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The Austrian engineer Paul Eisler invented the printed circuit as part of a radio set while working in England in approximately 1936. In 1943 the USA began to use the technology on a large scale to make proximity fuses for use in World War II. After the war, the government released the invention for commercial use. By the mid-1950s, printed circuits became commonplace in consumer electronics.
The design of PCBs continued to evolve, making them more fault tolerant and easier to manufacture, but until recently the services associated with having them manufactured and assembled into final products did not. The mass-manufacturing model was really the only one available, making prototyping difficult and limiting the options for designers who don’t want or can’t afford to order tens of thousands of PCBs.
Fortunately, a new approach to PCB electronics has evolved, taking advantage of cloud manufacturing software and the ability to combine many orders into one run, to achieve the economies of scale that keep prices down. Here is a guide to the PCB electronics services you can find today.
The traditional manufacturing process means waiting days, or even weeks, to get a quote and find out how much your PCB electronics order will cost. With modern online quoting, that is a thing of the past. Simply upload your design and get your quote in seconds.
Kickstarter creators, small businesses, hobbyists and even engineers at large corporations can benefit from the prototyping offer of new cloud manufacturers. They are happy to accept your order of one and work with you as you iterate to perfect your PCB.
Whether you need only a few units, or a few hundred, you can now find a partner that will be more than willing to accept your order. Sophisticated software makes it possible for today’s cloud electronics vendors to combine your order with others in a smart and efficient way so that your cost is reduced. If your product does well, your PCB partner can support orders of up to 10,000 units.
Not only can you now find a partner that can seamlessly manufacture your PCBs by handling all of the sourcing and purchasing, many also offer a catalog of “House Parts.” These are frequently used components that the vendor keeps on hand and offers to you at a reduced price. That way, they are always in stock and lead times are eliminated. With House Parts, you save both time and money.
The best PCB electronics vendors help you take your product all the way from concept to final customer by offering device assembly services. You simply ship your parts to the PCB manufacturer, they keep them in inventory and use them to assemble your final product when you, or a customer orders it.
Speaking of customer orders, order fulfillment is a newly available PCB electronics service option. The manufacturer stores your inventory of products, then packages and ships them whenever a customer’s order is placed. Top-tier solutions offer an API that connects your ERP or e-commerce system with their software so that order fulfillment is a seamless, automatic process. They may have partnered with shipping carrier to offer you reduced, or possibly even, fixed rates for shipping.
Credible vendors run every order through a quality control process at the end of assembly. For more extensive testing, many are happy to test your assembled boards to your requirements. Some also offer in-house testing with turnkey jig design, programming, and testing services.
Of course, you can select which of these services makes sense for you, but no matter which way you go, you can now also have complete visibility into the status of your project. The best services let you track manufacturing status, control your inventory, manage your bill of materials, correct assembly mistakes, and create fulfillment reports – all online and in real-time.
You have many choices when it comes to selecting the right services for your PCB assembly and manufacturing project. Whether you just need a fast, easy way to create prototypes, or you need a start to finish solution, you can find the PCB electronics services partner that is right for you.
Consumer electronics have come a long way since the 1950’s and, today, so has the process of creating, building, storing, and getting them into the hands of delighted users.