Price explanation for PCB prototypes and small volume productions

PCB prototype productionProbably some of you have already asked theirselves why low volume PCB productions, especially the necessary prototypes, are considerably more expensive than higher production quantities of the same design. Therefore we would like to explain the price constilation in different operations manufacturing Printed Circuit Boards as this would be crucial to understanding the higher cost of prototypes and low volume circuit board productions.

First of all, we still have to spend the same effort and amount of time on the front end processing of the raw production data, Gerber files, nontheless of the final sum needed. This would cover the production of the stepped drill programs in order to run the CNC drilling machines, the flying probe testing program, or the photographic masters used in the PCB printing. According to the complexity of the PCB several other manufacturing processes may have to considered before starting production.

While the quantities of raw materials used in production will vary depending on the quantity of individual circuit boards required, the same cannot be applied for the number of operations needed in the manufacturing process, as this remains similar for 1 prototype or 1000 produced PCB.

Furthermore, there are multiple other processes in order to setup machines such as drilling, bonding multilayer PCB together, applying track images on each single layer, profiling the circuit board or printing the legend’s. Once more, time and effort to set up remains similar, regardless of the quantity order.

PCB low volume productionHence the time involved, so-called engineering costs, setting up the whole mannufacturing process impacts on the costs as the basic fact is the set-up costs remain always the same. Therefore on your one off prototype all these costs have to be considered when quoating the PCB. Higher PCB fabrications costs can be reparted over that whole quantity.

On the other hand, frequently we can offer cost reductions when producing prototypes as we can combine multiple PCB prototypes on one singel panel. Therefore we can divide some set-up costs across different customer prototype projects.

Finally, Actsource can generally make cost saving suggestions in the early design stage.