The process of invention is all about iteration. You have an idea, create a design, build it, and see how it works. Depending on the results, you either make major changes or minor tweaks and try again until you get exactly what you want. If your design involves printed circuit boards, the traditional approach to prototyping throws a huge fly in the ointment. If you can find a manufacturer that will even take your small order, it takes forever to get a quote, and even longer to get the prototype in your hands. This puts a damper on the creative process and slows down the time to market.
Modern innovators just don’t have the time for this antiquated approach.
Fortunately, there’s a new and better way. While you’ve been innovating your PCB designs, a new type of electronics assembly provider has been innovating the whole approach to manufacturing. By combining an online PCB ordering and project management portal, with sophisticated cloud manufacturing technology, this type of vendor is able to combine many PCB prototype orders into one large run, slashing both costs and turnaround time. You simply upload your designs and bill of materials, get your quote instantly and monitor the production cycle right from your browser. Because you get your prototype back quickly, you can feel free to iterate as much as you like until you are perfectly happy with the result.
When selecting a rapid PCB prototyping manufacturer, there are a few key features and services that you should expect.
If the vendor can’t get you a quote for your prototype in seconds, don’t expect anything else about the process to be quick. You should be able to find out how much your project will cost right away.
It is the combination of a cloud application and the back end manufacturing process that makes rapid PCB prototyping possible. Look for a solution with an easy-to-use portal for ordering, quoting, change management, and project tracking.
One way that modern electronics components manufacturers keep costs down is by retaining an inventory of commonly used parts that designers can purchase at a reduced cost. This allows the vendor to purchase a larger quantity and spread the savings across all of their customers.
There are a lot of good reasons to choose a partner that manufacturers your prototype in the United States. Speed is a big one. Rapid PCB prototyping is difficult, if not impossible, if overseas shipments are involved.
Not all rapid PCB prototyping services operate their own assembly line, but instead send your designs to a 3rd party manufacturing service. Watch out for outsourced PCB assembly as it adds additional points of failure which may delay or kill your project.
Prototyping is an essential part of the electronics manufacturing process, but in most cases it is not the last step. Whether you are a small business, a Kickstarter manufacturer or creator, an engineer, or a maker, you may want your PCB assembled into a final product for testing or sale. Look for a rapid PCB prototyping service that also offers larger manufacturing runs and final product assembly.
There are even services that will assemble your products, hold them in inventory and ship directly to customers on order. The most sophisticated solutions offer an API that allows you to integrate their services directly in your ERP or e-commerce solution, so that as soon as your customer places an order, the product is packaged and shipped all without you lifting a finger.
This new approach to rapid PCB prototyping and manufacturing makes it painless for you to bring your ideas to life. There’s no need to manage multiple vendors or sit around waiting for your design to be produced. With the right partner, you’ll get your boards quickly and easily.