The Prototype PCB Industry

Panelization enables Prototype Printed Circuit Board orders with similar specification to be placed together on a panel, allowing the following: i) less wasted material, ii) reduction of tooling overhead costs.

For several years, prototype PCB sellers in the United States have been utilizing board panelization to take down material and equipment rates. By using panelization, Prototype Printed Circuit Board orders with similar specification are placed together on a panel. The more boards on a panel, the less material wasted. The more orders grouped into a panel, the greater the spread of tooling overhead costs. To quickly fill the panels with Printed Circuit Board orders, most outlets request the circuit boards to have "standards specs" like FR4 Tg 130 material, 1 oz copper, green solder mask on both sides, white silkscreen (top, bottom or both sides). The two commonest finishes provided are tin/lead and lead-free.

Prices for prototype Circuit Board differ greatly among the stores that employ this panelization software. North American shops that do not have access to panelization software cannot compete in the prototype PCB's market. You can pay as low as $25 per board or as high as $300. The bigger the board and the shorter the lead time, the more you pay. Some sellers charge extra for electrical testing.

In China, board panelization technology has not become common yet. The sellers in China have traditionally focused on larger production runs. Their production costs are not as high. But now as they are getting more involved in the prototype Printed Circuit Board market, they will start panelizing boards.

PCB Unlimited in Portland, Oregon offers both US and offshore prototype PCBs. For more details click on Prototype Printed Circuit Board.

The unit prices for a minimum quantity of 4 boards are shown below.

US Prototype PCB Offshore Prototype PCB
2 Layers $25 - $100 (3 day turn) $15 - $25 (4 day turn)
4 Layers $50 - $130 (5 day turn) $35 - $45 (7 day turn)
6 Layers $90 - $100 (5 day turn) $70 - $90 (9 day turn)
8 Layers $140 - $240 (6 day turn) $100 - $120 (11 day turn)

According to Agustin Araujo, CEO of PCB Unlimited, the prototype printed circuit board industry is becoming more and more fragmented. Our goal is to offer the best possible solutions to all our customers including those who are price sensitive like students and hobbyists. The quality of the offshore prototype printed circuit boards is as good as the ones fabricated in the US. The lead times are not very long and the shipping cost from China to any location in the US and Canada is as low as $30.