Assembling printed circuit boards is not cheap. You need to spend a considerable sum of money to conduct the PCB assembly process. If you do not want to go overboard with your budget, see to it that you consider these very important factors. Keep in mind that these factors may vary depending on your location. The costs of labor and certain materials, for instance, may vary from one region to another.
When it comes to labor costs, you should consider the location where your printed circuit boards are being assembled. Take note that quick turn PCB assembly does not merely require an automated process; it also requires human interaction. Cheaper labor costs mean lower total costs. If you want to save money on labor, you should consider setting up your printed circuit board manufacturing company in an area where the general cost of labor is not that high.
For instance, PCB assembly in North America is typically three to four times more expensive than PCB assembly in Asia. This is because more people who are skilled in assembling printed circuit boards can be found in Asia. While the cost of labor in Asian countries has drastically increased recently, that is still relatively cheaper compared to the cost of labor in North American and European countries.
In fact, the cost of labor in North America is double the cost of labor in China.
Assembling ten pieces of two-layer boards will just cost around $540 in China while assembling the same boards will cost over $1000 in North America. Assembling a thousand pieces of two-layer boards will only cost around $20,000 in China while assembling the same quantity of boards will cost around twice as much in North America.
Nonetheless, even though the cost of labor in Asian countries is low, companies still encounter certain problems such as communication delays because of the differences in time zones and shipping charges. Due to these factors, the overall costs of outsourcing printed circuit board assembly to Asian countries increased by ten to twenty percent. Then again, such cost is still cheaper compared to the cost that will be incurred if the printed circuit board assembly is outsourced in North American countries.
Another factor to consider when calculating costs for quick turn PCB assembly is the turnaround time. In general, shorter assembly times mean higher costs. If the printed circuit boards are assembled quickly, their prices may increase by 30% to 200%. If you requested for an expedited assembly, the company may put other existing orders on hold to focus on your order. When this happens, you can expect to pay a higher price, especially if the manufacturer is located far from where you are.
Of course, you should also consider the quantity.
The costs of prototype boards are generally lower than the costs of actual boards. Do not forget that the unit price of assembly is much lower when manufactured in large quantities. A lot of other factors can affect the total costs such as stencil, programming, and initial setup. Some companies no longer charge extra for programming services; hence, it would be prudent to expand your search to include such companies.
Furthermore, you should consider the technology used and the packaging. Printed circuit boards are usually assembled using through-hole technology and surface mount technology. Of the two, surface mount technology is the less expensive option. When it comes to packaging, electronic components are packaged depending on their parts. For instance, QFNs and BGAs are more expensive to pack due to the electrical connections they have. They also need accurate placements as well as X-ray inspections to check for short circuits and voids between their pins.