The process of PCB fabrication may take as quick as a few days to finish while other companies may require weeks before they can send you the finished product. Along with the turnaround time, other factors may also be considered by a manufacturer before the actual project can be completed. These factors ultimately determine how much you’re going to pay the company and apparently, cost will be one of the most important considerations you’d be thinking about before you decide who’s going to manufacture your board; but before you actually send a design for prototyping, you have to be aware about a few other things.
When you’re going to need your board sent to you is very important. If you want the project to be finished as soon as possible, there is a corresponding price you’d have to pay. If you want it cheap, you may have to wait for several weeks before your board is sent to you; but if you need a turnaround time of three days, expect to pay a lot more.
Some companies tend to rely on standard specifications during PCB fabrication, which may be disappointing if you want a custom board designed to your specifications. Not all companies may respect everything that you’ve included in your fab notes especially those that offer services at low costs.
It will be necessary for you to make a quick research about a company you’re eyeing on if you desire quality to be high. If the company is not reputable enough and it’s your first time getting their services, there is a possibility of faulty work resulting in a short or open circuit. This is because not all companies test their finished product and you know how important testing in PCB fabrication is.
It’s natural to expect what you would from low cost fabrication: low-level materials. Of course, this doesn’t always apply but in most cases, it does. Manufacturers offering cheap services may or may not purchase the materials they’d be using from cheap vendors and you don’t always have the means to identify which ones do this. If your application requires high-quality materials, you may want to reconsider going for the cheapest option. Also, you need to be aware that some companies may use similar materials for each lot.
Before paying for PCB fabrication, you should make sure that the manufacturer offers engineering support. Reviewing your design is of utmost importance before you actually use it. Mistakes can be made in the layout process and you want to catch them as soon as possible by contacting the manufacturer.
Additionally, to ensure that your PCB remains within the flammability standard, the company should be able to present UL94V-0 certification on each of your boards.
Capacity is another important thing to consider if you’re planning to build thousands of boards every month. Make sure the company manufacturing your PCB can support the amount of boards you need to produce.
Extras may be spent depending on your preferences, which is where plating comes into play. Hand assembly usually requires no more than the conventional lead or tin plating. However, this is not an option if you’re planning to sell your products in China, Europe, or other countries where this is illegal. A good alternative to this, though, is pure tin coating.
You may also choose to go with OSP (organic solderability preservative), which method for board plating utilizes organic compounds that are water-based. This is very common in volume production.
For edgecard connectors, you may want to go with gold plating, which allows resistance to corrosion. This is also useful when wire bonding to chip-on-board components.