circuit board up or down. For instance, SMA, which entails assembling components on the surface, proves less expensive and with a faster manufacturing process compared to through-hole soldering. However, the latter has a sturdier connection concerning components than the latter. It thus proves the preferred tech by many, despite its steep price.
- Component placement. The components placement within the board can increase or reduce the PCB price. Therefore, re-evaluate how you want them placed to reduce the manufacturing price.
- The components number. The number of components within your circuit board will impact its price. It is because it arises from the procurement of these parts besides the cost of manufacturing. Therefore, try hard to ensure that your circuit proves as efficient as possible to reduce the PCB price.
- Component’s package size. Industry size component package sizes lead to more affordable PCBs. Therefore, try and ensure you stick to these.
- Component package besides the required process
- Every component package needs to get attached using a particular process. Therefore, whenever you opt for delicate, complicated, and hefty component packages, the price also increases.
- Batch size and quantity. The number of PCBs you order besides the batch size will influence the overall cost of the PCB. Larger quantities of PCB fetch a lesser cost compared to smaller quantities. However, the batch size also dives the cost, something that gets overlooked often. Therefore, consult with your PCB manufacturer to understand what works best and will cost less.
- Special component or parts preparation needs can also increase the cost of PCB. Therefore, if you can, use standard processing and size requirements.
- Coating, potting, material and layers, and BoM also influence the cost of PCB; therefore, pick options that can reduce the cost of PCB.
If you want to buy a quality and suitable PCB for your device, then the insights provided in this article should go a long way in helping you make the correct choice. So consider these, and get value for your money.