Not all quick-turn PCB requests are the same, and Epec Engineered Technologies has more than 65 years of PCB fabrication experience to ensure that our customers get what they want, when they want it.
But quickly getting your electronic product to market isn't just a question of getting a PCB that is "good enough" quickly, it's also about producing that product at scale throughout the rest of the process.
That's where printed circuit board fabrication experience and true manufacturing capabilities become critically important. It's not enough for a PCB manufacturer to just deliver low-quality and low-cost prototype circuit boards. To reach the market quickly you need, a PCB manufacturing partner who is able to produce at all of the different development stages with consistency and at a competitive cost while still meeting short turnaround timelines.
The fact of the matter is that many PCB manufacturers may be capable of producing high-quality PCBs at a small-scale or in large volumes, but no one can do both. From prototype to beta builds, pre-production and into full production, you need a circuit board partner that will be with you all the way to ensure that your product sees no variation in its construction.
What is Considered a Quick-Turn for Printed Circuit Boards?
Every quick-turn PCB request is different in terms of technology, delivery requirements, and volume of parts needed. If you need a small quantity of 2-layer PCBs there are many Internet-based companies that can get you these parts very quickly and very inexpensively. However, here at Epec Engineered Technologies, we focus on more complex PCBs that require 100% absolute quality and consistency throughout the entire life of the development and into production. Truly understanding the technology that we are producing and the physical requirements to manufacture that specific PCB will ensure that you get a delivery date that you can plan on. A few common definitions:
There are many different varieties of PCB Prototypes. Every project starts with quickly getting a PCB so that you test out your concept. Many times, the PCB designer isn't even finished with the design when they submit Gerber data for production and have to use jumpers on the board when they get it – fast and cheap work.
However, if you are producing prototypes for testing on form, fit, and function and need to understand how all of the electronics will work with each other that is a different level of quality that is needed in your PCB. This is when you need to work with your PCB fabricator so that we can perform our rigorous design rule checks to ensure that your prototypes will be of the same quality as your production.
Pre-Production or Beta Run PCBs
In this case, this is when a customer is going to test out their production process or send units into the field or need many units for reliability testing. This is usually anywhere from 100 to several thousand pieces so the PCB fabricator needs to have the capacity to run all these production panels. Too often what happens when a customer's goes from prototype to pre-production is that they run into issues as many things tend to change when you work with different companies. Laminate, multilayer stack ups, drill sizes, and many others can cause issues for customers.
In Epec's case, we seamlessly move from prototype into pre-production as all of our factories use the same materials and the same Gerber data that we developed for the first run so that you will see no change in the product. Delivery times can be anywhere from 2 days up to our standard delivery of 20 days.
Production Quick-Turn PCBs
We usually see customers need higher volume quick-turns for emergency orders from customers or when a supplier can't deliver. This has become more common recently given the current difficulty in transportation of products from Asian countries. However, if you choose the right PCB fabrication partner, this will not be a problem. At Epec, we have the facilities that have the capacity and the experience of producing high-volume PCBs in very short lead times, and because we have already CAM'd the Gerber data, you will see no delay in production getting started.
Along with that, Epec has a longstanding relationship with UPS at our hub in Hong Kong. This means that we have a dedicated and guaranteed space on UPS aircraft every day, even during the peak holiday season so that our products do not get delayed in transit. With that as well, all of our packages are pre-cleared through U.S. Customs before they leave Hong Kong, and that means that if there was a problem, our 24/7 logistics team in the U.S. can get it resolved before the package lands in the U.S. And because everything goes through our Hong Kong hub, we ship large volumes every day, which keeps our costs very low, and we can pass that along to our customer.
For more information, see our blog post on how quick-turn days are counted when your PCB is ordered.
Pre-Production or Beta Run PCBs
- Small volume prototype, high technology quick-turn circuit boards
- Small volume prototype, low technology quick-turn circuit boards
- Quick-turn pre-production circuit boards
- Production quick-turn circuit boards
Quick-Turn ITAR PCBs
High Technology ITAR PCBs create the added challenges of keeping all of the sensitive data secure and in compliance with government regulations. As we all know, ITAR files technically cannot be sent via email, so here at Epec, we work with customers to set them up with a dedicated password-protected SharePoint folder so that there will be no delays in getting us files and production started.
PCBs that are ITAR-regulated for the military are usually of the highest technology, which means that your PCB fabricator needs to be involved in your design very early in the process. Things like blind/buried vias, embedded resistors, microvias and many other features will add lead time to your fabrication process.
Eliminating Risk in PCB Manufacturing
All PCB quick-turns are different, and you need to work with someone who has the experience, the scale, and the financial resources to ensure that you get exactly what you need every step of the way.