Engineering Support for Online PCB Orders
With the proliferation on online PCB quoting and ordering programs, we have focused on providing our customers with the best solution for higher technology PCBs that need to be done right the first time and then need to be consistent when they get into production. Many companies offer very low-cost, very low-service prototypes to help get projects off the ground, and that is a very useful service.
However, here at Epec, we focus on making sure that you have the most options in terms of PCB attributes so that you can get exactly what you need every time you order your circuit board.
FREE DFM on EVERY Order
Every printed circuit board is unique, and every PCB fabricator has unique capabilities that allow some to do things that others can’t. For example, if a PCB fabricator hasn’t invested in laser drilling and laser direct imaging, they cannot consistently produce PCBs with 3/3 lines and spaces and microvias.
This is why we will do a full design for manufacturability on EVERY order that we receive and work with the customer in order to ensure that you get what you need on every order.
Too often we hear stories of an online circuit board company who takes an order and then comes back to the custom 3 or 4 times to put the PCB order on hold so that they can change the price and delivery because of an attribute that wasn’t entered correctly. Having Epec provide you with a free DFM before you enter your order will ensure that you have no delays and the perfect price for your PCB the first time.
PCB Prototype vs Pre-Production Orders
PCB prototypes by definition is when we take your design and quickly build a small batch of boards using basic materials, which we then ship to you in just a few days. The idea is just to give you a sense of whether your design works in the simples fit and form parameters. You can test the circuit boards to locate any design flaw in your entire product without investing significant capital as many companies offer $33 deals on very low technology boards.
However, with higher technology circuit boards with things like controlled impedance, tight lines and spaces, microvias, etc. require that your prototypes be handled in a much different way. In these cases, we run the product through a full DFM to unsure not only do we meet fit and form, but function as well.
You must be cautious when ordering prototypes as many companies can offer these very low prices by “nesting” PCBs on the same production panel. This started many years ago when PCB companies would put many different PCB designs on the same production panel of 2-layer PCBs. The price was cheap, and because the technology was so low, it didn’t cause much of an issue. Today, companies still do this, but they may nest 2-layer all the way up to 8-layer boards on the same panel. This creates significant variances in the function of the boards, and it is never repeatable because that same group of boards will never be on the same production panel again.
Pre-production orders have two very specific objectives. One is to determine if the bare PCB can be made and scaled in higher volumes, which is never usually an issue. The second is to ensure that it can be assembled and then functions correctly for your application.
Once you determine that it does work correctly and you can be sure that, if no processes or materials are changed, your product will continue to function properly. This is also an area to be cautious about as many online PCB companies will change out the PCB laminate to a lower quality product and will short cycle the plating of the PCB to save money on their production costs.
The challenge with both of these issues is that customers will not know that either of these two things may have happened until they attempt to assemble the boards, which is when the problems will begin.
Can I Quote High-Layer Count PCBs Online?
The short answer is yes you can, and as long as the PCB doesn’t have any features that require additional processing, you will have no trouble getting the product on time.
What are some of the features that would require the engineering department at your PCB manufacture to review prior to quoting?
A few of them are:
- Blind & Buried Vias
- Filled Vias or Via-in-Pad
- Controlled Impedance (if the tolerance is less than +/-10%)
- Finished Copper Weight (greater than 2oz)
- Plated Edges
- IPC Class III
- Under 4/4 Lines and Spaces and Under 8 Mil Vias
The options above are available to quote and order online, but the lead time may be subject to change based upon an engineering file review.
There are not many additional features that cannot be quoted using InstantPCBQuote™. All the items above can still be manufactured very cost effectively in a quick turnaround time, but we need to see the dataset in order to determine the actual processing time as every attribute above requires additional processing.
Why Can’t I Quote a Rigid-Flex PCB Online?
Flex and rigid-flex PCBs are an exciting technology, and we manufacture these PCBs at our facility in Dallas Texas, along with our factories in Asia. The challenge with rigid-flex PCBs is that every design is different and requires in-depth engineering knowledge to ensure that the PCB can be produced and will reliably operate in your application.
Delamination is the biggest issue with rigid-flex PCBs because they typically are made of mixed materials (FR-4 and polyimide), which can create problems when the finished PCB is subject to high temperatures and the bending that is often required of rigid-flex product.
How Can I Minimize Delays in My PCB Order?
Give your PCB fabricator your files before you’re ready to order and they can give you a report and suggestions on how to improve the design. It doesn’t matter if the design is completed yet, as a matter of fact it is many times better to send the files over when the design isn’t complete. This way, we get the opportunity of identifying issues before you take too much time completing the design only to have to go back and start over.