Hardware development has become increasingly accessible to hobbyists and new companies alike. CAD software is open source or low cost, parts can be ordered online and now fully assembled PCBs can be ordered with ease. PCB manufacturers offer turnkey PCB assembly services which are beneficial to all hardware makers, but especially start-ups. Any company can have high quality circuit boards produced at low volumes at an affordable price thanks to advancements in the circuit board manufacturing equipment.
Let’s say that your start-up has simulated their circuit, made some proof of concept prototypes on a solder-less breadboard, and is now ready to make a full-fledged prototype. You want your prototype to look professional so it can be pitched to investors or Kickstarter backers. This is where an experienced PCB assembly company like Bittele Electronics can take your hardware to the next level. By providing your board design and parts list, a turnkey PCB manufacturer can then produce the PCB, purchase the necessary parts, assemble them and ship anywhere in the world. There are several advantages to this service for start-ups including impressing investors, identifying manufacturing issues early, saving your team time, and estimating your final production cost.
High Quality Product Impresses Investors
One of the main advantages of professional assembly for start-ups is the professional board quality and expert soldering of surface mount components. Professional circuit board assembly manufacturers use high quality laminates, solder resist and silk-screening methods. You can save some cost by skipping the silk-screen, however it is more impressive looking to have your company name or logo on the board itself. Boards can be produced cheaply, but a higher quality board is a noticeable improvement.
If your design is mostly through hole components then it is probably more economical to assemble the board yourself and just buy a high-quality bare PCB. However, as modern circuit designs need to be compact, then surface mount components are usually necessary. Professional assembly of SMT components uses precise automated placement and a reflow oven for melting the solder. These professional machines produce perfect solder joints even on very small components or microprocessors with many pins closely spaced. These assemblies are difficult when done by hand and are more reliable when done through automated process. The final high-quality product will be sure to impress your potential investors and show that your company is ready for production.
Manufacturability Check Identifies Problems Early
Another key advantage of professional turnkey prototyping, is you will be able to identify any manufacturing concerns about your design. The best way to know if your design is ready for professional production is to go ahead and order a prototype. By having your manufacturer review your design before production, then make a prototype, you will know if there is any part of your design that may cause an issue with manufacturing or does not turn out as you expected. By providing a netlist file, your manufacturer may be able to detect errors in the routing of your prototype that may have occurred when creating your board layout. If errors require changing your design, it is best to identify them early so your prototype can be a better representation of a final product. If any electronics changes affect the physical properties of the prototype, having noticed earlier in the product design process will save time and money. If your PCB designers are inexperienced, a DFM check can not only correct one product, but can also help you establish better design practices for your future products as well by learning from your mistakes.
Saves You Time
Thirdly, turnkey services reduce the amount of work your team needs to do to produce the prototype. While the overall time to produce the prototype may not be reduced, using a turnkey service does free up your limited number of employees to work on other areas that need their attention. If your team does not need to deal with purchasing the PCB, then parts, then assembling it themselves, they can be free to continue optimizing the design or perform another job. This form of outsourcing the labor can be beneficial for your start-up’s efficiency. Turnkey is also simpler, because you will only need to deal with and manage invoices with 1 company instead of a pcb house, assembly house and several parts suppliers. Bundling these three stages of production is also more cost effective than purchasing these services separately, as you can save on shipping costs and manufacturers price turnkey service more competitively than just PCB or assembly.
Better Estimate Your Future Manufacturing Costs
Lastly, financial planning is very important for start-ups to optimize their business model and operating costs. Therefore, when quoting your prototype board, (unless you expect significant design changes) you can request your manufacturer to quote higher quantity production runs as well. If your start-up expects to produce a few hundred or thousand units initially, then the same PCB manufacturer can give you an estimate of how much that will cost. This early estimate could be very valuable in estimating your initial product costs. If you plan on producing products over time rather than in one large order, PCB manufacturers could also be flexible to produce a different number of units each month depending on your needs. Unit costs are higher for smaller orders, but if you have limited capital, a large production run may not be your best option. Also keep in mind that repeated orders without design changes are less expensive as production setup cost can be reduced.
By having your prototype design professionally produced, your tech start-up can impress investors, identify manufacturing issues early, save your team time, and estimate your final production cost. Bittele Electronics Inc., a Toronto-based contract electronics manufacturer, specializes in PCB Prototype Assembly and Low Volume Assembly services for electronic design engineers. It is headquartered in Toronto, Canada, with production facilities in China. Bittele Electronics can meet all PCB assembly needs by consignment, partial Turn-Key or full Turn-key services.