It used to be very difficult to find a manufacturer that could produce your custom printed circuit boards for a reasonable price and in a timely manner. Thanks to the growing number of Kickstarter creators, small businesses and engineers that need this type of service, the number of options is starting to climb. That’s good for you. It puts you in the driver’s seat. Because you have many choices, you can be very picky in your vendor selection.
There are a bunch of vendors competing for your business, so be sure to run down the list and consider only those who make the grade in every area. It is also a smart idea to look at the manufacturer’s past work and find out what other customers have had to say.
The custom PCB industry is booming right now. That can make it hard to sort out the A-list players from the ones who will vanish as quickly as they popped up. We recommend taking your time, considering all of the options, and choosing a partner that has the right match of services and experience. You’ll be glad you did.
If you keep the entire product lifecycle in mind, you will only consider a custom PCB provider that offers the following 9 services.
Don’t sit around waiting hours or days for a quote via email. Instead, choose a vendor that offers real time quotes online. It should be as easy as uploading your design documents and specifying the parts you’d like. Be sure to get a demonstration of the custom PCB management and quoting software.
Prototyping and iteration are essential parts of the development process. PCB prototyping should be fast, inexpensive and straightforward. Although some vendors turn prototyping and other one-off orders away, others welcome this type of work and are happy to help you get your project off the ground.
It should be on the manufacturer, not you, to identify the best sources for parts and negotiate excellent deals with their entire buying power as leverage. Not only will this save you time and hassle, but it will also help keep your costs down.
You should have complete visibility into the status of your project and be able to make changes and review results at any time. Reporting should be powerful, easy and available on any device.
We mentioned the buying power of manufacturers when we were talking about sourcing. The best partners not only keep their own costs down this way, they pass the savings onto you by keeping an inventory of commonly used parts. These “house” parts are then offered at discount prices, making your project even less expensive.
For a truly seamless experience, it makes sense to choose a custom PCB manufacturer that can also handle your electronic device manufacturing when you are ready to put your PCB to work. Having one partner perform both functions eliminates shipping time, costs, and risks; simplifies your product lifecycle; and costs you less.
Speaking of keeping it simple, some manufacturing companies also offer inventory management services. Once your product is built, they house it for you until it is ready to be shipped. You save the hassle and expense of warehousing and keeping track of your inventory.
Better yet if you choose a partner that will take the product lifecycle the last mile by shipping the product directly to your customer as soon as it is ordered. You never have to box or ship. The manufacturer can once again leverage the collective buying power of all their customers to secure discounts from shipping carriers.
The premier players in custom turnkey PCB manufacturing and assembly offer an application programing interface (API) that makes it easy to connect their fulfillment software with the applications your customers use to place orders. This approach means that you don’t even need to click a button or send an email to trigger your partner to process a shipment.
Although on-shore manufacturing isn’t really a service, it belongs on this list of things you should look for. Gone are the days when the only way to get product assembly accomplished at a reasonable price was to do it off shore. These days, there are plenty of options right here at home that are affordable, reliable, and fast. Who needs the added complexity and risk associated with shipping your PCBs around the world?