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The Factors that Influence PCB Pricing

Printed circuit boards come as critical components for electronic devices. Therefore, electronic designers, engineers, and electronic enthusiasts need to understand how to develop or buy PCB services and understand what influences the pricing. Furthermore, it will allow you to understand how to price your design whenever you make one from scratch or enable you to decide on a PCB pricing scheme that proves worthwhile from diverse manufacturers.

Printed Circuit Board Pricing

The PCB price will often differ based on diverse factors, including the manufacturing or assembling company. After all, companies have to make a profit and sustain their operations. However, the key drivers to PCB pricing across the industry encompass the material type, the PCB board size, and the layer number. Additionally, the hole size and finish also affect the electronic PCB board price.

A PCB board always encompasses an FR4 substrate, soldermask, copper, and silkscreen. However, the design developed determines the type and arrangement of the different components. Therefore, based on these design and materials specifications, size, durability, and functionality aspects get determined. Consequently, these play a significant role in the printed circuit board price and crucial aspects to become aware of when buying or selling your PCB.  

Factors that Influence the Price of PCB

electronic pcb board price
  • Material choice. The choice of material you decide to use when making a PCB will invariably influence its price. For instance, standard PCB get laminated with an FR4 substrate, something that cannot work for circuit boards intended for high-intensity use like the fuel and aerospace industries. To delve into this further, consider the following material choice attributes and how they influence the price of PCB.
  • Thermal reliability. Can the board perform under the expected temperature range? Specific boards need materials that possess higher thermal ratings compared to the typical boards. The higher the thermal rating, the higher the price.
  • Temperature reliability. Will the material tolerate the expected atmospheric conditions in a controlled environment without overheating? Printed circuit boards anticipated to handle high-temperature operations need materials that have to pass through this trial and have a higher price.
  • Heat transfer. Can the PCB board endure high-intensity loads without transferring any undue heat levels to adjacent or attached components? The material has to pass this trial before getting deployed successfully and will have a higher price tag.
  • Signal performance. Can the material expedite nonstop electrical signals throughout every operating cycle of the machine? It becomes essential to have a material that will facilitate continuous electrical signals by having a higher threshold to withstand diverse environmental and temperature ranges. However, such a material will also come at a higher price.  
  • Mechanical properties. The material needs to have a satisfactory physical composition that will enable it to withstand diverse specified physical stresses—for instance, getting pressed into tight spots without cracking. However, the higher the grade of the material, the higher the price.    

Materials handling higher frequency operations need higher-grade materials and potentially come at a price ten times higher than other materials.

  • PCB size. The PCB panel use and size determine its pricing, though its size gets often determined by the circuit count needed for a particular device. For instance, a small PCB will need fewer components and will prove cheaper than larger PCBs. An excellent example involves a digital wrist watches’ PCB compared to a laptop’s PCB. Equally, a computer’s PCB will prove smaller compared to its industrial machinery counterpart. PCB dimensions differ, and the most common in printed circuit board manufacturing entails the following.
  • 457 x 610mm (18 X 24″)  
  • 457 x 533mm (18 X 21″)
  • 533 x 610mm (21 X 24″)

The pricing will differ with the space area of the PCB panel, though it becomes important to note that the space occupied by components also increases or decreases the PCB price. Additionally, the PCB design‘s dimensions prove the major determinants of a printed circuit board’s price. Therefore, a small yet high-volume PCB will be valued at less prices than a larger PCB with a similar volume.

  • Amount of layers. The layer number in a PCB will determine the price of that board. For instance, a three-layer PCB will have a higher price compared to a two-layer and single-layer PCB. The pricing gets influenced by the material type and board size, which multiple layers add to. Therefore, thicker boards containing multiple layers will need considerably extra work and materials for its manufacturing. It often follows this distribution price pattern based on the layers. Remember the pricing increases on a layer basis.
  • One layer to 2 layers: 35 – 40%
  • Two layers to 4 layers: 35 – 40%
  • Four layers to six layers: 30 – 40%
  • Six layers  to eight layers: 30 – 35%
  • Eight layers to ten layers: 20 – 30%
  • Ten layers to twelve layers: 20 – 30%  

A substantial increase in the manufacturing cost happens with the addition of the second layer and the subsequent four layers. However, from the sixth layer onwards, with the additive price effect on the previous layer number’s price, the manufacturing cost becomes too steep. Additionally, the type of material used when designing the board might imply more layers to make it sturdy.

  • Finish. Different types of finishes that can get applied to PCBs exist, including HASL, ENIG, etc. However, the type of finish can impact the price of a PCB, as much as it doesn’t play a major role. For instance, you can get some finishes boasting longer shelf lives or higher grades, which drives their subsequent PCB prices up. On the other hand, HASL represents a typical low-cost surface finish that offers decent solderability.
  • On the other hand, ENIG has a higher rating on all levels than HASL and comes at a slightly higher price. In addition, different surface finishes offer distinct features. For instance, HASL, OSP, IMM sn, and LFHASL provides solderability. The ENIG, ENEPIG, and Elec Au, on the other hand, give AI wire-bondage, solderability, and the contact surface, etc.  
  • Hole size. The hole size represents a crucial factor that determines the price of the manufactured PCB. Additionally, the number of holes also influences driving up the price besides other considerations such as layer thickness and the material getting drilled. However, as the number of holes increases, the price of the PCB board increases because of the extra work needed to make the holes. Additionally, the hole depth and the material type also determine whether the price will increase or reduce.   

Additionally, if the hole size proves super-thin, then the tools required to drill these holes will have to be special, and this will need specialized skills and tools. Consequently, these will come at a higher price which eventually drives the PCB price up.

Further, factors such as the PCB board’s thickness and the type of material will also impact the pricing besides the hole number. For example, a tougher material can prove harder to drill, increasing production effort and cost.

  • Minimum trace width and space. The trace width in the design of a PCB board becomes crucial in averting the overheating threat or board damage from the current transfer. Therefore, it becomes imperative always to ensure that the width is sufficient regardless of the board size. However, to determine and ensure this, a correlation axis has to get implemented between the carrying capacity and the trace width. Additionally, the copper thickness and the trace cross-section correlate. However, the carrying capacity of the trace will not necessarily relate to the space cross-section as the maximum current a trace holds can prove impossibly difficult to calculate regardless of temperature rise and trace width. Only vias, pads, and other elements of the board can impact the PCB trace’s carrying capacity. Further, numerous pads on a PCB board can ensure a trace of tremendous capacity, something that has to get accounted for during the soldering process. A key way of remedying the burns that can result from a large trace’s capacity entails enlargement of the trace width, leading to increased production expenses that drive up the price of PCBs.
  • The PCB thickness and aspect quotient
  • Thicker PCB materials can prove costlier to laminate, procure, and make into a PCB, particularly for highly intricate designs. On the other hand, thin materials generally command lower prices as fewer materials get incorporated in the production process, while the opposite rings true for thicker materials. Additionally, the price also gets impacted with the material type when it comes to the thickness of the material.
  • Unique or custom specifications. PCB pricing can get influenced by distinctive element designs during the production process. Therefore, when you approach a trustworthy PCB maker like RayMing PCB and Assembly Company with specific (or custom) specifications, the cost will increase. Such an increase will result regardless of the small size or single/double-sidedness of the PCB layer.

An increase in the price gets raised from custom requirements such as contoured edges, side-plating, and solder mask authorization.  Such specialized features often need specialized skills. For instance, if the design entails details that can prove challenging to produce, the company producing the PCB will have to source a dedicated specialist to work on the PCB. Additionally, the process of working on these features will prove more time-consuming and thus will have a higher price tag.   

Conclusion

It becomes crucial to understand the pricing of PCB if you hold an interest in ordering or selling one. However, if you want to design your PCB and have it manufactured, such information will become instrumental in avoiding steep production-related prices while obtaining value.