When a company is faced with choosing a supplier for its printed circuit board needs, there is no shortage of options. In fact, with the number of PCB manufacturers and suppliers in business these days, selecting the right one can be a little overwhelming. A wrong decision can be costly, even disastrous to your bottom line.
Here are some key points to remember when choosing a good printed circuit board supplier:
Quality Standards and Certifications
PCB manufacturers should comply with UL, ISO, and IPC quality standards and, if required, be ITAR compliant as well. Even small mistakes can sink a project. Make sure the PCB supplier you choose actively visits PCB manufacturers and verifies compliance with quality standards.
Certificates of Conformance
One good sign that your PCB supplier pays attention to detail is that they have a system of document controls to make sure product specifications are followed. Confirm that they provide Certificates of Conformance with every shipment.
If your project requires specialized PCB manufacturing, choose a PCB supplier with access to engineers and technicians with the skills to pull it off. The more customization your project requires, the more imperative it is to have the best-trained experts for the job.
Communication and Customer Service
Good communication is vital to any project. You should be comfortable with a PCB supplier’s email and phone response time from the beginning. If you feel lost in the shuffle or can’t discuss technical issues before your design reaches the production department, the end result is not likely to be satisfactory.
You want a PCB supplier with a track record of years of superb customer satisfaction.
Logistics and Customs
Consider where you want your PCB supplier to be located. Choosing a US-based supplier is highly recommended for these reasons –
- Ease of Communication
- US-Quality Standards
- Ease of Payment to a US Company
- US Customs Bond for Importing
Additionally, if your PCB supplier has a strategic location near the airport and waterway ports, shipping time and costs will be reduced.
An experienced PCB supplier who can meet your need for low volume production, no minimum lot charges, and high volume pricing advantages will save you money. Also remember that many overseas suppliers require payment up front, which could wreak havoc on your monthly budget.
Quality and material management, with shipping on-demand or by pre-arranged schedule, also factor into the actual costs of production.
The Bottom Line
Whether your printed circuit board design is simple or complex, the success of producing your product requires a PCB supplier who can meet all your fabrication needs. Choosing the right PCB supplier may be more art than science, but with the criteria outlined above, you’ll be well on your way to creating the work you envisioned.