Printed circuit boards are everywhere – from your television to your smartphone. As our electronics get smaller and more powerful, printed circuit boards must do the same. With so many printed circuit board shops out there, it can be difficult to wrap your head around industry terminology and industry processes. Printed circuit board manufacturing is a complicated process, so we’re here to clear up the top misconceptions our customers tend to have.
Misconception #1 – PCB Manufacturing vs. PCB Assembly
The biggest misconception is that manufacturing and assembling circuit boards are one in the same. Actually, these are two very different processes.
What’s The Difference between PCB Manufacturing and PCB Assembly?
A PCB manufacturer or fabricator creates a bare printed circuit board without any components. This board is a foundation that electronically connects components using pads, traces, and other features sketched onto copper foil and laminated onto a non-conductive substrate.
A PCB assembly shop will take a bare printed circuit board and solder all of the components needed to power electronics. Assembly happens once manufacturing is complete.
Misconception #2 – PCB Manufacturer vs. PCB Broker
Another big misconception in the circuit board industry is that all printed circuit board shops are the same. While many circuit board companies may promise the same things, the proof is in the brand’s qualifications and reputation.
What’s the difference between a PCB Manufacturer and a PCB Broker?
Believe it or not, more than half of the “PCB manufacturers” in the industry don’t manufacture anything at all- they’re actually PCB brokers, serving as a middleman between customers and manufacturers. Beware of circuit board brokers that simply take your order and pass it off to another company to actually manufacture your PCBs.
When choosing a printed circuit board supplier, it’s always better to go directly to the source, instead of working with a middleman.This improves communication, turnaround time, and your bottom line. Here are some helpful signs that a printed circuit board company may actually be a broker:
- The company offers other services besides PCB manufacturing, such as assembly, components, and cables
- The factory is located in China but the sales offices are located in the U.S.
- The name of the sales office does not match the name of factory
- The ISO or UL certification doe not match the name on the quote
- The remit to address does not match the company name
- The company website mentions “manufacturing partners”, “manufacturing facilities”, or a network of “circuit board factories”.
Misconception #3 – PCB Prototypes vs. PCB Production
Let’s say you get a PCB prototype manufactured and it’s absolutely perfect. Now, you’re ready for a production run. It’s reasonable to assume that your production run will be just as flawless as your prototype run. Beware, this can be a costly assumption to make, as this is another big misconception we see often in the circuit board industry.
Never assume that your production PCB will be the same as your prototype PCB. Some PCB suppliers will build prototypes on one set of equipment and build production quantities on an entirely different set of equipment. This opens the door to large scale circuit board issues and failures that could be avoided if you choose a PCB manufacturer that makes “true prototypes”. This means that the company builds production boards on the same line as prototypes.
Amitron specializes in high-quality PCB prototypes. We use the same top-quality equipment, materials, and processes that are used to manufacture our standard production printed circuit boards. You can use our cost effective printed circuit board manufacturing solution and still receive the high level of quality you expect from Americas’ most trusted PCB manufacturer.