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We live in a world of “smart” things. Our phones are smart, our houses are smart, our vacuum cleaners are even smart. As the Internet of Things continues to explode, you can safely expect that more and more of your devices will become connected. This universe of smart, connected things opens up unlimited possibilities for useful applications and data capture. Out of milk? Don’t worry, your refrigerator will let you know. Left the sprinklers on? No problem. There’s an app for that.
But who makes all of this smart stuff? Smart people, of course. Smart people who need smarter ways of accelerating the process to bring these great inventions to market at lower costs and higher quality.
The innovation begins with an idea and a design. The manufacturing process begins with prototype PCB assembly. Fortunately, hardware designers aren’t the only ones who’ve been innovating like crazy lately. The PCB manufacturing business has been sent back to the drawing board and a new type of prototype PCB assembly service has emerged. Here’s what the very best of them have to offer.
When you think about PCB prototyping, the first thing that jumps to mind probably isn’t the manufacturer’s online ordering and management portal, but it is really important. The key to providing quick service at a low price for small quantity orders, like prototypes, is a technology platform that controls the entire product lifecycle and helps the service provider combine multiple small orders into larger ones. This way they get the economies of scale without forcing any quantity minimums on you.
If a company can’t give you an instant quote after you’ve uploaded your design documents, then they are not part of the new generation of service providers. In addition to being instantly available, your quote should offer transparency and clarity about prototyping costs. You should also be able to easily find out how much your PCBs will cost when the quantity of your order increases. That will make it easier to think about capital needs and product pricing.
Your prototype PCB assembly partner should have established relationships with parts suppliers. They should take care of all the sourcing for you, so you avoid the headaches of finding the best suppliers and negotiating deals.
There are good options out there today for prototype PCB assembly, so you don’t need to settle. You can find a service that will gladly accept your order of a single prototype, but be able to handle much larger quantities as your needs grow. By finding one partner who can handle both types of orders, you eliminate a lot of hassle.
If Domino’s can show you how your pizza assembly is progressing, surely your PCB manufacturing partner can do the same for your prototype or production project. You should be able to easily navigate an online application that lets you report on the progress of your project, or make changes anytime, from anywhere.
“House parts” is the term for popular parts that full-service PCB assemblers offer to customers at discounted rates. This is where their long-term relationships with parts suppliers comes in handy. They are able to use the buying power of their whole customer base to bring down the price and pass the savings on to you. They buy in bulk so you don’t have to.
You might be focused on finding someone who can produce your PCB prototype right now, but it is wise to find a partner that will also be able to manufacture the final device in which your PCB will be used. This way, there’s no need to manage multiple vendors. It will also help keep costs low and reduce shipping time and risk.
While you are at it, why not go with a prototype PCB assembly partner that can also provide inventory and fulfillment services? This is called “concept to customer manufacturing.” You get a single service that can assemble your PCB prototype, manufacture your finished products, store and manage your inventory, and ship the product directly to your customer on order. The premier providers in the space even have discount contracts with shipping carriers, resulting in lower shipping costs for you.
Getting your prototype done should be inexpensive, quick, and transparent. With the right partner, you can confidently turn the gory details of PCB prototyping and device assembly over to them, freeing you to spend more time on your innovations and your business. That’s as smart as you can get.