How Much Does PCB Prototyping Cost?

Table of Contents

cost analystic

The total cost of an electronic product prototype usually includes the cost of the printed circuit board (PCB), component cost, assembly cost, and housing cost.

The cost of product prototype mainly includes two parts: “engineering cost” and “processing cost”.

For most product prototypes, engineering costs will dominate, especially as product complexity has a large impact on engineering costs.

The engineering cost of a simple product may be only tens of thousands of RMB, while the engineering cost of a truly complex product may be as high as hundreds of thousands or even millions of RMB.

Therefore, the best way to reduce prototyping costs is to simplify the product as early as possible, and seemingly “simple” features often greatly increase the complexity and cost of development.

When it comes time to buy injection molds to mass-produce enclosures (plastic or metal), even simple operations like button placement can cost you tens of thousands of RMB.

There are mainly 15 steps in electronic product design, including the cost of certification, which need to be calculated:

  • Define your product based on your market research;
  • Understand the costs and barriers to bringing products to market;
  • Develop your plan to overcome these costs and obstacles;
  • Choose your development strategy and team;
  • Electronic part: design of circuit schematic diagram;
  • Generate Bill of Materials (BOM) for electronic equipment;
  • Design printed circuit boards (PCBs) for electronic products;
  • Develop electronic firmware and software;
  • Design for product housing: 3D model;
  • Obtain independent design reviews of electronics and enclosures;
  • PCB prototypes for electronic products;
  • product shell prototype;
  • Evaluate PCB prototypes, modify as needed;
  • Evaluate enclosure prototypes and modify as needed;
  • Get the required certifications: 3C, FCC, RoHS, etc.
  • Reducing product complexity can greatly reduce all of these costs, allowing products to be brought to market on a limited budget.

Design engineers are generally charged by the hour, which is also affected by the location, work experience and years, education level, field of expertise, and the success of previous projects.

Good engineers may work twice as fast and produce higher quality work, both of which will lower your overall cost.

Regardless of their location or level of experience, if you don’t have the experience to judge the quality of their work, you’ll have to have other independent engineers review their work.

For most products, you will need at least one electrical engineer, one programmer and one structural engineer.

1. Electronic prototype

What you will pay for a prototype of a printed circuit board PCB depends on many variables. Most PCBs need to be made of four layers, of course adding more layers can help reduce board size, but it will increase the cost of the board.

Although board cost increases with board size, the number of layers has a greater impact on cost.

Advanced PCB techniques such as blind and buried vias can also be used to further reduce board size, but these techniques add thousands of dollars to prototyping costs, so use them only when absolutely necessary.

In addition to the cost of production and assembly of circuit boards, there is also the cost of electronic components.

But for most products, the cost of these components is the lowest, and the total cost of several boards is usually less than one hundred RMB.

In order to clarify the cost structure of the product, processing testing and logistics costs also need to be converted into the BOM.

The price factors that affect PCBA circuit boards mainly include: component procurement, PCB manufacturing, SMT chip processing, DIP plug-ins and PCBA testing.

PCBA circuit board cost:

PCB circuit board fee + PCB testing fee + PCB engineering fee (for small batches);
component purchase cost;
SMT/DIP welding cost;
PCBA testing fee + assembly engineering fee (for small batches) + special packaging and logistics fee.

1. PCB cost

PCBA circuit board assembly and processing requires you to provide PCB files and BOM lists. The PCBA assembly and processing factory will make PCB bare boards according to the PCB files, and determine the cost of PCB circuit boards according to the difficulty of the process.

PCB circuit board design has considerable complexity, and it is necessary to ensure the precision and accuracy of manufacturing.

Manufacturing costs depend on the design and the purpose of the PCB, and there are many real-world factors that affect PCB board cost.

Generally, the three most influential factors that affect the cost of manufacturing a PCB are the size of the board, the number of layers, and the type of material used.

1) Eight factors that must be considered when determining the cost of PCB manufacturing

Material selection for PCBs: A typical PCB is laminated with FR4 material, but this is not sufficient for high-strength applications. For example, in the fuel or aerospace industries.
The actual size of the PCB itself: The size of the PCB affects its final cost, which is the second key factor that affects the overall price of the PCB.
Number of layers in a PCB design: The more layers, the higher the cost. Of course, this is also one of the factors that determine the price. The logic here is that the more layers there are, the more the number of production steps (lamination process) needs to be increased, and the more time and resources it takes to complete the manufacturing process.
Types of PCB Finishes: The finish chosen for the PCB design affects cost, although this is a secondary factor, but some higher grade finishes can increase the shelf life of the PCB.
The size of the holes on the PCB: The size and quantity of the holes on the PCB will affect the final production cost, and the size (design) of the holes on the PCB is the key determining factor affecting the cost.
Minimum Trace Width and Spacing: Regardless of board size, there is often a correlation between trace width and current-carrying capability. The need for wider (thicker) traces will require more material and work, although other factors can affect current carrying capacity.
PCB Thickness and Aspect Ratio: There is a fairly direct correlation between price and board thickness. In more detail, thicker materials can lead to higher costs for sourcing, laminating, and forming the PCB.
Custom or Special Specifications: Custom or unique specifications can also add cost. So, use simulation to better understand your likely board costs and subsequent design requirements before making any final design decisions.
2) PCB bulk quotation

PCB batch quotation is not only related to the number of layers, customized quantity, plate and surface coating process of the circuit board, but also related to the minimum line width, minimum line spacing, minimum hole diameter, number of holes, and shape processing methods of the circuit board. Therefore, it is necessary to provide detailed process information of the circuit board in order to make accurate PCB batch quotation.

So, how does the circuit board industry calculate the price for PCB bulk quotations?

① Small batches are calculated by size and price

PCB manufacturers will give the unit price per square centimeter according to the different layers and processes of the PCB.

Customers only need to convert the size of the PCB into centimeters, and then multiply the unit price per square centimeter to get the unit price of the PCB they need to produce.

This calculation method is very suitable for small batches of PCBs with ordinary processes.

for example:

PCB single panel, FR4 material, 2000 PCS order, the unit price is 0.03 yuan/square centimeter, the PCB size is 10cm*10cm, the production quantity is 2000PCS, the unit price is equal to 10*10*0.03=3 yuan/PCS.

② Large quantities are calculated according to the cost and refined price

The raw material of PCB is copper clad laminate, and the manufacturer of copper clad laminate has formulated some fixed sizes for sale in the market.

PCB manufacturers will calculate the copper clad laminate utilization rate of the corresponding batch of circuit boards according to the parameters of the circuit board to be produced, such as the material, layer number, process, quantity, etc., and then calculate the material cost, plus the corresponding labor cost and profit. Order PCS price.

For this kind of quotation, it is suitable for large quantities of PCB circuit board orders.

③ Mould fee and test stand fee

Regardless of whether it is a high-volume or small-volume PCB circuit board manufacturing, there is a mold fee and a test stand fee for bulk quotations.

When the PCB circuit board is made in large quantities, it is required to open the mold and punch the board, so there is a set of mold costs.

The PCB circuit board needs to open the test frame for testing in batches, and the corresponding test frame fee needs to be charged.

However, usually the circuit board manufacturer will refund the mold fee and the test frame fee when the annual order payment for a single board reaches a certain amount.

2. Component purchase cost

The second part of the cost of PCBA circuit board processing is the cost of component procurement.

The PCBA manufacturer purchases the components you need according to the BOM list you provide. When purchasing components, due to the loss of materials such as resistors and capacitors and the loss of SMT, it is necessary to cover about 5% of the material loss. Usually PCBA assembly and processing manufacturers have long-term cooperation with component suppliers, so the price will be lower. .

3. SMT chip processing fee (SMD chip + DIP plug-in)

To calculate the SMT chip processing cost, it depends on your processing volume. Small batches usually require additional engineering fees.

Next, multiply the points by the point unit price. The unit price of the patch point is between 0.01-0.015 yuan. The number of points is calculated according to 2 feet of SMT patch material and 1 point of 1 foot of DIP plug-in, and the two can be multiplied.

The price of SMT chip processing is currently almost in the transparent stage, and the algorithm of how much a point is very simple.

For example, a quotation from a factory:

2 feet of SMD patch material is 1 point; 0402 components are calculated at RMB 0.018 per point, and 0603-1206 components are calculated at RMB 0.015 per point;
1 foot of the plug-in material is 1 point; each point is calculated as RMB 0.015;
4 pins of socket type are 1 point; each point is calculated as RMB 0.015;
Ordinary IC, 4 pins are 1 point; each point is calculated as RMB 0.015;
For dense pin IC, 2 pins are 1 point; each point is calculated as RMB 0.015;
2 feet of BGA is 1 point; each point is calculated as RMB 0.02;
Machine-mounted large materials are calculated according to the volume of the components doubled;
The additional fee is calculated at RMB 20 per hour.
The information required for SMT chip processing quotation includes BOM list, PDF patch image, sample image, etc., which can provide a more accurate quotation.

The main purpose of SMT chip processing is to mount SMD components on the pads of the PCB. Some companies count one pad as one point, but there are also cases where two pads are counted as one point.

In the simplest mode, if a pad is calculated as a point, customers only need to multiply the unit price according to the number of pads on their own PCB.

The next step is to determine the unit price of the solder joint, if you need to know the SMT processing cost.

The basis of PCBA assembly is the PCB circuit board, which is an important electronic component and the carrier of electronic components. Because it is made by electronic printing, it is often called a printed circuit board.

PCBA is a PCB with components assembled. The current assembly component technology is generally divided into two types, SMT patch and DIP plug-in technology, and SMT is currently the most popular technology and process in the electronic assembly industry.

SMT surface mount technology is a kind of surface mount components that are packaged in a matrix arrangement without pins or short leads or balls on the surface of the PCB circuit board or the surface of other substrates, and are soldered by reflow soldering or dip soldering. Assembled circuit assembly techniques.

SMT processing cost:

Materials: solder paste, flux, glue, cleaning agent, etc.;
Man-hours: PCB layout, number of patches, etc.;
Labor: SMT does not need a lot of people, about 3-4 people per line;
Equipment: The investment depends on the complexity of the product, which requires electricity and inert gas;
Others: The workshop needs anti-static, installation of air conditioners, ventilation and gas exchange, etc.
SMT chip processing cost: points X unit price of one point + solder paste, AOI inspection fee + download calibration fee + composite board cutting fee + stencil fee.

In SMT placement, charge by point + stencil + solder paste cost + download calibration + cutting board cost is a very classic algorithm.

At present, the unit price of solder joints in the market is different, ranging from 0.008 to 0.03 yuan per solder joint, which depends on the technological difficulty of SMT processing and the SMT manufacturer’s SMT quality control requirements and capabilities.

Often cheap, there may be no testing link, no material inspection link, it is difficult to guarantee the quality of the entire batch of SMT patches, and the consistency and reliability of the product will also have great late-stage hidden dangers.

Manufacturers with slightly higher chip prices will have quality control processes and can provide better delivery cycles and services.

Usually the processing of PCB samples is charged according to the number of items. Orders within 100 pieces are SMT proofing orders, the difficulty of the board, the time to do the program, and the time to switch on the machine are different, and the fees charged are also different, usually ranging from 600 yuan to 8,000 yuan.

After the order of small batch SMT placement processing is calculated by the number of points, the type of board components, the time to debug the placement machine, and the difficulty of making the first piece will be charged with a little start-up fee.

SMT patch needs to use steel mesh. According to the size of the PCB board, different types of steel mesh need to be opened.

According to the precision of the chip on the PCBA board, choose electropolished steel mesh or ordinary steel mesh. The cost of stencils for different types of stencils is about 100~350.

Of course, customers can also provide stencils themselves.

Based on the above, the calculation of SMT chip processing fee is SMT chip processing fee = point * 1 point unit price (processing fee includes: red glue, solder paste, AOI inspection, etc.), and stencil fee is also required. In addition, if the customer needs to apply conformal paint, then the cost of conformal paint needs to be added. Of course, special circumstances are treated specially, and special processes are also calculated separately.

4. PCBA testing fee and assembly fee

The cost of PCBA testing mainly includes testing labor cost + fixture + auxiliary materials.

The cost of testing labor is calculated on an hourly basis. The cost of making test fixtures mainly depends on market conditions. The auxiliary materials are mainly oscilloscopes and computers.

Adding them together can get the PCBA test cost, and adding the above 4 parts together is the PCBA circuit board processing cost.

Second, the shell prototype

Case cost depends on whether you need a custom design or if you can use a stock or reference case.

The stock or public version shell usually only costs a few RMB, which is the cost of a single material.

Custom housing prototypes will cost thousands of RMB and may generally involve open mold machining, depending on size, complexity and number of parts required.

3. Conclusion

All of these costs will be greatly reduced as production increases, and the cost of the prototype should not be confused with the cost of manufacturing the product.

Even going from 2 units to 20 units can have a huge impact on the unit price.

The most important thing is that you need to put a lot of effort into simplifying the product to make it more feasible to prototype and ultimately bring to market.

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About Author

Aidan Taylor
Aidan Taylor

I am Aidan Taylor and I have over 10 years of experience in the field of PCB Reverse Engineering, PCB design and IC Unlock.

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