4 Tips to Reduce PCB Prototype Manufacturing Costs

When ordering a PCB, it is important to ensure that the bill of material costs are reasonable, and the PCBs are bought at value for money prices. However, many customers only look at the aggregate price, which includes all costs and expenditures. The fact is, there are simple ways in which customers can learn to reduce the price of a particular stage of the design and manufacturing process.

Take for instance, PCB prototype manufacturing. This is where a mockup PCB is made with the initial design, and is tested to see if it operates within the PCB requirements. Required changes are made to the design after using the prototype. This can also be one of the expensive and time consuming phases in PCB manufacturing. To ensure that customers can get the most out of their order, here are a few tips to keep in mind regarding the prototyping phase.

4 Tips for Cost Reduction in PCB Prototype Manufacturing

These tips can help you to reduce costs related to prototyping, while ensuring that the PCB will perform as per expectations.

  1. Ask for Clearances: In multilayer circuit boards, reject rates and costs may increase due to lack of clearances between the ground and power layers of the boards. In such cases, it is a good idea to ask the designers to add solder mask, antipad, and thermal pad clearances.
    • Solder masks should have clearances up to .005″ around non-plated holes.
    • The clearance for antipads should be larger than the outer layer pads by 0.020″.
    • Thermal pads should have clearances between 0.012 and 0.015

    Also, the thermal pads should be equal or larger in size to the outer layer pads.

  2. Restrict Board Thickness Tolerances: While tight tolerances for board thickness can help in performance, it can also raise the costs of the PCB prototype manufacturing phase. Hence, it is suggested that customers ask for tight tolerances only where they will benefit the PCB’s design and performance. Otherwise, it is best to restrict the board thickness tolerances.
  3. Provide Artwork with Text Widths Above 0.0080ʺ: Generally, customers are required to provide artwork for silkscreen layers. If the text widths of the artwork are less than 0.0080ʺ, then the PCB manufacturer will have to take extra steps for imaging and processing. This can raise the overall costs. Hence, it is advisable to keep the artwork text widths at 0.0080ʺ or above.
  4. Do Not Specify Hole Sizes Less than 0.016ʺ: Many customers ask for the hole sizes to be less than 0.016ʺ in size for better performance. However, a small hole sizes results in additional chemical processing, which can take an extra day of work. Hence, it is a good idea to let the hole sizes be larger than 0.016ʺ, when not required.

These tips can help customers to find ways to reduce the PCB prototype manufacturing costs, without diminishing the design, operation, and performance of their multilayer PCBs.