Not Every PCB Manufacturer Is Created Equal. 5 Things To Research.
Searching for a PCB manufacturer to make your company’s printed circuits is not always a walk in the park. Most of these companies may promise the same things, but the truth is that they are entirely different when it comes to assembly and fabrication services. Some pose as real manufacturers, while they are only suppliers or brokers standing between the chief maker and you, the consumer.
Choosing the wrong manufacturers for your PCB can lead to extended turnaround times, frustrations and unnecessary costs. You might come to learn that the manufacturer that you got doesn’t meet your company’s demands. It, therefore, calls you to conduct thorough research, looking at different PCB manufacturers, and ask the right questions so that you can be sure you are going for the right company.
To help you stay ahead of the curve, let’s take a look at five things that you should keep in mind as you try and narrow down the best manufacturers to offer you quality services.
But before we do so, it’s only wise that you first understand the types of PCB manufacturers out there.
Types of PCB Manufacturers
First things first! There are different types of PCB manufacturers out there. Knowing what is available to you helps you narrow down your search for an informed decision.
PCB Fabricators Only
These manufacturers only specialize in fabricating PCB. These companies are great if you need to assemble the components yourself, test the bare board, or wish to procure other parts for assembling.
PCB Fabricators and Assemblers
These manufacturers do almost everything for you, making the PCBs and assembling them for you. However, you will be required to provide your components. The service is excellent if your company has a well-defined procurement system or has a stock of components.
PCB Turnkey Manufacturers
These providers will fabricate and assemble your PCBs, and go an extra step to procure and manage your components. Of course, you will specify a design that suits you, but they will do everything and provide you with fully-built, ready-to-go PCBs. This service is good for those who want a quick turnaround time for board revisions and prototypes, and those that wish to utilize current technologies.
Choosing a PCB Manufacturer
Everything boils down to quality. The truth is that not all PCB boards can live up to the expected quality standards. The failure rate from one manufacturer to another can vary greatly. Quality is determined across the prototyping and design process. Don’t hesitate to ask the company about their quality control. If they are competent enough, they will take you through their manufacturing process and how they inspect the PCBs to ensure superior quality.
How long has that manufacturer been in the PCB business? See, experience is the best teacher, so a manufacturer that boasts years of craftsmanship in the industry will always guarantee you quality services. Such companies understand all the ins and outs of PCBs and have a reputation to take care of; they wouldn’t commit mistakes that could otherwise tarnish their brands. They know the importance of deadlines and quality.
Is the manufacturer certified? Can you prove it? The PCB manufacturers need to have all the certifications necessary, including IPC, UL, and ISO. Don’t go for a service just because they offer you incredibly low costs; if they are not compliant to the local and state laws and regulations, not to mention quality control assessments, it will cost you much more later on.
How quickly does the PCB Manufacturer deliver?
Timing. Timing. How fast a PCB manufacturer can produce is very important when it comes to PCB delivery. You wouldn’t want a manufacturer that promises to deliver on time but misses their deadlines every time. They have to be consistent from the get-go. Check around. Read reviews. Ask them if they can deliver the PCBs on time.
An interesting thing about PCBs is that pricing and quality don’t always go hand in hand. The industry of printed circuit board manufacturing is competitive, making each manufacturer review their rates to win more customers. But don’t be fooled by this. Extremely unreasonable prices mean that you won’t get the type of quality for which you are looking. As a rule of thumb, go for the more experienced producers, even if they command higher rates. But always check around to see what works for your company and budget.
We’ve made it simple and easy for you to choose the best PCB manufacturer for your needs. Although, depending on your needs as a company and, of course, your budget, you’ll want to go with a manufacturer that will serve your expectations. Keep quality and timely delivery as a priority and always go for the more experienced brands.
About The Author
Tony Zuberbuehler is a Sales Manager at Versa Electronics with a focus on electronic contract manufacturing. Tony’s career in technology manufacturing spans 25+ years and has included roles as an engineering liaison, in purchasing and material management, manufacturing and planning, customer interfaces, and product fulfillment. Connect with Tony Z on LinkedIn.