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How Much Does a PCB Prototype Cost?

Oct 27, 2020

pcb prototype cost

Prototyping isn’t reserved for high-tech vehicles or revolutionary consumer gadgets. It’s also a great practice for manufacturing printed circuit boards. 

If you have a PCB design and you’re looking for a circuit board prototyping service, you probably have some questions. “How fast can I get a prototype?” “Do I even need a prototype?” And most importantly, “How much will a PCB prototype cost?”

This post will answer all those questions and then some.

What Goes Into a PCB Prototype Cost?

PCB prototype costs aren’t one-size-fits-all; several factors go into determining the overall cost. The most important considerations are: 

  • Board Size: The larger the board, the more expensive it will be. 
  • Material: Some substrate and laminate PCB materials cost more than others. If high performance is essential, your materials will probably be more expensive.
  • Complexity: Having a high volume of components, complex wiring, or a very dense board will raise the overall cost. 
  • Speed: If you require printed circuit board rapid prototyping to meet your deadlines, the cost will reflect that.

What’s the Price Range for a PCB Prototype?

It’s difficult to forecast a specific PCB prototype cost until you begin to work with your assembler. The prototype could be as little as a few dollars or the bare board alone could cost hundreds of dollars. So much is dependent on the design, components, size, materials, and complexity that it’s hard to give a general estimate. 

A good rule of thumb is that the smaller the production batch is, the higher the prototyping costs will be. The assembler will charge more for prototyping a PCB with an end production of 10 boards than if the end production is 1,000 boards.

How Long Does It Take to Make a PCB Prototype?

The time it takes to make a prototype is hard to pin down because all boards are different. A run-of-the-mill, middle-range PCB prototype might take a few weeks, while other boards take months to prototype. 

Supply chain interruptions can also delay a project. The design might be completed, but lead times on certain components can significantly alter your timeframe. Working with an electronics contract manufacturer to find alternative components for your board design can alleviate some of these time frame issues.

What Are the Benefits of a PCB Prototype?

At this point, you might be asking yourself, “Do I even need a PCB prototype?” If you’re not sure, the answer is always yes. 

Creating a PCB prototype can eliminate a lot of headaches down the road. Obviously you want to be sure the final PCB works as anticipated, but a prototype will also help you solidify:

  • Production time frames
  • Overall manufacturing costs
  • Board quality

“My board isn’t that complex; surely I don’t need a prototype,” you say. That’s where you could be wrong. Sometimes it’s the simple boards that cause the most trouble, so it’s always worth investing in a prototype. 

In the end, it’s better to iron out any board errors or inconsistencies with a prototype rather than with the final design. Think of it in terms of the paper clip machine theory. If you have a machine that produces 100,000 defective paper clips, are you going to fix the paper clips or the machine? Make sure the design is right so you won’t have to fix hundreds -- or thousands -- of boards.

Cut End Costs With a PCB Prototype

A lot goes into determining the end cost of a PCB prototype. A full-service electronics contract manufacturer can provide in-depth benefit comparisons and cost calculations to make your prototyping goals a breeze. 

To learn more about how a contract manufacturer integrates prototyping into its process, download our free booklet below:

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Matric

Written by Matric

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