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The Factors for PCB Price in Manufacturing and Assembly

The Factors for PCB Price in Manufacturing and Assembly

Table of Contents

For electronics manufacturers and engineers, estimating PCB prices holds importance for planning production budgets. However, pricing involves considering various design factors and hidden expenses beyond simply board area. We want to show key parameters impacting manufacturing and assembly pricing to help predict price more accurately throughout the product development life cycle.

How Much is a Normal PCB?

The cost of a normal PCB (Printed Circuit Board) can vary depending on several factors. One of the key factors impacting PCB board pricing is complexity, which encompasses both the cost of PCB components and the general price of the PCB board. PCBs with extensive circuitry, several layers, and densely packed circuits demand more sophisticated manufacturing procedures, which raise production costs.

  • Number of layers
  • Trace density
  • Impedance control
  • Specialized materials
  • Surface finishes
  • Component density
  • Package types
  • Through-hole components
  • Special requirements

For a basic, single-sided PCB with a simple design and a small size (e.g., 5 cm x 5 cm), the cost can range from a few dollars to around $20 USD per board when ordering in small quantities (e.g., 5 to 10 boards).

As the complexity increases, such as adding more layers, more components, or smaller form factors, the cost will also increase. PCBs with multiple layers, high-density designs, fine pitch components, and specialized features (e.g., impedance control, gold plating) generally cost more due to the additional manufacturing processes and materials involved.

It is recommended to obtain quotes from various PCB manufacturers or fabrication services to get a more accurate estimate based on your specific design requirements. Many online PCB manufacturers provide instant quotes based on your design specifications and desired quantity.

PCB Price and Production Cost

PCB price is not equivalent to production cost. PCB price refers to the amount a customer pays to obtain a PCB, which includes various factors beyond just the production cost. The production cost of a PCB typically includes expenses associated with manufacturing processes, such as material costs, labor costs, equipment costs, overhead expenses, and any additional services required for production, such as testing or quality control.

However, the PCB price also incorporates other factors such as profit margin, overhead costs of the manufacturer (e.g., research and development, marketing, administrative expenses), supply and demand dynamics, market competition, and any additional value-added services provided by the manufacturer or supplier (e.g., design support, customization, technical assistance).

Furthermore, the PCB price may also be influenced by external factors such as the volume of the order, lead time requirements, complexity of the design, special requirements (e.g., high-speed designs, high layer counts), and any additional services or certifications needed (e.g., conformal coating, RoHS compliance).

Internal Factors Affecting PCB Price

Number of Layers

PCB costs vary depending on the number of layers, with single-layer, double-layer, and multi-layer boards being particularly popular. As you may suppose, the number of layers on a PCB increases its complexity and cost. Overall, thick boards with multiple layers need extra work to create. The number of layers in a PCB can affect the price as follows:

1. Single-Sided PCB: A single-sided PCB has only one layer of conductive material (copper) on one side of the substrate. This is the simplest and least expensive type of PCB to manufacture due to its low complexity and minimal material usage.

2. Double-Sided PCB: A double-sided PCB has conductive material (copper) on both sides of the substrate, allowing for more components and traces compared to a single-sided PCB. The cost of a double-sided PCB is generally higher than that of a single-sided PCB due to the added manufacturing steps and material costs associated with the additional layer.

3. Multi-Layer PCB: A multi-layer PCB consists of three or more layers of conductive material separated by insulating layers (dielectric material). The number of layers in a multi-layer PCB can vary depending on the complexity of the design. As the number of layers increases, the PCB becomes more expensive to manufacture due to the additional materials, manufacturing steps, and complexity involved.

Multilayer PCB - Layer Breakdown

The price of the PCB tends to increase with the number of layers. Here’s a breakdown of how the number of layers can affect PCB price:

1. 1-4 Layers: PCBs with 1 to 4 layers are considered relatively simple and are commonly used for less complex electronic designs.

2. 6-8 Layers: Moving beyond the basic 4-layer PCBs, the price begins to increase more noticeably as the number of layers reaches 6 to 8. The additional layers add complexity to the manufacturing process and require more materials.

3. 10-16 Layers: PCBs with 10 to 16 layers fall into the mid-range of layer counts. The cost continues to rise with each additional layer, as these PCBs involve even more intricate routing and complex designs. The manufacturing processes become more involved, and the use of specialized materials may also be required.

4. 18-32 Layers: PCBs with 18 to 32 layers are considered high-density and highly complex designs. These PCBs typically have a significant number of components, fine-pitch traces, and advanced features. The manufacturing processes become more challenging and time-consuming, often involving specialized equipment and materials.

The more layers a PCB has, the higher the PCB price or manufacturing cost is likely to be. The addition of a second layer to a board causes some of the major rises in manufacturing costs. From there, adding two more boards will increase the cost by at least a third of the price. Once a design reaches eight layers, the price increase becomes less dramatic.

PCB Size and Dimensions

A PCB’s size and dimensions have a direct impact on its price, as do PCB component costs. Larger PCBs demand more Material Cost, Manufacturing Cost, Assembly Cost, and production time, for example, longer etchingm, drilling times or soldering times. Larger PCBs may have more sophisticated routing and wiring. The number of tiny circuits required for integration on a single PCB determines its size. I would like to introduce an important concept to you – Panelization Efficiency.

Panelization Efficiency refers to the optimization of PCB production by arranging multiple PCBs on a single panel during the manufacturing process. It involves placing multiple copies of the same PCB design or different designs onto a larger panel, maximizing the utilization of space and resources.

PCB Design - PCB Size and Dimensions

“We have two PCB designs with the same complexity and number of layers but different sizes. Design A is a small-sized PCB measuring 5 cm x 5 cm, while Design B is a larger-sized PCB measuring 10 cm x 10 cm.”

Panelization Efficiency: During panelization, smaller PCBs can fit more units on a single panel compared to larger PCBs. Assuming the panel setup cost is fixed, the larger size of Design B means that fewer PCB units can fit on a single panel. Consequently, the cost per unit for Design B will be higher than Design A due to the lower distribution of fixed costs.

Generally, as the size of a PCB increases, the PCB price tends to rise. Keep in mind that the pattern may not hold true in every single case, as PCb prices can vary depending on the specific capabilities, pricing structures, and efficiency of the PCB manufacturer.

PCB Material

The selection of PCB material can have a major impact on its pricing, affecting both the expense of PCB components and the total cost of the PCB board. Specialized materials, such as Rogers, Teflon, and aluminum-based PCBs, are more premium because of their distinct features, such as their high frequency or heat conductivity. The entire cost is influenced by a variety of parameters, particularly the substrate material, copper weight, and surface. FR-4 is a highly popular substrate material due to its low cost and adaptability.

PCB Material - Fr4 and Metal Core

Copper Thickness

While precise figures can vary, I can provide you with a general guideline for the cost impact of copper thickness in PCB manufacturing. Please note that these figures are approximate and can differ based on specific factors and manufacturing conditions:

1. Standard Copper Thickness: The most common copper thickness used in PCB manufacturing is 1 ounce (1 oz) or 35 micrometers (μm) copper. This is considered a standard thickness and is often included in the base pricing offered by PCB manufacturers.

2. Thicker Copper: If you require a thicker copper layer, such as 2 ounces (2 oz) or 70 μm, the cost can increase by approximately 50% to 100% compared to standard thickness. Thicker copper layers require more copper material, which leads to higher material costs and potentially additional manufacturing steps to accommodate the thicker copper.

3. Thinnest Copper: In some cases, you may require a thinner copper layer, such as 0.5 ounces (0.5 oz) or 17 μm. Thinner copper layers can reduce costs compared to standard thickness, but the savings may not be substantial.

The heavier copper layers may carry higher currents and release heat more efficiently but at a higher cost. Choose the proper copper thickness for the task’s current-carrying needs. To keep prices down, avoid overspecifying copper width.

Copper Thickness and Trace Width

Surface Finish and Coating

Different surface finishes involve the use of specific materials or coatings.

– Immersion gold (ENIG) or immersion silver, typically require more expensive materials compared to lower-cost finishes like hot air solder leveling (HASL) or organic solderability preservatives (OSP)

– ENIG or immersion tin may involve additional steps such as plating or specialized equipment. Simpler finishes like HASL or OSP generally have lower manufacturing complexity and are less expensive.

– ENIG or hard gold plating provide superior corrosion resistance and solderability, making them more costly due to the use of higher-quality materials and more stringent manufacturing processes.

The choice of surface finish for a PCB can impact its price due to variations in material cost, manufacturing complexity, and the level of quality or specialization involved.

Surface Finish and Cost

Size of Holes

The size of a board’s holes is an important, although not critical, aspect that can influence the cost of PCB fabrication. The cost of drilling holes is also dictated by the number of holes needed for the board, as well as the type of material and thickness of the layers being drilled.

Overall, more holes necessitate greater effort, especially if the holes are difficult to drill due to tininess and board thickness. If the holes are extremely thin, they will require specialized tools to manufacture. Whether the holes are normal or very small, the number of holes in the layout can affect the cost of board production.

External Factors Affecting PCB Price

Low-Volume vs High-Volume PCB Production

While it’s challenging to provide an exact range of cost savings for high-volume PCB production compared to low-volume production, I can offer a general idea based on industry observations.

  1. Economies of Scale: High-volume production can lead to cost savings ranging from 20% to 50% or more compared to low-volume production. This is primarily due to the spreading of fixed costs, such as setup costs, tooling, and programming, across a larger number of PCBs.
  2. Material Costs: Bulk ordering of materials in high-volume production can result in material cost savings ranging from 10% to 30% or more. This is because larger quantities often allow for negotiating better pricing with suppliers.
  3. Manufacturing Efficiency: High-volume production benefits from optimized manufacturing processes, equipment utilization, and workflow. This increased efficiency can lead to cost savings ranging from 10% to 30% or more, primarily through reduced labor costs and production time per unit.
  4. Negotiation Power: High-volume production orders provide customers with increased negotiation power, potentially resulting in cost savings ranging from 10% to 30% or more. This depends on the specific manufacturer and the volume of the order.

Economies of scale play an important role in PCB pricing, influencing both the prices of PCB components and the total cost of the circuit board. Ordering PCBs in larger quantities can often result in better per-unit pricing. When producing a larger volume of the same layout, manufacturers can improve their methods, lowering labor costs and enhancing productivity. Fewer units or one-off prototypes, in contrast, tend to be more expensive since they demand more setup time and a less efficient manufacturing procedure.

10 Package Types Affecting PCB Price

Common PCB Package Types
Common PCB Package Types

1. Dual Inline Package (DIP): DIP packages are relatively simple and cost-effective, making them an affordable option for PCB designs with through-hole components.

2. Small Outline Integrated Circuit (SOIC): SOIC packages offer a compact size and compatibility with surface-mount technology, resulting in cost savings due to efficient use of PCB space and streamlined assembly processes.

3. Quad Flat Package (QFP): QFP packages provide a high pin count within a small footprint, allowing for increased functionality in a compact design but potentially increasing PCB complexity and cost.

4. Ball Grid Array (BGA): BGAs offer excellent electrical performance and thermal characteristics but require advanced manufacturing techniques and inspections, making them generally more expensive to assemble.

5. Quad Flat No-Leads (QFN): QFN packages have a low profile and excellent thermal dissipation properties, enabling cost savings through efficient use of space and improved heat management.

6. Ceramic Ball Grid Array (CBGA): CBGA packages provide enhanced thermal conductivity and reliability, but their specialized nature and higher material costs can result in increased PCB prices.

7. Plastic Leaded Chip Carrier (PLCC): PLCC packages offer a balance of cost and performance, making them a cost-effective choice for many applications with moderate pin counts.

8. Through-Hole Technology (THT): THT components require additional drilling and manual assembly processes, potentially increasing the overall PCB cost compared to surface-mount components.

9. Surface-Mount Technology (SMT): SMT components are widely used and compatible with automated assembly processes, contributing to cost savings due to faster assembly times and reduced labor costs.

10. Chip-Scale Package (CSP): CSP packages provide miniaturization benefits, but their specialized manufacturing requirements and higher precision may result in increased PCB manufacturing and assembly costs.

Lead Time

The lead time, which refers to the time required to fulfill an order from the point of request to delivery. A shorter lead time for PCB production can result in higher prices due to the need for expedited processing, additional resources, and accelerated logistics. PCB manufacturers typically operate within specific production capacities, and accommodating a shorter lead time may require them to allocate extra staff, work overtime, or adjust their production schedule.

These factors incur additional costs, such as increased labor expenses and overhead, which are passed on to the customer, leading to a higher PCB price. Moreover, expedited material procurement may be necessary to meet the accelerated timeline, resulting in higher material costs, rush fees, and expedited shipping charges. The overall cost structure of PCBs can be impacted by these factors when a shorter lead time is requested.

Non-Recurring Engineering

Lesser known “non-recurring engineering” fees encompassing extensive prototyping revisions, setting up fixtures and tooling for SMT assembly lines, or validating automated optical inspection suites also vastly inflate initial PCB pricing quotations. Later engineering changes post-production line setup equally burden budgets through equipment reprogramming charges. Common non-recurring engineering fees:
✔ Tooling/fixture setup for SMT assembly lines ($1000s)
✔ Mask/film tooling charges for small production volumes ($100-1000)
✔ Iterative DMAC/online review cycles during development ($50-100/hr)
✔ Testing and validation of non-standard process technologies ($1000s)
✔ Shipping logistics setup and coordination costs ($100s)

How to Reduce PCB Price

Reduce PCB Price in Design

1. Simplifying Circuit Topologies: Optimize the PCB layout to minimize complexity. Reduce the number of components, layers, and vias, and optimize the routing to reduce material and manufacturing costs. For example:
— Consolidate multiple low-level functions into fewer integrated circuits
— Reduce component counts by selecting chips with more internal features
— Minimize jumper wires and consolidate signal/power distribution pins
— leverage multi-function integrated modules/components where possible

2. Standardize Components: Use commonly available and widely used components to take advantage of economies of scale and lower material costs. Avoid specialized or custom components that can be expensive.

3. Minimize Board Size: Reduce the overall size of the PCB to reduce material costs. Design with a focus on compactness while ensuring proper spacing and clearance requirements.

4. Optimize Layer Stackup: Carefully consider the layer stackup configuration. Minimize the number of layers while ensuring proper signal integrity and functionality. Fewer layers result in lower material and manufacturing costs.

5. Design for Manufacturing (DFM): Collaborate with the manufacturer to ensure the design follows DFM guidelines. This helps streamline the manufacturing process, reduce errors, and avoid costly design revisions.

Reduce PCB Price in Manufacturing

1. Supplier Evaluation: Obtain quotes from multiple suppliers and evaluate their capabilities and pricing. Compare their manufacturing processes, quality standards, lead times, and customer support to identify cost-effective options.

2. Volume Ordering: Place larger volume orders to take advantage of volume discounts offered by manufacturers. Ordering in larger quantities can help reduce the unit cost of PCBs.

3. Material Selection: Choose cost-effective materials that meet your requirements. Evaluate alternatives, consider material availability, pricing, and performance trade-offs to select the most suitable and cost-efficient options.

4. Process Optimization: Work closely with the manufacturer to optimize the manufacturing processes. Identify areas for improvement, streamline workflows, and eliminate inefficiencies to reduce labor costs and enhance overall efficiency.

Reduce PCB Price in Assembly

1. Surface-Mount Technology (SMT): Utilize surface-mount components instead of through-hole components whenever possible. SMT components are generally more cost-effective due to automated assembly processes and reduced labor requirements.

2. Minimize Component Count: Simplify the component count by using multi-functional components or integrated circuits that combine multiple functions into a single device. This reduces overall component costs and assembly time.

3. Design for Automated Assembly: Ensure the design is compatible with automated assembly processes. This reduces manual labor requirements and associated costs.

4. Value Engineering: Continuously seek opportunities for value engineering by analyzing the design and assembly processes. Identify areas where cost savings can be achieved without compromising quality or functionality.

Remember to balance cost reduction efforts with the specific requirements of your PCB design. Prioritize cost savings without compromising the performance, reliability, or quality of the final product.

How Early Supplier Engagement Helps

✔ Provides accurate cost and capacity forecasts upfront
✔ Identifies potential supply chain or DFM issues proactively
✔ Allows planning for long lead time/critical components
✔ Supports trade-off discussions on specs vs costs
✔ Provides estimations to support project budgeting
✔ Ensures proper approvals/documentation for regulated industries
✔ Facilitates risk planning through understanding capabilities

ELEPCB offers a comprehensive PCB fabrication service that prioritizes cost-effectiveness. With strategic supplier evaluation and volume ordering capabilities, we secure competitive pricing for materials and components. Partner with us to benefit from cost-efficient PCB solutions.

Conclusion

It’s clear that numerous factors spanning circuit design to manufacturing methods can significantly impact overall PCB costs. With diligent planning and compromise where needed, expenses can be optimized. We hope this article will help you understand PCB Pricing deeper!

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About the Author
Jeffrey Lee
I'm Jeffrey, an experienced electronics engineer. As a seasoned content creator, I bring a deep passion for PCB-related topics, allowing me to communicate complex concepts with clarity and precision, making them accessible to a wide audience.
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