Sir Isaac Newton postulated that a body in motion maintains the same motion – direction and speed – until affected by an external force. Although Newton was speaking of linear motion, we know that the same principle applies to angular motion, as exhibited by the pendulum. In the case of the pendulum, there is an external force, gravity, that causes the direction (and speed) of motion to change continually. The result is a constant back-and-forth until the object finally reaches equilibrium at rest.
The often-overlooked quote process that precedes the manufacture of your PCB prototype design can also fall into a pendulum-like pattern. In fact, it is sometimes taken as a given that some amount of back-and-forth will be required before you and your contract manufacturer (CM) manage to align your design intent with the CM’s capabilities. The degree of back and forth, however, is often not apparent and can vary greatly. Whether obtaining the PCB prototype quote for your design resembles the motion of a pendulum or is a smooth and efficient prelude to the manufacturing of your boards depends on the completeness of your design package and your CM’s process.
The Typical PCB Prototype Quote Process
Obtaining a quote from your CM for board fabrication and PCB assembly is crucial as it informs you of the cost, time requirements and details of what you can expect in the completed product. Although not the sole factor, the quote you receive certainly influences what CM you select. The quote development process for production is usually simpler and faster than for prototyping because manufacturing specifications have already been defined and PCBs built. In contrast, the PCB prototype quote process serves as the initial determination of your design’s manufacturability and may require modifications before the actual boards can be produced.
Typically, obtaining a quote begins with you supplying a manufacturing package to a CM. Then, the CM evaluates the package by comparing your requests and specifications against their material, equipment and process capabilities, as shown in Fig. 1 below. This is most often a manual process that includes checking fabrication requirements, BOM correlation and assembly requirements and may require several days to complete. If any information is is ambiguous or missing or manufacturing specifications fall outside of the CM’s equipment tolerances, the CM will send you a request for more detail, clarification or design changes. Your response to these requests, including providing any missing information and clarifying or correcting errors is necessary before a quote can be generated. Although sometimes tedious, this back-and-forth process must continue until all discrepancies have been corrected or successfully addressed.
Fig. 1 Typical PCB Prototype Quote Process
The Efficient PCB Prototype Quote Process
Unlike the typical PCB prototype quote process, which may extend your PCB manufacturing turnaround time by several days or even weeks, the efficient PCB prototype quote process may be completed in less than a day. This is accomplished by partnering with your CM early during the design phase, tailoring your design to incorporate board specifications that are in line with your CM’s capabilities, optimizing component selection and following design for assembly (DFA) guidelines for PCB assembly. Following these suggestions will enable your CM to process your PCB prototype quote efficiently. In the table below, characteristics of the typical and efficient quote processes are compared.
Table 1. PCB Prototype Quote Comparison
Design Data Package format
Design corrections required
Turnaround time for a quote
Days to weeks
Less than a day
Extended time and cost
Minimal turnaround and cost
|Tempo‘s Custom PCB Manufacturing Service|
At Tempo Automation, we partner with you on Day 1 of design to ensure an efficient PCB prototype quote process and institute a software-based automated digital thread strategy for PCB manufacturing that is unmatched in the industry. This allows us to generate accurate quotes in hours and completely fabricate and assemble your boards in as little as 3 days.
And to help you get started on the best path, we furnish information for your DFM and enable you to easily view and download DRC files. If you’re an Altium user, you can simply add these files to your PCB design software.
If you are ready to have your design manufactured, try our quote tool to upload your CAD and BOM files. If you want more information on the PCB prototype quote process or how to transform your typical process into an efficient one, contact us.