In today’s business world, beginning a business is a bit easier than before. However, the competition curve is a bit stronger. Happily, 3D printing is becoming more and more accessible. Thus you may consider starting a 3D printing-related business.
One great and profitable startup to consider is PCB (Printed Circuit Board) printing and manufacturing business. This is an industry that will never go out of style. This is because PCBs are in high demand and are found in every electronic device.
Whether you are a beginner or know a few things about the PCB business, you need to learn how to start a PCB business. Here is everything you need to know when starting a Printed Circuit Board business.
PCB Manufacturing Market Potential
Printed circuit board manufacturing is a sector that is expanding every day. More and more electronic gadgets are being manufactured that require PCBs. Some of the reasons why PCB manufacturing is a great market to consider include:
*Large market size – the market size for PCB printing is very large. This is because the number of electronics being made every day is more compared to the PCBs being created. Keep in mind that simple electronics such as toys and complex ones such as computers and laptops need printed circuit boards.
*Low competition markets – another reason the PCB manufacturing business has great market potential is low competition. Even though the demand for circuit boards is high, very few manufacturers are.
*High-profit margins – PCB printing and manufacturing is an industry well-known for high-profit margins. Moreover, it is easier to begin and successfully operate a highly-profitable startup.
PCB Manufacturing process
The PCB manufacturing process is essential to anyone who wants to venture into the industry. It is a procedure that can be achieved in several ways, and there are many types to the PCB manufacturer. But despite a number of variants, the main PCB manufacturing stages are the same.
Here is the PCB manufacturing process
1. Step 1 – Etching or Patterning
Most printed circuit boards are made by spreading a layer of copper over the whole area of the PCB substrate material. You can apply it on one side or both sides.
This gives you a circuit board with copper everywhere on its surface. Then, you need to get rid of the unwanted copper through the subtractive methods.
2. Step 2 – Photoengraving
This is a process where a photomask or mask is mixed with chemical etching to get rid of copper from the board substrate.
3. Step 3 – Lamination
Since most PCBs are made up of several layers, they are known as Multilayer Printed Circuit Boards. Hence, the layers are joined together through a procedure known as lamination.
4. Step 4 – Drilling
Every layer of the board needs to connect well to other layers, and this is done by drilling small holes known as VIAS. The small holes need precision placement and are made using an automated drilling machine.
The machine is driven by computer files and programs known as NCD files or Numerically Controlled Drill files. They are also known as Excellon files. The files help determine the size and position of every drill in the design.
5. Step 5- Solder Plating
Since bare is not solderable, the surface needs to be plated with the material that can facilitate soldering. However, areas that do not need to be solderable must be covered with a material that can resist soldering.
Solder resist is a polymer coating that performs like a solder mask. It prevents solder from joining traces and creating short circuits to the nearby component leads.
6. Step 6 – Silk Screen
When you need to have visible information such as the company logo, instructions, or part numbers, silk screening is used to put on the text to the outer surface of the board.
7. Step 7 – Testing
When the circuit board is unassembled, it is subjected to a bare board test. Here, every circuit connection is tested. For high-volume circuit board production, a machine tester is used. Also, computers are used to control electrical testing.
Examples of PCB business for reference
One example of a PCB business to consider is a PCB designer. As a PCB designer, there are some design basics you need to know for you to get started.
Here are the design basics every new designer needs to follow to ensure the design process is successful.
*Understand the design workflow – before you get started, you need to take time and familiarize yourself with the standard workflow.
For example, you need to select the core components, create schematics based on engineering requirements, create design rules, and prepare design outputs, among other tasks.
*Learn about the PCB manufacturing process – any design you want to create needs to be manufacturable at scale. So, as a PCB designer, you need to be familiar with the limits of what can be invented.
*Design rules are essential – after learning about the manufacturing process, it is necessary to understand the limits imposed in the design rules. To succeed in the design, you need to know the limits to violate the rules.
Another PCB business idea you can consider is PCB prototyping. Like plastic and metal rapid prototyping, it is a critical step in the manufacturing of PCBs. It is a process that speeds up the design process for the product before it is mass-produced.
PCB prototyping produces one prototype to test your circuit design before it is sent to the final product or goes for manufacturing. It helps to tell whether the design will be a success or not.
It helps in saving time, money, and frustration during PCB manufacturing. With prototyping, you can see what a product looks like or whether modifications are needed.
PCB Manufacturing and Assembly Service
The other business idea is to offer PCB manufacturing and assembly services. Here, the process includes manufacturing Printed Circuit Boards, testing, monitoring of quality, and final assembly.
PCB assembly is the procedure of connecting electronic components to the circuit board. Various technologies are used to produce a quality board as per the customer’s requirement.
The printed circuit board business continues to grow because many electronic devices require circuit boards to function. Starting a PCB business is an excellent idea since the demand for circuit boards is high.
However, you need to understand the industry well and decide whether you want to concentrate on PCB design, PCB prototyping, or PCB manufacturing and assembly service.