If you’re keen on undertaking an electronics project, then it makes sense that you need to consider the PCB assembly cost.
Your overall project costs depend on the cost of the parts, such as the PCB.
Hence, this article details the PCB industrial assembly costs and why one circuit board could be costlier than the next.
Also, we’ll tell you some of the hacks for lowering the PCB assembly cost, so stay with us until the end.
Why PCB Assembly Cost Matters
We have different PCB grades; as expected, their overall costs could reflect their respective qualities.
But does that mean that you should always opt for the priciest PCB?
Well, that’s not necessarily the case. First, PCB costs between companies vary due to various factors.
Hence cost is not the only critical consideration, but it remains a crucial reflector of quality, especially if you’re dealing with a top-level manufacturer.
Therefore, consulting on the manufacturer’s reputation is imperative to avoid falling prey to price wars.
Does the specific manufacturer guarantee the quality or not?
Then, once you’re sure about this, you can narrow down the costs of the different PCB grades.
What Determines PCB Cost?
Modern electric pcb factory assembly line with soldering irons and ventilation.
Order Lead Time
Lead or turnaround time is the actual duration for PCB board delivery after ordering.
Choosing a longer lead time is more economical if you don’t want to use the PCB immediately
. It will significantly lower the overall cost.
The logic here is that if you need your boards delivered promptly, the manufacturer will halt the production of the rest to prioritize yours. It will drive the prices up.
Electronics Manufacturing Services, Assembly Of Circuit Board arrangement.
The main factors we use to gauge product quality include its complexity, yield, and reliability.
We’re talking about the number of components in a given PCB area on complex designs.
Also, a PCB with numerous soldering points, PCB track, and other components have a complex manufacturing process and will be pricier than one with fewer parts.
An example of such a PCB is an Arduino board.
Manual insertion of electronic components on printing circuit board assembly before wave soldering.
How many design errors and faulty parts can you note on your PCB board?
A PCB manufacturer conducting extensive functionality and visual inspection tests reduces the number of boards buyers return.
It cuts the rework costs for faulty components, which can significantly increase the assembly costs.
Also, functionality tests are vital in improving the PCB’s tolerance levels and eliminating production delays.
Therefore, PCBs with lesser errors are pricier primarily because of the extra work done to improve their quality.
Preparedness when undertaking a PCB assembly process is vital, as the earlier you know the number of boards you need, the better.
From a manufacturer’s perspective, knowing the output quality helps the company make a budget before manufacturing.
And this is imperative in setting up a general price for the PCB boards while factoring in the intended profit.
If you’re purchasing PCBs for circuitry projects, ordering in bulk is also better as you can significantly save due to economies of scale when buying many at a go.
Engineers are assembling circuit boards at a desk.
PCB assembly is a labor-intensive process.
Hence, PCB manufacturing costs in South Asia nations such as China, where there is cheap skilled labor, are lower than those in the US or West Europe, where labor costs are high.
Nonetheless, when contracting an overseas manufacturer, it’s also imperative to consider other PCB production costs, such as shipping fees and handling costs.
These may balloon the overall price.
Manufacturers looking to lower the costs of PCB assembly use surface mount technology (SMT).
Primarily this is because the technique employs immense automation, which is critical in cost-cutting.
But, the downside of the resultant PCBs is that they require additional work in through-hole drilling, which can increase the overall cost.
BGA and QFP Chip on PCB
PCBs that need the addition of parts are more tedious and expensive to manufacture than those with simple designs.
For instance, the PCB manufacturing process for Ball Grid Arrays (BGAs) is quite time-consuming since you primarily need to connect them to a power source.
Also, their production is more complex primarily because they require x-ray checking to prevent short-circuiting. It balloons the costs.
Type of PCB
What material makes your PCB? It is a critical determinant of the overall PCB assembly cost.
One of the most standard materials is the FR-4 laminate, which has flame resistance properties.
Therefore, it is more expensive than CEM-1 (a material reserved for single-side PCBs).
Also, we have the RF-35 PCBs that are relatively stable in performance in high-frequency applications yet cheap.
Lastly, we have Polyimide-made PCBs that are pricey, primarily as they are a special type reserved for military and aerospace equipment.
PCB Size/ Number of Layers
Different layers of PCB
PCBs with a large surface area will be more pricey than thin ones.
Also, this applies to the layers whereby the thinner the PCB, the cheaper its costs.
Consider whether they fit your project enough before going for thin PCBs.
The requirements of the device you’re building should determine the thickness of the PCB you should use.
Size of Board Holes
Hole technology is also a cardinal consideration.
A PCB with numerous holes will likely take longer to manufacture than one with fewer holes.
It will drive up the overall costs of the boards.
Similarly, if your PCB requires very small-sized holes, the more expensive it’ll take to produce.
Small holes require more expertise to craft and drill than larger ones.
PCB with ENIG or gold surface finish
Some devices need a sophisticated finish to increase use time and shelf life.
Although PCB finish doesn’t matter much, it is still a critical factor that can increase the production costs and output price of PCB.
Here are some of the common finishes for your PCB:
- Organic Solderability Preservative (OSP Finish)
- Electroless Nickel Immersion Gold (ENIG Finish)
- Hot Air Solder Leveling (HASL Finish)
Lastly, the more customizations you need for your PCB, the more pricey they’ll be.
Why is PCB Assembly so Expensive?
Soldering and assembling chip components on PCB board.
There are many reasons why PCB assembly is quite pricey, and we’ll look at them in detail below.
Assembly Costs via Product Type
The output PCB product is a critical factor that makes PCB assembly expensive.
For instance, industry-specific PCBs must match the required quality; therefore, the manufacturer must mold them in a particular design.
Here are some of the parts required to make bare PCB that are key determinants of the price:
Assembly Costs via Assembly Option/Method
Numerous PCBs during assembly.
The assembly option (We’ll look at different options below) is another reason PCB assembly is expensive.
The assembly option costs are due to two primary factors:
- First, sourcing PCB materials is expensive.
- Secondly, all assembly processes require retesting, which is imperative in ensuring adherence to quality standards.
Check out the various assembly processes we apply in PCB manufacturing:
- General Process Assembling
- Turnkey Processing
- Turnkey No Processing No Manufacturing No Assembling
- General Process Manufacturing
- Turnkey Manufacturing
- Turnkey Assembly
How to Save Money on PCB Assembly
Here are four main ways you can significantly reduce the price of your PCBs.
Choose a Less Expensive design.
A bare PCB is cheap, but its final cost will vary depending on the layer count, technology used, shape and size, and the number of layers.
Therefore, when choosing a PCB, you should settle for a design that fulfills all the functionalities but doesn’t have additional unnecessary features.
Comprehensive Bill of Materials
What materials do you need to manufacture a specific type of PCB?
This should be a cardinal consideration, especially from the manufacturer’s perspective, as it is critical in determining the overall costs of building a board.
Also, listing the parts ensures you can adequately plan and allows you to purchase the parts in bulk, which is key to lowering costs.
Inspection and Testing
In PCB assembly, a manufacturer should be wary of allowing faulty PCBs to hit the market as they are detrimental to the company’s reputation.
Also, buyers will most likely return such PCBs for replacement, increasing production costs.
Therefore, as a general rule, thoroughly inspect your boards by running extensive tests before dispatching them to the market.
It will save you a lot of money in the long run.
Order Time and Quantity
As mentioned earlier, the faster the lead time, the pricier the PCB parts.
Also, buying parts in bulk beats purchasing bits by bits. Therefore, proper planning is key.
It ensures that you order your PCB components in large volumes and allow the supplier ample time to supply.
PCB assembly is a costly process due to various factors that we have listed in this guide.
Sometimes, it may be impossible to do away with the costs, especially in assembling high-end PCBs useful in aerospace and military work.
Nonetheless, a manufacturer can still cut costs through the techniques we have provided in the last section.
Thanks for your time.