When it comes to choosing a PCB manufacturing vendor you may have more options than you think. Overseas manufacturers with long lead times, high minimum orders, and complex requirements for hardware designers are no longer the only choice for small businesses, engineers, makers, Kickstarter creators, or other entrepreneurs.
Today you can find a cloud manufacturing partner that can work with you through every stage of the product lifecycle, from your initial idea right until it reaches the hands of your customer. It was inevitable, perhaps, that PCB manufacturing would make its way to the cloud, offering inventors a hassle-free way to bring products to market.
In most cases, the first step, once the required design files and Bill of Materials are complete, is prototyping. The old fashioned approach to PCB manufacturing was not very friendly to small quantity orders, making PCB prototyping and PCB assembly challenging and expensive.
Fortunately, the next generation of PCB prototyping service providers is happy to work on prototype orders. Even better, they leverage online software tools to take the pain out of getting a quote for your prototype. Instead of waiting days or weeks, you’ll just upload your documents and get a quote in seconds.
Choosing a vendor that does PCB prototyping in the United States will speed up the process and reduce risks associated with overseas shipping and vendor management.
Once the prototyping and iteration process is complete, the PCB manufacturing stage can begin. Look for a partner that welcomes your order in any quantity, from one to 10,000, so that you can be supported by one vendor as you grow your business. This flexibility is possible because the vendor leverages sophisticated software that facilitates the combination of many small orders into a more economical large one.
Modern PCB service providers take care of all of the sourcing and ordering for you, so the process is frictionless. The same online software you used to generate the quote and upload your documents can be used to track the progress of your order, manage changes, and report on your project.
When evaluating vendors, it’s a good idea to ask them if they offer “House Parts.” House Parts are a collection of commonly used PCB components that the vendor can buy in bulk, to reduce prices for customers across the board.
Your PCB is likely destined to find a home in one or more electronic devices, so why not choose a PCB manufacturing partner that can also handle this stage of the product lifecycle? You can find a vendor that will help you source parts or hold parts you have in inventory until your device is ready for assembly. When PCB assembly and device manufacturing happens in the same warehouse, shipping delays and risks are eliminated. This integrated approach to production takes all of the friction out of the process so you can focus on your designs and your business.
Once your product is complete, a full-service PCB manufacturer offers inventory management and warehousing services, freeing you from the expensive and time-consuming task of storing, resupplying, and administering your inventory.
Since the manufacturer is maintaining your inventory, it only makes sense to extend their service to the final stage in the product lifecycle; order fulfillment. You can find a PCB manufacturing partner that will package and ship your order directly to customers. Some even offer an API to integrate your ecommerce or ERP systems. This integration makes the process fully automated, so whenever an order is placed, the product is shipped without any effort on your part.
Be sure to find a vendor that gets volume discounts from shipping carriers, thereby saving you money every time a product goes out.
These days it isn’t only huge corporations with massive budgets and long go-to-market timelines that are driving innovation in the field of electronics. Today people from all walks of life can develop the skills to turn their creative ideas into useful and entertaining products. Leading-edge manufacturing companies are accommodating this new need with an approach that keeps costs down, speeds up time to market, and makes managing the entire process easy and enjoyable.
Whether you are a seasoned pro, or a hobbyist who just wants to find out if your PCB design will work, you can find a manufacturing partner that will help you bring your vision to life.