10 Tips to choose a Prototype PCB Assembly Manufacturer

You can lower your costs and get quality circuit boards manufactured in the shortest time possible when you hire a professional prototype PCB manufacturer for the job.

Understandably, you are unsure about the factors to consider before outsourcing your PCB for mass production to a PCB prototype manufacturer. That informed the reason why we put together this article to help you understand the important things to look for.

How can I choose the right prototype PCB service?

The factors to look for tend to differ by what you want. Yet, you mustn’t ignore the fact that some factors are worth considering and prioritizing over others.
That said – here are some of the things you expect your prototype PCB manufacturer to offer:

1. Minimum Order Quantity (MOQ)

Not all prototype PCB service providers are ready to take orders below 10 circuit boards. Yet, others are ready to consider that.

So, the first criteria you want to consider before deciding is the Minimum Order Quantity (MOQ). A rule of thumb is to hire the services of a prototype PCB manufacturer that allows you to order prototypes of circuit boards at the lowest numbers.

You will find this impressive because PCB prototypes are susceptible to changes. You don’t want to manufacture a large volume of the circuit board only to see that some errors would need more time and money to rectify.

2. Select a Full-Service PCB Prototype Manufacturer

The Printed Circuit Board (PCB) industry has undergone many changes. With the introduction of advanced technology, it is now easier for a prototype PCB manufacturer to offer full turnkey services.

Therefore, prioritize choosing a circuit board manufacturer that offers every service you need – from design to prototyping and manufacturing. Ray PCB is one of the few full turnkey PCB manufacturers you can find out there.

3. Can the Prototype PCB Manufacturer Offer Customizations?

No doubt, PCB prototyping makes it easier to discover potential issues on the board and find ways to fix them too.

Yet, further changes caused by that could mean redesigning the board. That makes it imperative for you to select a prototype PCB manufacturer that can offer customizations and improve on the design of the board at all times.

4. Decide on the Kind of Prototypes

Another important factor to consider is the kind of prototypes you want. Of course, many PCB consumers prefer the traditional mockup prototype that serves as an example of what the final product/circuit board will look like.

However, there are many other PCB prototypes you want to consider. Some of them are explained below so you can decide on the one that suits your PCB purpose:

Working Model

This kind of PCB prototype is designed to work the same way the final circuit board will function when it is ready.

However, the major exception to the Working Model kind of circuit board is that the functionality of the board may be susceptible to changes, especially when there is a need to modify the board because of ongoing designs and developments.

Design Concept

This is close to the final product of the Printed Circuit Board that is under prototype. The idea here is that this PCB prototype will include all the necessary functionalities of the final circuit board.

The inclusion of those final properties is to confirm if this PCB prototype will work when it is finally manufactured.

The only difference between this prototype and the manufactured PCB is that it doesn’t often work as the fully functional Printed Circuit Board (PCB) would.

Functional Prototype

Last but not least is the Functional Prototype. This type of PCB prototype is designed with all the functionalities of the final PCB. It also works as the final circuit board would, 92% of the time.

It is safe to pass it off as a fully functional Printed Circuit Board (PCB) because it includes all the necessary functions, and works as the main PCB would.

The only downside is that there may be a need to modify and refine the aesthetics of the circuit board for manufacturability purposes.

5. Industry Experience

As they say – experience is the best teacher. You don’t want to hire the services of an amateur prototype PCB manufacturer that claims to know how to the project but ends up not offering the quality you expect.

Therefore, ensure that you are outsourcing your prototype circuit board design to a PCB manufacturer that has many years of industry experience.

An excellent way to go about this is to look for prototype PCB manufacturers that have consistently excelled in the kind of PCB design you want. For example, if you want to increase the layers on the Printed Circuit Board (PCB), consider hiring a prototype PCB manufacturer that can handle multilayer PCB design.

Likewise, you want to hire a prototype PCB manufacturer with advanced machinery and handled sophisticated projects when you want special customizations.

Services for Prototype PCB Assembly

Some services and steps are usually followed when designing prototype circuit boards. These services and procedures will go the extra mile to boost the quality of the board.
Here are the 2 major procedures you expect your favorite prototype PCB manufacturer to possess:

1. PCBA Test

While the aim of designing PCB prototypes is to find out the way the final product will look like, it wouldn’t hurt to run some tests on the board.
Therefore, it is pertinent that the prototype PCB manufacturer can provide a Printed Circuit Board Assembly (PCBA) tests, as a way of determining the final performance of the circuit board.
Some of the types of PCBA tests to run on the prototype PCB are:
• Fatigue test
• ICT test
• Aging test to check for the energy and sustainability of the circuit board.
• FCT testing to find out potential hardware and software problems/issues on the circuit board.
• Test under a harsh environment to confirm the reliability of the circuit board even when it is exposed to vibration, extreme temperature, and drop.

You can read more about PCBA Test Methods here.

2. IC Programming

The other important criterion for designing a prototype of a circuit board is to transfer the computer program into the integrated Printed Circuit Board (PCB). The process of doing this is called IC Programming.

There are different methods of transferring computer programs to a prototype circuit board.

The common ones are:

Online Programming

Online programming of prototype PCBs involves the transfer of computer programs via the chip’s standard communication bus.
The commonly used communication buses for this purpose are:
• UART
• USB
• JTAG and
• SWD

Offline Programming

Transferring computer programs to a prototype circuit board via Offline Programming is done by using compatible chips to align with the adapter to achieve program burning.

You Can Find the Best Prototype PCB Assembly Manufacturer

While there are several prototype PCB assembly manufacturers out there, only a few can deliver the quality design you want.

PCB consumers in many countries all over the world are confident in the prototype PCB services offered by Ray PCB because we offer competitive pricing for PCB prototypes without compromising on the quality of the board.

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