Factors that Affect the Cost of a Printed Circuit Board

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While functionality is the number one driver of a printed circuit board, we know as an electronics manufacturing services provider, that cost is also very important to OEMs. There are many factors that affect the cost of manufacturing a printed circuit board and should be taken into consideration. Here we talk about some of the major influencers.

Size and Shape
Logically, bigger boards cost more. Fewer can fit on a panel during fabrication, they use more raw material. The goal is to maximize the number of boards you can fit on one of the standard panel sizes. Common panel sizes are 18”x24”, 18”x12”, 9”x24” and 9”x12”.

Material selection will likely be dictated by functionality, so your choice of material may be limited. Some of the more common types of PCB materials are FR4, copper, PTFE (Teflon) and MEGTRON, Isola and non-Teflon Rogers products.

Layers and Complexity
Your PCB designer should work with you to optimize the number of layers for your board, balancing the complexity with functionality. With each increased layer, you add material and increased manufacturing time which increases cost. Keep in mind that adding layers does not necessarily proportionally increase cost.

The more complex the board, the more it will cost. Complexity equates to layers, labor and manufacturing process, all of which will carry cost implications.

Lead Time
Some printed circuit boards can be built in a week or less, but that turnaround is expensive – often 5-10x a standard turn time cost. If a 3-to-4-week lead time is acceptable, costs can be significantly reduced. Often times this aligns with material receipt.

While in the prototyping state, it is unlikely to use economy of scale to decrease cost, it is a heavy influencer when you reach production-level quantities. Higher quantity orders yield reduced setup costs and lower per board costs.

Location of Production
While many IPC Class 1 electronics make sense to produce outside of the U.S., it doesn’t always cost less to offshore production for Class 2 and Class 3. (Read our previous blog on offshoring.) Your electronics manufacturing services partner may have different cost structures at different locations.

Surface Finish
The most common PCB surface finishes include, hot air solder leveling (HASL), electroless nickel immersion gold (ENIG), immersion silver (IAg) and organic solderability preservatives (OSP). They have varied advantages and disadvantages as well as cost. And there is always gold which is one of the most expensive PCB finish options.

We highly recommend working closely with your contract manufacturer and PCB designer to balance functionality, design for assembly (DFA), design for manufacturability (DFM) and cost. At ACDi, we offer both PCB layout and assembly under one roof which can streamline the process and save you money. Contact us for a complimentary consultation.