You may not realize it, but almost all of the electronic devices you use on a daily basis contain some form of PCB. From the computer mouse that you might be holding right now, through to the management systems on your vehicle.
The rate at which we need PCBs is increasing. According to Globe Newswire, PCB demand is increasing by around 3.1% annually and will reach an expected 76.9 billion USD by 2024.
Is it any wonder then that the need for greater volume in PCBs means there are more and more product engineers that are adding them into their products - but choosing the right one is critical.
So first, let’s give you the quick answer on what a PCB is for that that are unaware. Then we’ll dive into some helpful advice on choosing a PCB manufacturer.
How to Choose a Reliable PCB Assembly Manufacturer. There are a number of PCB manufacturers globally, but it’s important to do your homework before choosing one. Ensure they supply in your region, that they can provide the product you need and that their service comes recommended. Speak to them beforehand about your project and even visit them where possible
So how do you know which one to choose, how do you know if they supply to your region? What about the ordering process or service level if you need assistance.
Let’s explore these areas as part of our guide, so you can be sure you’re getting the product and service you need. But first, let’s start with the basics…
Who Needs PCBs
There are a whole host of PCB applications, the types of people that normally deal with these types of products range from electronic engineers, product designers, or electronic purchasers, production managers, engineers from industrial, commercial and even military backgrounds.
What Is a PCB?
Printed Circuit Board (PCB), is a combination of a baseboard, with electronic components and highly conductive tracks soldered into the board to form a circuit. When arranged in specific layouts, with specific components, it performs simple or complex electronic tasks, one of the simplest being a basic switch.
PCBs can become complex component boards performing a multitude of tasks in linear or parallel motion. If you’re a manufacturer of electronic goods, you're likely already familiar with the circuitry and specification requirements that go into these boards. But what about if you need one, or have one and need a good manufacturer of PCBs to continue your project? So starting with your product...
Know What PCB Assembly You Need
There are a raft of PCB types of boards available, the more information you can provide about your ultimate use for the PCB, along with detailed specifications is vital if you’re going to get the product you want at the end of the process.
With that in mind, ensure you have a full and detailed overview of what your product is for? what it’s designed to do? And ultimately, what you need the PCB board to accurately provide for that product.
Errors encountered here can have a long term impact on the product - and your project. So getting this stage correct at the beginning is crucial to prevent incorrect configurations later in the process.
An experienced manufacturer should be able to help you avoid these pitfalls but bringing their experience to your project. So be sure to leverage their knowledge and help them to understand your needs. If you’ve got a project you think needs this kind of help and support then why not get in touch with us to see if we can help.
So for those of you already experienced with PCBs, here’s where we need to start discussing the qualities you need to look for when selecting a PCB Manufacturer and Assembler.
Experienced PCB Manufacturer
There are many PCB manufacturers that deal with specific types of industry, so its important to source one that can cater to the type of product you’re looking for.
It’s a good idea to build a relationship with your PCB supplier, they will then be more willing to offer their experience to guide you regarding your needs, as well as ways of being cost-effective and they’ll care about your product, your satisfaction, and in securing your future business
Select a Single Source for PCB Solutions
Where possible, find a manufacturer who’ll be able to cater for not only this product but the scope of products you’re likely to need in the long term.
For example, At RayPCB.com, as well as providing prototype boards of any kind, we have an extensive list of PCB board types we can produce which encompass almost the entire range of options, so here’s our list to help you understand the types you may need either now, or in the future:-
The fast-growing need for multilayer boards is due to their greater benefits over double-sided boards. Perfect for more densely populated circuitry and for miniturization of products.
2. Rogers PCB
Used highly by the Military as well as Consumer units, Rogers PCB typically consists of 3 layers and surface mount technology for stability.
3. LED PCB
There are a wealth of solution options for LED boards, they can range from simple outdoor LED screens through to complex High Powered LED lighting systems.
4. HDI PCB
HDI Microvia PCBs are a fast-growing technology. They often have a higher circuitry density than traditional PCBs. There are 6 main types to suit a range of tasks.
5. Express PCB
These are popular among hobbyists and Engineers around the world. They can come in a range of different types and can usually be turned around in about 24 hours - depending on your needs.
6. Aluminum PCB
Common for applications requiring a high level of heat dissipation, Aluminum boards are both common and ideal for high power and tight tolerance applications.
Popular within Aerospace and Military applications, Rigid Flex PCBs are very reliable. They’re rigid in areas requiring positive support and flexible in areas for corners and/or moving applications.
Other Important PCB Manufacturer Services
There are other services you should expect from your PCB partner. These are the types of services that demonstrate their knowledge and an eye for detail, commitment to getting the project right for you and quick ‘off the shelf’ solutions designed to serve your needs fast when you need them. For some examples, here are some of our other services:-
A good manufacturer should be able to take complex designs, build them and test them for you, with qualified staff and flexible product building facilities.
Your manufacturer should have a wider knowledge of printed board design, and be able to effectively understand your final product. These kinds of services should include the following…
Quick-turn prototype assembly
Partial turn-key assembly
RoHS compliant lead-free assembly
Final box-build and packaging
A partial or full assembly might be important to you, so make sure you inquire about this area. An experienced manufacturer should be able to take care of the entire process on your behalf.
Manufacturers can also vary greatly in terms of cost-effectiveness, the reliability of the products being delivered, the types of boards (one layer, two-layer or multilayer) and also the after sales service that you receive.
We’d suggest talking to your manufacturer about what previous experience they have in dealing with your type of custom, for example, we are always offering our customers valuable insight on both our knowledge and how that can match your needs.
This should include advice on which types of component boards they’ve dealt with that are similar to your needs, as well as some previous examples to demonstrate their experience.
Sourcing Original PCB Components
Some PCB manufacturers are merely an assembly line, and may well attempt to save costs and cut corners by using poor quality third party components within their assembly process. We’re proud to say we source all of our components to the highest quality, and because of our size, we’re able to ensure prices are kept as low as possible, We then pass any savings to our customers.
The guide from us here is - if you’re going to deal with a manufacturer, make sure you get a clear answer on where they source their components - and are they also original components?!
Quality of PCB Products
Cost can often (but not always) dictate the level of quality. The factors to weigh up are of course the budget you have available within your product costings, but also the potential headaches of returning large batches of products because you budgeted to low and chose the wrong manufacturer that provided low quality for low price.
Consider finding out what quality control methods the manufacturer has in place, what are their thresholds for the number of faulty products vs fully functioning products, much of these will be monitored through ISO certification standards (see certifications below).
Also, what are the returns procedures and other service levels included in the price. What you're really looking for here is reliability, of both product and service. That leads on to industry standard certifications…
Industry Standard Certifications
At the very least you should make sure that your PCB boards will be manufactured in line with some basic industry guidelines, these deal with aspects such as safety and workflow. Here are our guidelines on which accreditations your PCB producer should hold…
ISO - International Standardization Organization. Ensuring your products and services meet expected international standards for your customers
IFA - International Accreditation Forum. The World Association for conformity in systems, products, services, and personnel
UL RJ - Concerning correct and legal product labeling and safety guidelines and specifications
The key here is that shopping around to get a good overview of prices is key. The price is not always the defining factor, but low cost and high quality are hard to come by.
Many larger and more experienced PCB manufacturers will have higher prices, this is often to cover larger overheads. Equally some smaller operators will set a low price in order to enter the market and fulfill orders - but do so with a high level of service in mind.
It’s a tricky area, so by shopping around, gathering information and research on each of your options provides you with a better overview of who to go to and what to expect. Matching your budget is important, so ensure the product meets your budget, but then weigh up other factors so you know who you’re dealing with.
This area can vary greatly, you need to ensure your PCBs are going to arrive when you need them to. Sometimes you need them quickly. Standard turnaround time for most industry standard PCB boards is around 5 days, so that gives you a guide to work from.
But you also need to be sure your PCB producer can cater for fast and efficient specification of your designs, be able to assemble and test where needed and that you can liaise with them through each part of the process where necessary, which brings us to the next part.
Ease of Contact
Conducting business solely by email can be slow and frustrating, it helps when there are a number of quicker methods by which you can contact your PCB supplier. Methods like the manufacturers Facebook Page not only adds to their credibility but gives you a social media source for contacting them.
Also, having the ability to Skype call them when needed means you have a fast track method to get a response quickly.
This also applies to after sales service if something happens to be wrong or if you need further assistance regarding your delivery.
Speed of PCB Production
If your company needs a fast turnaround time for printed circuit boards, then you would want to look out for PCB manufacturers that can guarantee fast delivery. Although a lot of PCB companies can deliver products within five business days, sometimes, you may need a faster turnaround time. If you need a company that can handle your demands, then it’s a good idea to check if they have good processes in place so they can reliably deliver your products on time.
Core Values of Your Chosen Manufacturer
What is becoming more of a requirement these days is the need to ensure the company you're dealing with takes social responsibility, staff welfare, and ethical business practices as a serious part of their organization.
We’re proud to say we completely encompass these principles at raypcb, as well as pride ourselves on delivering quality, innovation, service and sustainability - and a great team environment. We think it’s important.
We hope this has helped to provide a comprehensive guide on what to look out for in a PCB manufacturer. Whether embarking on your first - or next product, we’d be happy to discuss any ideas or designs you have, simply send your designs over to us by email if you prefer, or send a message through the Contact Us form on this website.