The printed circuit board is one of the most important features of an electronic assembly. The PCB provides mechanical support and connectivity for electronic devices. PCBs come in several different technologies, depending upon the application. Some examples are; Rigid boards, Rigid-Flex boards, Flexible circuits, aluminum core, and Teflon. The PCB type and quality will affect the function of an electronic device, which is why you should be cautious when choosing a PCB supplier.

Here are some things you should consider when shopping for a PCB manufacturer.

 

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1. Industry Expertise and Capabilities

You will need to choose a manufacturer who provides the types of PCB you require. Not all PCB manufacturers are created equally. Other areas to consider include expertise, capabilities, facilities, equipment, human resources, standards/certification, location, testing, special processing, etc.

You wouldn’t ask a shop that primarily does single-sided, double-sided, and low layer count PCBs to produce your 24-layer backplane PCB!

Make sure that your requirements match up with the provider.

2. Quality Product / Certifications

Quality is one of the most important factors to consider when choosing a PCB manufacturer. First, you must consider the manufacturer’s Quality Management System (QMS). Depending upon your requirements, you can expect your manufacturer to be ISO 9001 certified at a minimum. ISO certification essentially signals that a basic QMS exists. Some examples are quality policy, quality manual, processes, procedures, work instruction, corrective and preventive actions, continuous improvement, and employee training.

Other factors to consider are manufacturing yield percentages at various processes and final yields to the customer, Test yields, etc. All of these should be made available by the manufacturer for review.

Other certifications that may help prove competency are ISO 13485 (Medical), AS9100 (Aerospace), IPC J-STD, A-600, and A-610.

3. On-time Delivery

On-time delivery falls under the quality category in many cases. However, make sure that the PCB house you select has a track record and can prove that they can quote an accurate lead time and deliver within that lead time. The success of your project may depend upon those results.

 

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4. Cost

The cost of PCB depends on many different factors.

Foreign or Domestic Source

Foreign sources are typically cheaper but come with other factors involved. Potentially longer lead times, extra shipping costs, tariffs, and communication challenges.

A domestic source may be more expensive, but if you find the proper source locally, you could take advantage of reduced lead times, minimal shipping cost, and the opportunity to visit the source.

PCB Technology

The technology of PCB is a significant indicator of price. Some expensive examples are; Complex Rigid-Flex and High layer count (14+) PCBs.

  • Order size and lead time required
  • Material type
  • Documentation accuracy
  • Testing requirements
  • Labor requirements

In Conclusion

A PCB may seem like just another commodity purchased by assembly houses. However, the PCB is crucial for the optimal performance of any electronic device. The items mentioned here are just some suggestions that you may consider while in the selection process. You should never compromise when it comes to quality, choose wisely and do your due diligence. In the end, you will realize that choosing the right PCB manufacturer is essential for an effective electronic device.

 

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