Guidelines on How to Reduce the Cost of PCB Prototype Making

Getting your new electronic product design ready for mass production and PCB assembly involves many steps and risks. I will give some recommendations about how to avoid costly mistakes and how to minimize the time to market for your new product designs.

Once you have finished your product and PCB design, you want to get started building prototypes before you commit to large production volume. Many design software packages such as PCB layout design software and industrial design software have simulation capabilities built in. Doing a simulation allows minimizing the number of design mistakes before the first prototype is built.

If you are designing a complex product, you may want to consider a modular design in which all of the main functions are located in individual modules. During your testing, you can then swap modules which do not meet the design constraints. Spinning individual modules will be quicker and more cost effective than spinning a whole design.

Depending on the design complexity, you could consider manually mounting PCB components to save cost. However, for medium to large complexity this method tends to be extremely time consuming, especially if you want to build several prototypes. Therefore it makes sense considering a contract manufacturer for the assembly.

When running small-quantity production runs, the production setup cost will typically dominate the overall prototype build cost. When looking for a subcontractor, it is best to select a vendor that specializes in prototype builds to minimize the expense. Prototype PCB manufacturers typically combine the circuit boards of several customers which effectively shares the setup cost amongst several customers. The drawback is that you will typically only be able to choose amongst several standard PCB material thicknesses and sizes. pcb manufacturer China 

Aside from selecting a supplier with low setup costs, picking a company that will also be able to handle your full-volume production runs minimizes mistakes since switching manufacturers has the chance of mistakes due to a particular supplier interpreting production design data differently. This way your design is already translated into the specific machine data which means little or no setup cost for your final production.

Some PCB manufacturers also offer PCB design services which is a great plus in case you don’t have experience with the design. Also, these vendors will be able to assist you in case there are problems with your design files and be able to spot problems before the production.

One problem with small-quantity production runs is sourcing of PCB components. Most components vendors will charge ship fees and have minimum order quantity requirements for certain components. Also, dealing with a small quantity of components is a problem in case of surface mount assembly since components will be mounted from SMT feeders. Some manufacturers will stock standard SMT components that you can purchase from the vendor. This will save you the time of having to purchase these components individually. Also, you don’t have to worry about using up leftover components.


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