What are the benefits and limitations of custom PCB boards?
With electronic devices becoming more complex and with their need to fit into small spaces on account of miniaturization, custom PCB boards are becoming increasingly popular. A custom PCB can be used to integrate circuits while saving space for the most complex devices.
However, it is important to remember that custom PCBs aren’t the panacea to all issues as they come with their own benefits and limitations. Let us look at both in some detail:
Benefits of custom PCB Boards
The big advantages of custom PCBs include:
- They ensure that you can incorporate condensed circuitry in small spaces. The fact that you can design a printed circuit board as per your size and shape requirements, it is a definite plus given the shrinking size of electronic appliances.
- The big advantage with a custom PCB is also that you can control the location of every component. Also, you are also not just limited to through-hole components. Among other things, with this kind of control the parasitic properties of the circuits can be mitigated.
- With due emphasis laid on quality in producing a custom board, durability of the board is high.
- With automated production not only is labor cost kept under check, the probability of repeatability also increases.
- With legends being directly printed on the board there is no need for decals.
- With integrated LED lights functionality can be easily verified.
- There is also a benefit from the appearance of the device since a custom designed PCB looks very professional. Clients & investors therefore perceive the product highly.
- In terms of cost, the general view is that the cost of a custom PCB boards is higher, however, this isn’t always the case if you take into account long term factors such as the fact that they need less rework, you could use the Gerber and schematics files to build other prototypes and more. In the long run, therefore, you tend to benefit from the cost of the board.
Limitations of custom PCB Boards
Disadvantages of custom PCBs stem from the fact that:
- The initial design time required is high.
- You need to be careful as high amperage can negatively impact the PCB.
- It is sometimes difficult to troubleshoot on account of the enclosures that you need to provide.
- It is important to understand that custom PCBs do not score high in terms of flexibility. PCB technology is extremely dynamic. Hence the chances of the design becoming obsolete are extremely high too.
- With quick time-to-market being a big source of competitive advantage, custom PCBs tend to lose out as the initial design time is high. If you are working against tight timelines, therefore, custom PCBs may not be your best bet.
- If you are looking at low volume operations, once again custom PCB boards may not be your best bet.
- Similarly, if your design requires frequent changes, custom PCBs are not likely to be your go-to option.
To sum up
Whether or not you should go in for a custom PCB depends on a wide variety of factors. Some of the factors to consider include how complex your project is, what kind of volumes you are looking at and more. Also, custom PCBs involve a certain initial cost as well as involve a certain time. However, what also needs to be given due weightage is the fact that custom PCBs come with a robustness and that the PCB design can be easily recycled.
In making a decision for a custom PCB what you need to ensure is the choice of the right electronic contract manufacturer. It is imperative that you go with a contract manufacturer who has the requisite experience and is equipped with the necessary industry best practices. This will ensure that you do not need to reinvent the wheel. An experienced contract manufacturer will also ensure that the PCB is tested thoroughly so that there are no errors at a later stage. What is also guaranteed when you go with the right contract manufacturer is their quick turnaround time as well as the fact that they offer you superior customer service.
Technotronix is one of the leading PCB manufacturers in the USA, providing custom, lead-free and RoHS compliant PCB manufacturing solutions. Whether your requirement is for prototypes or large production runs, we have you covered.