Reducing the cost of printed circuit boards is really about keeping things simple and effective, designed to achieve your goals and your needs in as direct a way as possible. PCBs are usually seen as a complex dance of getting everything to fit in the smallest space or trying to space everything out as much as possible to make them easy to read.
There is indeed a happy medium somewhere. You can reduce the cost of PCBs by looking for this middle ground. In this piece, we’ll present seven of those in-between spaces for reducing the cost of printed circuit boards.
One of the easiest ways to reduce the cost of PCBs is to create a simple board and review your design to optimize it. Look for many different design options to make sure your board is as simple as possible. Not only do you want to optimize the elements of your board but you’ll also want it on a small form factor that still provides appropriate clearance for every element.
Size It Right
That clearance isn’t just about its relationship to other parts, but also for the assembly process. If your board is complex and tiny, it will take the manufacturer more time and effort for their assembly line to put your board together.
Getting very small and tight is going to get expensive. Save space when possible, but don’t narrow down so much that it takes multiple runs to put each board together. If you’re struggling with that spacing, remember that using common shapes is a way to reduce the costs of PCBs.
If it is possible, make your board a square or a rectangle. Complex shapes raise costs, especially if they’re very irregular.
Keep It Consistent
Reducing the cost of printed circuit boards gets a little easier if you have large orders or are getting multiple boards together. If you keep the overall board shape the same or have consistency in your overall design, you’ll be able to shave some costs off your whole order.
Avoid Slots if Possible
Reducing the cost of printed circuit boards also comes with what you skip. Avoid internal cutouts unless you absolutely must have them to mount the PCB. Many people will charge you more when they have to cut a slot or do other cutouts in your boards. Some designers like the look and try to create something unique but uniform, which can be engaging for engineers but likely won’t make a significant difference in your functionality or brand recognition.
Holes and Rings Should Be Sized Right
Annular rings and holes should be designed to fit your board and be as large as you need. Bigger hole diameters are better simply because they don’t require extremely precise machinery. Smaller holes and rings need more careful controls and options, which means more expensive equipment and PCB production costs.
Manufacturers set different size ranges, but often you’ll see increases when holes get below 0.4mm. Talk to your manufacturer to understand their requirements and pricing schedule.
For your through-hole pads and vias, keep the minimum annular ring in mind. This is the minimum distance between the pad’s border and hole’s border. The distance needs to be uniform, even if the hole is an oblong shape. Again, different manufacturers have different requirements and pricing schedules based on your annular rings.
Pick the Best Vias
Vias come in three flavors: buried, blind and through-hole. Through-hole vias go all the way through the board, while blind vias goes from either top or bottom to a layer somewhere in the middle without touching the top or bottom.
Through-hole vias are the most affordable and should be used whenever possible. Blind and buried will increase your costs. They’re only necessary on high-density and high-frequency complex boards, so you should typically not need them.
Don’t Skimp When It Counts
We’re mainly discussing ways you can save when having your PCBs created, but sometimes you’ll want to spend your money because it can save you in the long run.
Using inferior materials or substitutes for your core elements will cut cost on the initial production, but it’ll raise your costs later when you have to replace boards more often or have unhappy customers. The best way to reduce PCB costs just might be to spend money on quality production and avoid losses, costs and unnecessary production runs.