pcb vendors

When purchasing small or large quantities of printed circuit boards from a vendor, it’s important to know that occasional delays may be inevitable. Inclement weather, late component deliveries, or extra time required to resolve board errors may subsequently affect your PCB shipment. Even so, persistently late deliveries and inconsistent products are not only frustrating but can cost your business a significant amount of money. 

Among the avoidable factors contributing to late deliveries or inconsistencies, there are a few ways a business owner can minimize the frequency of such events. 

Avoid Inconsistencies

Quality Control

Inquire with your supplier regarding quality control checks to guarantee PCB integrity. A reliable PCB vendor will perform DRC check reports before production to ensure the board design’s physical and logical quality. This should eliminate any design or layout errors; however, some quality discrepancies involving creating the PCB may not be discoverable until after production. Manual visual inspections after each production are the first step in identifying any component or hidden design issues. 

Quality control technicians should perform Non-destructive and destructive diagnostics following visual evaluation. Finally, a series of comprehensive testing including electrical, solderability, and thermal shock testing make up the final assessment. Your manufacturer should be able to present you with diagnostic metrics clearly detailing their process.

Assess Your PCB Design

Alternatively, if you elect to provide your PCB footprint to the vendor for manufacture, it’s important to ensure your design is accurate before production. The vendor may review your Gerber file and assess for manufacturability—this can be a free service offering or an additional charge. If this is not an automatic procedure, it’s vital to ask if their engineers will evaluate the design. Allowing experienced professionals to complete an assessment and testing will allow them to correct any violations and optimize your layout for efficiency. In exchange, this will allow you to properly estimate pcb cost and it will also help avoid technical errors or production delays due to avoidable mistakes.

Avoid Delays

Comply with Payment Terms

One surefire way to receive late deliveries is the inability to adhere to a predetermined payment schedule. If you and your PCB vendor have agreed upon a payment contract that you have breached, this could most certainly be the cause of your delayed deliveries. If you suddenly discover that you have missed a payment or expect one in the future, immediately notify your vendor. Failure to provide pertinent information such as PCB design specifics or layout could also result in a delay. Ensure that none of these are the cause before approaching your PCB vendor.

Communication is Critical

Though communication on the vendor’s part is imperative, you too must practice strong communication skills. Clearly establish your expectations regarding delivery dates and expectations for product quality. Try to do this early on in your professional relationship, however, if you’ve already been working together for quite some time and tardiness has gotten out of hand, you should sit down to discuss expectations as soon as possible. Naturally, your requirements should not be outrageous demands, but it’s important to set expectations firmly. 

Allow for an open discussion with an opportunity for the vendor to express any concerns. Determine which method of communication you both will connect through. When and how often will you receive notifications with order updates? Will you have the ability to track deliveries? This newly established connection will allow for an effective business partnership and may aid in avoiding future discrepancies.

It’s a Date

It’s critical to clearly establish the delivery date or date range along the lines of clear communication. If your vendor states that you will receive your PCBs shipment within 30 days, clarify whether that means 30 calendar days or business days—there is a significant difference. It’s expected that the printed circuit boards will be thoroughly tested prior to dispatch, which could create delays. If the board does not pass diagnostics, its design or layout must be reworked or replaced. Discuss the protocol for the duration of testing and accounting for potential error delays.

A Strong Supply Chain

The foundation for an efficient PCB vendor is a strong supply chain of components. Your vendor may procure elements from various other supplies that could be local or overseas. If one piece becomes even slightly delayed, it will affect the entire chain and, ultimately, your PCB production. Inquire about the vendor’s relationship with their suppliers and whether they are typically punctual. 

Be Prepared with All Required Files

When placing your order, possess all details that you’ll need to avoid delays. If you lack the critical information necessary to place your order, you’ll be looking at inevitable delays. Common missing elements include:

  • Gerber file: if you are submitting a design to be reviewed and manufactured, you must present the vendor with a Gerber file. It is essentially the written formula for your unique PCB design. If you used software to create the schematic and layout, you should have access to the final Gerber file. Be sure to provide this to your PCB vendor, or it will be impossible for them to create your PCB.
  • Aperture List: a vital component to your PCB production, the Aperture list is almost as important as the Gerber file. Your Aperture list indicates which tools to use during manufacture. Some Gerber files include the Aperture list.

If your vendor is designing and building your PCB, you won’t have to worry about including these elements in your order.

Express Gratitude

If your PCB vendor is notoriously on-time and consistent with quality circuit boards, don’t hesitate to express your gratitude by buying circuit boards from that PCB vendor

Ensure Timely, Quality Products with the Right PCB Vendor

Although some delays or disparities may be challenging to avoid, there are numerous preventative measures one can take to ensure timely and superior PCB products nearly all the time. Consider assessing your own business operations first. 

Your PCB design quality and ability to provide all documents necessary to place the order play a critical role in both integrity of the finished printed circuit board and the timeliness of arrival. Then, consult with your vendor to resolve any remaining concerns. Should these strategies not minimize both implications, it may be time to find a new PCB vendor. 

Author Bio: 

Arthur Weng

Arthur is one of four Co-founders and Engineering Manager of Gerber Labs, an Orange County based engineering startup that is currently rolling out a platform that makes custom printed circuit boards (PCB’s) accessible to electrical engineering students, hobbyists and small businesses.

By Anurag Rathod

Anurag Rathod is an Editor of Appclonescript.com, who is passionate for app-based startup solutions and on-demand business ideas. He believes in spreading tech trends. He is an avid reader and loves thinking out of the box to promote new technologies.