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Get A Check On Fabricating Your PCBs

PCB procurement is categorized as either prototype or production boards or both. But the common denominator is both require assurances that an EMS provider or contract manufacturer (CM) has a fabrication house with the capability and capacity to deliver to OEM purchasing the required quantities on time with high quality product.

An order ranging from a few units to a few thousands of PCBs can be placed with a highly capable and reliable vendor offering excellent pricing. However, if that vendor has capacity issues, meeting OEM product deadlines will create major challenges. Therefore, it is prudent to qualify multiple vendors as a Plan B to avoid those adverse purchasing conditions by relying on a supplier as a sole source.

Each case, prototype or production PCBs, involves distinctly different buying patterns, requirements, and sets of issues OEM purchasing should be aware of. There are different parameters associated with prototype and production PCBs. On one hand, prototypes are smaller in quantity, require faster turnaround, and all possible problematic areas may not be completely resolved going into product development.

Conversely, production PCBs demand that all evident and not-so-evident issues be resolved at the outset. Plus, production turnaround time, compared to prototype PCBs, isnít as much of an issue as is pricing. However, there’s much more to consider than meets the eye.

Therefore, OEM purchasing must carefully navigate a tricky and often times, problematic and challenging path to assure delivery of high-quality, high-reliability, and fully functional PCBs. A fabrication house’s equipment, capability, and expertise are foremost considerations for prototype or production procurement.

Here are some tips to follow to help you avoid pitfalls.

  • Find out about UL certifications that this fabrication house has.
  • Check on how new or updated equipment is.
  • What about the capability for effectively performing flying probe and bed of-nails testing?
  • Can it perform via-in-pad technology, sequential laminations, counter sink holes?
  • What about efficiency for first article inspection for both prototypes and production PCBs?
  • Is the fab house certified for special cases like plating four-ounce copper?
  • How often is equipment calibrated?

Plus, to avoid PCB procurement issues, it is prudent to institute a well-thought out policy and associated purchasing practices and at the same time, anticipate a host of adverse purchasing conditions. Otherwise, a worst-case scenario can all of a sudden raise its ugly head and create a major problem when all appears to be going well.