Where you and your Contract Manufacturer decide to get your bare boards fabricated ultimately depends on three things. Price, Delivery Times, and Quality. Although I’m sure every country has local PCB manufacturing shops in 2020, this article will focus on the major players.
PCB Manufacturing: USA
American made boards have the same benefits as domestic PCBAs. By having a fabrication shop close and working in the same time zone, you can get exceptional customer service in conjunction with high quality boards. If any engineering changes happen, these shops can quickly react and make the changes for you almost instantly. In addition, since they are local, you won’t have to wait for shipping times and could even pick up the boards or get them delivered as soon as they finish. The drawback to USA made boards is the price tag. Boards fabricated domestically are almost always more expensive. Whether that is a worthwhile trade-off is up to you and your team. Our best use cases for domestic manufacturing are for quick turn prototyping and industries with restrictions such as military/aerospace. When schedules are tight and budgets are large, no one can fit better than an American made PCB.
PCB Manufacturing: China
Chinese boards have an improper reputation for low quality and high risk. What we’ve seen is that this may be true for some shops but not all. It’s important to have a contract manufacturing partner that knows these factories first hand and can attest to their quality. If you simply go with the cheapest company you find on a Google search, it likely will give you problems. The biggest benefit of procuring from China is cost. Chinese fabricated boards are by far the cheapest overall. The biggest drawback however is the delivery time. Since they have to ship over the ocean, lead times at best are usually 4 weeks and that’s if they aren’t held up in customs. This leads to another drawback. You are likely to have to pay customs fees from these boards which will not be reflected on the sticker price. The elephant in the room is that many companies are worried about their designs being stolen if sent overseas. In general, we believe this is not the case. Of course there will always be risk but that’s why pairing with a trusted factory is essential, whether domestic or international. We like to use Chinese fabrication shops for projects that have tight budgets and don’t require fast turnaround.
PCB Manufacturing: Korea
Korea is where we procure most of our boards. This is because in our eyes, it creates a happy balance between the previous two companies. Boards from Korea are exceptional quality and don’t face the same export restrictions or tariffs. Lead-times vary from shop but what we’ve seen is two weeks as the standard lead-time with the potential for a quick turn 1 week if necessary. Price is usually a little above China but is usually justified by the improved turnaround.
What’s right for my Project?
One board shop might not fit all of your projects. It’s important to know the pros and cons of each country so you can leverage their strengths and ultimately push your product and company forward. Vinatronic has been procuring boards for its customers for over 25 years. This experience builds relationships with board houses all over the world. Our network for fabrication shops allows us to pair you with the exact right fit every single project. Send us an email or give us a call and we’d be happy to get you some beautiful printed circuit boards.