Prototyping has been a challenge for printed circuit board designers for decades. Most options available were designed for large scale manufacturers with long lead times and large budgets. But these days, many people have the skill and desire to design PCBs and use them in all sorts of innovative new products and inventions. A small budget or quick turnaround time shouldn’t keep you from turning your idea into a prototype.
Fortunately, a new class of PCB prototyping service has launched. These services have figured out how to leverage a cloud-based platform alongside modern manufacturing methods to provide a seamless experience. In fact, they can take you from prototyping your initial concept, to assembling and delivering the final product to your customer. Depending on your needs, here are the things to look for when you select your PCB prototyping service partner.
While you might not need each of these services now, by selecting a partner that offers all of them, you’ll ensure that they can meet your needs now and into the future.
Who wants to sit around waiting for days or weeks just to find out what your prototype will cost? With the new approach to rapid PCB prototyping and assembly, you can expect an online quote within seconds of uploading your design documents.
We get that it is hard for traditional manufacturers to profitably produce prototypes and understand why they charge and arm and a leg to do so, but that doesn’t mean you have to pony up the big bucks. Cloud PCB prototyping services are able to use sophisticated software to pair your order with others, so that the price can be kept down and you won’t be kept waiting.
These days, you can get real-time tracking information on your FedEx package, Amazon order, or even your pizza delivery. You don’t need to expect anything less when it comes to your PCB project. The best services offer you an online app where you can upload your design documents, bill of materials, manage changes, and report on the status of your order at any time, from anywhere.
This is especially important if time is of the essence or if you think you may need several iterations to achieve the desired result. Offshore manufacturing adds unnecessary shipping time and prolonged communication.
Look for a PCB prototyping service that keeps an inventory of the most commonly used parts and offers them to you at reduced rates. This approach lets the service provider leverage their entire customer base to negotiate the lowest prices and pass the savings on to you as House Parts.
Even if all you need right now is a prototype, it makes sense to find a partner that will be able to support an order of any size should the need arise. This is especially important for small businesses and Kickstarter creators who face the difficult task of projecting how popular their products will be. By selecting a partner that can scale with you, you’ll be covered if demand is high, but not forced to order units that might not sell.
Once your board design is perfect, you can’t go wrong by choosing a PCB service provider who can also manufacturer your end product. Working with one vendor throughout the entire product cycle, speeds time to market and reduces communication problems and opportunity for error. Other services that you might consider essential include the capability to hold your products in inventory, fulfill orders, and integrate via API with your e-commerce or ERP solution.
In the same way that other industries have been fundamentally changed by modern technology, manufacturing services are starting to evolve to meet the needs of today’s small businesses, Kickstarter creators, engineers, and hobbyists. The old model is giving way to something entirely new and that’s good news for inventors and consumers alike.
You’ve worked hard on your design and getting the printed board in your hands should be easy and exciting, not painful and slow. When you find a PCB prototyping service that can check off each of these boxes, you can be confident that your project is well on its way to success.