• Bridge PCB Design

From Idea to Product - Chapter IV: Time to Look for a Supplier

Once the PCB Layout is complete, the following step will be to transform it into a physical device that will let you verify your design and perform functional testing. This can be an overwhelming task, because there are many variables to consider and barriers to overcome.

Variables: Each electronic design is different and as such it requires particular specifications. For example, layer count, trace width/spacing or hole size are just some of all the specifications you need to take into account when going to manufacturing stage. Size of components is also crucial for assembly, as some are so small not all equipment will be able to handle them. Depending on how complex your board is you may find necessary to consider different suppliers that suit better your requirements. For simple designs you will prefer a contractor with good quality and quick turnaround. However, for the complex designs, your main considerations should be the supplier’s capabilities.

Also, if the design falls into a very specific application, like Radio Frequency, High Speed circuits or Military/Aerospace technology, the selection of the contractor is a life or death decision from a business point of view. Selecting the wrong PCB house could compromise the future of your product.

A panel of Printed Circuit Boards going through the PCB Fabrication process.
Panel of Printed Circuit Boards

Barriers: Although the PCB industry was once huge in the US, reality nowadays is that most of the big players are overseas, China, Taiwan and India are the go-to places for printed circuits. Low labor costs in these countries is the main force behind this trend, now you can contact a PCB Manufacturer or an Assembly house in Asia and obtain a batch of PCBs for just a fraction of what you would need to pay to have them made in the US.

Electronic components being placed on a Printed Circuit by a Pick and Place machine
PCB Assembly process

However not everything is perfect, lead times are obviously shorter in the US, because of the transit times, and the absence of customs delays. Additionally, the time zone differences between Asia and America, could easily transform a simple quote and ordering process into a week’s long torture, and in some cases the language barrier will end up complicating things even more with emails and calls going back and forth sometimes just to clarify a tiny detail.

Bridge PCB Design is nor a manufacturer neither an assembly house, but offers guidance in order to help you select the most adequate contractor for your project. For almost a decade we have worked with an important number of manufacturing options both in the USA and overseas, so we have a deep understanding of each one’s strengths and weaknesses.

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