Deciding on the right custom PCB manufacturer in the United States can be critical for electronic designers, engineers, and OEMs. According to PCB Trace Technologies Inc., it can be overwhelming to decide which manufacturer you can trust to meet your PCB fabrication and assembly needs. As the board quality can affect the performance, safety, and reliability of your electronic devices significantly. When choosing a manufacturer, look for one that not only meets your specific needs but at the same time, provides you with PCBs of the highest quality.
You can use the guidance from this article to decide the right custom PCB manufacturer in the United States. Here, we will explain not only the factors that you should consider when evaluating a manufacturer from those available but also the questions you must ask them to help you reach a final decision. Whether new to the electronics industry or a seasoned electronics professional, this article is likely to help you immensely.
Deciding Factors for Choosing the Right Custom PCB Manufacturer
Although the task of choosing the right custom PCB manufacturer can be a daunting one, considering the following factors will help you in making an informed decision:
Quality Standards and Certifications
Assessing a manufacturer solely on the basis of their performance may not always lead you to the right custom PCB manufacturer. That is why we recommend reliable PCB manufacturers who are accredited to International Certifications and whose products conform to International Quality Standards. Among them, you must look for those with certifications of ISO 9001 and UL at the least. This will ensure they will meet the highest quality standards for both workmanship and product. These accreditations and certifications indicate that the manufacturer is reliable, follows safe procedures, and produces quality products.
Manufacturing Capabilities & Technology
The manufacturing capabilities and the technology the manufacturer is using are important factors you should consider next. The right custom PCB manufacturer must have the right equipment and use the right technology to meet your specific requirements. For instance, if you need HDI or High-Density Interconnect PCBs, you should select a manufacturer that specializes in ADT or Additive Manufacturing Technology.
Experience & Expertise
The manufacturer must have considerable experience and expertise, especially in the type of PCBs in which you are interested. They must have fabricated PCBs for your specific industry and have a fair understanding of its requirements. An experienced manufacturer can offer guidance and valuable insights to optimize your design for manufacturing while helping you improve the reliability and performance of your electronic device.
Customer Service & Support
You must also consider the customer service and support the manufacturer provides. The right custom PCB manufacturer should be responsive to your queries, communicative, and must be willing to work with your team to address specific issues or concerns.
Location & Shipping Options
Deciding on the right custom PCB manufacturer can also depend on their location and the shipping options they provide. Choosing a manufacturer located close to your facility will reduce your shipping times and costs. Moreover, consider the shipping options provided by the manufacturer to make sure they will meet your delivery requirements.
Pricing & Lead Times
Finally, you must also consider the pricing and lead times that the manufacturer is offering. The manufacturer you finally choose should be capable of providing competitive pricing and offering reasonable lead times. These are important factors to ensure your project stays within suitable timelines and budget. The pricing must include additional charges, including assembly, testing, and tooling costs.
The above factors help you in evaluating custom PCB manufacturers and choosing the one that best suits your specific requirements. When evaluating the manufacturers, you can prioritize factors that are important to your project and emphasize them. Your aim should be to choose a reliable custom PCB manufacturer in the US who is willing to work with you, address your specific concerns, and provide high-quality PCBs that meet your requirements and expectations.
Why Choose a Manufacturer in the US?
There are many types of PCB manufacturers in different locations, and each of them has its own advantages and disadvantages. For instance, there are large-scale manufacturers and medium- and small-sized manufacturers located in offshore countries or in the same country as you are.
While large-scale manufacturers offer high volumes of PCBs at low cost, medium- and small-sized manufacturers are likely to offer limited production volumes but at somewhat higher costs. At the same time, the latter are likely to offer more personalized services and be more flexible in their operations. You should choose a manufacturer depending on your scale of operation.
The location of the manufacturer may be an important factor in your consideration, as it affects shipping, and higher shipping costs can affect your margins. Although offshore manufacturers may offer lower costs because labor and production costs are low for them, the final landed costs could be higher as you add the shipping costs and the lead time. You may also face additional challenges due to time zone differences and communication. With offshore manufacturers, there can be several areas of difficulty for which you should watch out:
With offshore manufacturers, because of their location, you may face discrepancies in the time difference with the assembly plant, and this may affect your time-to-market. There can be unacceptable lags in answers to your questions or concerns. During project development, the delay in communication may seriously hamper your development schedule.
Although offshore manufacturers offer lower rates for high-volume production, they may not always respond favorably to changing their processes for low-volume runs. This may affect your production schedule as you wait for a scheduled slot to open up for you. Rapid changes may not be possible, affecting your prototype builds.
Offshore manufacturers may not be able to meet your rapid change requirements and manual assembly when you are developing your prototype.
There may also be other issues with offshore manufacturers. Sometimes, these issues can be political, leading to unplanned shutdowns. There may be nationally observed holidays at offshore locations that may slow down your production schedules. Other factors that can affect offshore manufacturers are emergencies like the Covid-19 outbreak.
If you are located in the US, choosing a manufacturer located nearby may save you a considerable amount in shipping, and you may be able to work out better lead times for your size of production volumes. Communication will be considerably faster with a manufacturer in the US, and you may save a significant amount of time when solving a problem. The advantages of a USA-based manufacturer are:
Faster Turn-Around Times
One of the major benefits of choosing a custom PCB manufacturer in the US is their faster turn-around times. This is due to most US-based manufacturers having in-house manufacturing and assembly facilities. Not only do they have better control over their production processes, but you can also expect a minimum risk of quality issues or delays and a faster response to your needs. You can expect them to work closely with you and get faster delivery of products as US-based manufacturer can expedite production faster than their offshore counterparts can.
Because of their local presence, US-based PCB manufacturers can respond faster to your needs. This may include on-site visits to assess your requirements or consultations with your design team to expedite shipping or optimize the board design.
With offshore manufacturers, you may find it a huge challenge when you need a representative on the phone to discuss a concern or a change. PCB manufacturers in the US typically have customer service representatives who are ready to answer your questions and assist you with your concerns.
US-based PCB manufacturers can keep you apprised of their production schedules, providing you with regular status reports, progress updates, and delivery status. This is an important aspect when ensuring that a project stays on track, and you want them to address all issues promptly.
Choosing the custom PCB manufacturer in the US may be the right solution when you have a time crunch for your project. In comparison to offshore manufacturers, PCB manufacturers in the US often offer faster shipping times.
Additionally, they work with local logistics providers and suppliers to ensure they can source the necessary PCB components and materials readily, allowing them to avoid delays in PCB manufacturing.
Protection of Intellectual Property and Risk Mitigation
PCB manufacturers in the US typically prioritize the security of their customers’ data. They ensure your sensitive data is protected against unauthorized access or theft.
Someone stealing your prototype design can lead to a loss of revenue, legal liability, and reputational damage. With a stolen design, miscreants can produce counterfeit products and sell them to competitors, resulting in lost sales and revenue. This can reduce your company’s reputation, leading to legal disputes.
According to PCB Trace Technologies Inc., opting for the right custom PCB manufacturer in the United States can offer many advantages, including the reduction in risks and the safeguarding of intellectual property. Moreover, US-based manufacturers conform to stringent quality norms, ensure data safety protocols, and prioritize quality issues. They ensure that you, the customer, are satisfied and that your confidential information remains intact.