Prototype circuit boards are used in the design of many products. Common products that currently have prototype circuit boards inside of them include radios, TVs, mobile phones, and even computers. However, the usage of them expands across many industries and the possibilities are endless. If you have a design in mind, it is likely that it will require some amount of PCB design services. The question then becomes, do you create the PCB fabrication yourself, or do you outsource the design services?
Consider your capabilities
The first question that you should ask yourself is if you are capable of creating a circuit board prototyping project. How much experience do you have with prototype designs? How advanced are your skills? Can you implement the needed design services and changes? Will you have the ability to duplicate the design, once it is finished? These are all important components of the prototype circuit boards design. If you are not confident in your abilities, you might find it more beneficial to outsource the needed designs to a PCB fabrication company.
Is this your most important project at the time?
Your technological capabilities are not everything. Even the most simplest of prototype circuit boards designs take some time to complete. You have to play around with the design patterns, levels, and legends to achieve the desired product. If you have other projects on your task list, this might not be the best usage of your time. Spending time on the design processes could prevent you from completing other important projects. Weight the pros and cons of your current project load base and evaluate if outsourcing is a better way to manage your time.
Do you have the materials needed to print?
Prototype printed circuit boards can be printed with different materials. They also require different materials to solder together. For example, there are a variety of soldering techniques used to attach components to a PCB. High volume production is usually done with SMT placement machine and bulk wave soldering or reflow overs, but skilled technicians are able to solder very tiny parts (for instance packages which are 0.02 in by 0.01 in). If your prototype circuit boards require specific soldering or tiny part designs, it might be more beneficial to outsource to a professional soldering technician.
How quickly you require print turn around
When you choose to design and print your own circuit boards, it is likely to take longer. You do not have as much manpower and a limited amount of resources. Quick turn PCBs generally require that you outsource. Outsourcing means that there are higher volume machines available for things like soldering, printing, and then designing. They have the ability to turn projects around at a much quicker pace. If time is a sensitive factor, a quick turn PCB manufacturing product is likely best.
As mentioned, the majority of individual project technicians have a limited amount of resources available to them. PCB fabrication manufacturing often requires the usage of a warehouse to control temperatures of equipment used. Temperatures that cannot be controlled can cause damage to the prototype circuit boards. The Temperature Marker material is opaque initially but when 413 degrees Fahrenheit (212 degree Celsius) is reached, the material liquefies and becomes shiny, non reversibly. Another important resource found only in warehouse settings is stencils. Framed stencils have smooth aperture walls and can be used for 16 Mil pitch and below for Micro BGAs.
Circuit board prototypes are used in many everyday technological products. Putting a initial idea into design requires the careful and complex design of a prototype printed circuit board. Once the design is entirely completed, it must then be printed. The entire process can be costly and timely, which is why many choose to outsource it. Choosing to outsource your PCB design and print services is a big decision that should be carefully evaluated. You should take into account your ability to do such advanced designs, the amount of time needed, your entire project workload, and your current resources available.