Prototyping is just one of many important processes designers and engineers must undertake when developing a new product. Once you have a proof of concept, schematics, and a CAD layout, you’re probably considering running your first tests with a real board. At this point, you’ll need to start considering which company will manufacture your board.
Unless you have experience preparing your designs for a prototyping run, or unless you have already prototyped a similar design in the past, you may have some work ahead of you before sending your board for fabrication For example, your contract manufacturer (CM) will need a stack of standardized deliverables, you’ll need to source components for your board and plan for either in-house assembly or have your CM assemble your board. You might also need to tweak your design to accommodate your CM’s capabilities. When you need quick manufacturing turnaround on a small batch of prototype PCBs, the right PCB prototype manufacturer can help you quickly get to the testing phase with your new product.
High Volume Manufacturers are not Equipped for Rapid Prototyping
High volume manufacturers prefer working with larger electronics companies for a number of reasons. They tend to have long-standing relationships with these companies and they know which customers will require minimal board modifications prior to manufacturing. High volume manufacturers may not be equipped to work with specialized prototyping runs unless the customer is willing to put up some capital for an initial investment in adapting the manufacturing process to a small run of prototypes.
In high volume PCB manufacturing processes, reducing the number of boards to be produced does not actually decrease the production time. This is because manufacturing at volume is all about maximizing the number of produced boards per run of a process while meeting constraints on cost, yield, and quality. While high volume processes are optimized to minimize the cost per board and meet PCB quality demands, the large batch nature of high volume PCB manufacturing processes makes them less useful for quickly producing a small number of prototype boards.
Some PCB prototype manufacturers simply use the same high volume processes used by high volume manufacturers. This means your design will still need to be adapted to their process, you’ll experience the same lead times as those from a high volume manufacturer, and you’ll have little support for improving your design after your first run of prototypes is fabricated.
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Why You Should Use a Prototype Manufacturer
If you’re working on developing and testing a new product, you are probably more concerned with design quality instead of per board cost, which is a major consideration for high volume manufacturing. Of course, costs are always a concern, but a PCB manufacturer that specializes in rapid prototyping will use a process that produces boards quickly allowing you to save costs in man-hours.
A PCB prototype manufacturer can also help you throughout the design, build, and test process. With complex boards, such as high speed multilayer PCBs, a prototype manufacturer can help you make simple prototype design modifications that will improve yield and quality. With prototype manufacturers expediting fabrication, assembly and delivery, you can quickly move on to testing your prototype and making design updates.
Some companies opt to outsource multiple aspects of the prototyping process, which requires significant time in managing your supply chain and coordination between multiple suppliers. When you work with a specialist company that offers a turnkey solution, all aspects of PCB development: sourcing, production, and assembly, are addressed by a single team. They can also audit your bill of materials and other design documentation for consistency and completeness. You can focus on designing a great product instead of enforcing coordination among multiple parties.
Beyond Your First Prototyping Run
As part of the design, build, and test process, a PCB prototype manufacturer has the flexibility to help you make changes and arrive at the best quality result quickly whether you have more prototyping stages ahead or are moving to production. A knowledgeable PCB prototype manufacturer can also assist your development beyond manufacturing the boards. For example, some CMs can advise you on design changes that will ensure that design intent and manufacturability are integrated throughout the design, build, and test process.
|Tempo‘s Custom PCB Manufacturing Service
Here at Tempo Automation, we specialize in PCB turnkey manufacturing for prototyping and low-volume production. We are the industry leader in fast, high-quality custom board fabrication and assembly. We’ll work with you throughout the process and apply our software-driven advanced factory to meet your design objective and you will have the best development experience possible.
And to help you get started on the best path, we furnish information for your DFM checks and enable you to easily view and download DRC files. If you’re an Altium Designer or Cadence Allegro user, you can simply add these files to your PCB design software. For Mentor Pads or other design packages, we furnish DRC information in other CAD formats and Excel.
If you are ready to have your design manufactured, try our quote tool to upload your CAD and BOM files. If you want to learn more about choosing a PCB prototype manufacturer for your design, contact us.