How PCBA Prototyping& Small Batch Production Run

May 19, 2020

How PCBA Prototyping & Small Batch Production Run?
Making 1pcs of PCBA prototyping board for debugging is really not easy for hardware engineers/ makers, how PCBA prototyping and small batch production run in a PCBA fab?
How PCBA PrototypingSmall Batch Production Run-2

There are huge amounts of makers and hardware startups begun the creation of new hardware products, a simple but challenging work for them is the PCBA prototyping and small batch production. That is, making 1pcs of PCBA prototyping board for debugging is really not easy for hardware engineers/ makers, there are so many works to do for that include the PCB/ components/ soldering/ programming/ testing, etc. After the prototyping board passed, it is also not easy for the product manager to set a 100 pcs production, to have a try if the community would be interest in the product. Traditional factories will not be interested in producing a product with 100 pcs, they want 100K~ ;The product manager will need to try to persuade the factory: hey, this product has good furthers, that you will get big orders as the small batch production confirmed.

Thanks to Shenzhen, the Asia largest electronic markets and plenty of electronic companies. Now, customers can get a much easier way to prototype their ideas, and produce them with any quantity that they would love to. With this “Smart Prototyping& Small Batch Production”, the designers can get their design into a real board in a short lead time and acceptable price, or manufacture 100 pcs to have a try if they work in the market, with a small investment.

A Standard PCBA Prototyping & Small Batch Production runs as follows:

How A standard PCBA PrototypingSmall Batch Production Runs
1. Designer Requests. Designers find one “Smart PCBA Prototyping & Small Batch Production” vendor in Shenzhen, for example, Makerfabssmiley, and send a request to the PCBA fab, in which explanation of what boards want, what’s the quantity, and the related production files:

1.1.) PCB Gerber Files And The Specs. This file is for the PCB production, using the RS-274x format as it is the most widely used PCB files in Shenzhen. Remember that the Drill file(PCB name.txt ) also needed. PCB specs, include the color/ pads finish/ thickness/ copper weight. The most popular color is green, while some other colors such as blue/ red/ white/ yellow/ black also available, but maybe some extra fee for those un-popular colors. The pads finish can be Hasl/ ENIG, or some others, based on customers' requests.

1.2.) BOM List(Bill of Materials). This is the most important file and often the mistakes happen here.
Some Tips:
  • List the same components/ items in the same row;
  • Mouser/ Digikey parts number would help to avoid misunderstanding.

1.3.) Parting Mapping File For Soldering. This is not mandatory. Distinct silkscreen on the PCB boards would also work for hand soldering. If there is no, or not enough silkscreens, a mapping file is needed.

2. Vendor Quotes. As receiving the customers' PCB assembly request, the vendor will estimate the total PCBA manufacturing cost. For a prototype PCBA production, the main cost includes:

2.1.) PCB Fee, based on the PCB specs and production difficulty. Normally, the PCBA vendors will not produce the PCB by themselves, the PCB will be produced by the PCB factory. There are some “Express PCB” factories in Shenzhen, such as the HQ PCB and JLC PCB, that can provide the PCB with low starting fee(Less than 10$)and short lead time, but the quantity relative low, just fit for those prototyping productions and lower spec requirements. If the customer needs the PCB quality higher, or the PCB spec is high, for example, 6 layer PCB, the minimum trace interface 4 mils, some industry-level PCB factory may be needed. The starting fee would be higher, and the lead time is longer, normally 7~10 days.


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