Oct 9, 2019|Industry Applications, Product Innovations and Design

Engineers and technicians alike often wonder how much a printed circuit board (PCB) assembly costs, or how they can reduce the cost of their existing assembly operations. In this guide, we’ll answer the question “how much does PCB assembly cost” and will provide suggestions on how to save money on PCB assembly costs.

The average costs of Printed Circuit Board manufacturing vary based on materials, labor, turnaround, size of board, and production. Costs can range anywhere between $5 and $50 per board. Even “cheap” manufacturing can have unforeseen contracting costs.

What is the Cost Breakdown of PCB Assembly?

PCB assembly costs encompass the cost of labor, technology, turnaround time, packaging of parts, and the quantity of PCBs required. The use of a PCB manufacturing cost calculator can help you pinpoint the cost of the operation. However, most PCB assembly unit costs range between $10 and $50 depending on the number of units produced.

The quote above is a rough, ballpark estimate that does not include all tooling and setup charges. Overall, the cost of PCB assembly can vary widely by printed circuit board manufacturers. Below, we’ll break down some of the factors that affect the cost of PCB manufacturing and how they can be reduced.

Labor Costs

The labor costs of PCB assembly are impacted by the geographical location in which the circuit boards are made. Since PCB manufacturing involves skilled human processes, as well as automated machinery, the labor costs can be significant. Therefore, firms have an incentive to manufacture PCBs in regions where labor is cheaper.

For instance, a PCB assembled in South Asia is generally several times less expensive than one built in North America or Western Europe. If we assume a three-day turnaround time, the average assembly cost in North America is roughly $1,100 in US dollars. By contrast, the same quantity of circuit boards in the People’s Republic of China is $545.

However, overseas manufacturing can drive up costs due to shipping, handling, and communication delays. Therefore, cheap manufacturing can include unforeseen costs that need to be accounted for before contracting an overseas manufacturer.

Turnaround Time

When we’re asked “how much does PCB assembly cost” one of the first responses that come to mind is: what is the expected turnaround time? Turnaround time refers to the span of time that is required to complete the manufacturing process and satisfy the buyer’s request. As a rule, faster turnaround expectations come at a higher cost.

Buyers that demand short turnaround times can drive up the cost of PCB assembly by up to one-third (i.e., 33 percent or more). Short turnaround times tend to increase assembly pricing because it often requires firms to put a hold on existing orders to prioritize yours. Likewise, expedited shipping, which shortens the turnaround time, also costs more than regular shipping.


When it comes to manufacturing, higher quantities result in lower assembly costs due to economies of scale. In other words, when products are created at a larger scale, the unit price of each PCB drops significantly. This economic phenomenon occurs because many of the factors that drive up assembly prices, like startup costs and programming, only affect the initial units produced—all proceeding units can be created without swallowing these costs.

Increasing the quantity of PCBs produced can save firms money in the long-run by preventing one-time costs that don’t need to be reproduced. Therefore, you should always seek out manufacturers that can accommodate large order volumes.

PCBA Board Assembly Method

While PCB assembly is mounting electronic components to bare Printed Circuit Boards in order to make them semi-finished devices, PCBA manufacturing includes the full assembly process and testing. 

PCBA tests include a rigorous process that ensures product quality and customer satisfaction, ensuring the boards operate as intended. 

The PCBA process can be divided into:

  • Soldering past printing
  • Surface Mounted Technology or SMT
  • Reflow soldering
  • Automated Optical Inspection or AOI
  • THT (through-hole technology)
  • Wave soldering
  • Touch-up and cleaning
  • IC-programming
  • Functional testing
  • Age testing

The PCBA process can be a mess, as soldering past leaves behind flux residue and human handling can transfer oils and dirt to the PCB surface. Once the PCBA is complete, it’s important that the boards are placed through a stainless-steel high-pressure washing apparatus that uses deionized water. Without this process, the PCB solder joints could become damaged over time and customer satisfaction could dip if the boards are not cleaned. After a quick wash and drying cycle with compressed air, the finished PCBs are ready for shipment.

Surface-Mount Technology

The surface-mount technology (SMT) process involves mounting any electronic components to the surface of the board during the PCBA process. It’s automated, flexible, and allows for higher connection densities. This allows manufacturers to place complex circuitries into very small components. 

There are four basic SMT PCBA steps:

  • Preparing the PCB by placing solder paste on the board.
  • The assembler places components on the board using a pick-and-place machine.
  • The board is heated in a reflow oven until the solder past reaches the required temperature for solder joints to form.
  • All inspections are conducted throughout the SMT process, before and after attaching components and soldering.

Through-Hole Technology (THT)

Through-hole technology is a PCBA process that involves drilling holes in the board so that electronic leads can be attached. While it’s an older technology than SMT, it creates a stronger connection between the board and the components. This allows the assembler to make a more durable and reliable product.

THT can be semi-automated or fully automated. The THT process includes:

  • Drilling holes into the board that must be the right size for the electronic leads.
  • The assembler places the leads in the holes.
  • The soldiering process holds the components firmly in place.
  • The PCBA undergoes consistent inspections throughout the process to ensure the board functions as expected. 


Another key aspect of PCB assembly pricing is the type of technology used. On one hand, surface mount technology (SMT) can provide cost savings to manufacturers because setup costs are lower and automation is heavily involved. However, SMT can result in the need for through-hole drilling to fit additional surface mount devices (SMDs) which can skyrocket costs.

Parts Packaging

Some parts involve more labor to package and properly assemble. For instance, electric equipment like BGAs requires more time and effort to package because they must be connected to an electrical source. Since BGAs have electrical pins, assembly costs can shoot up dramatically since they must undergo an X-ray examination to check for short-circuiting.

PCB Board Assembly Price

Technicians and engineers need to know how expensive the development phase is going to be, but it depends on many factors. PCBA costs vary based on design complexity, product performance, and components. These quotes depend on the factors of each specific project and the complexity of your build. The total price of the final product depends on the quality of the components used, and your overall design. PCBA labor can be cost-effective overall if you use low overhead costs and automated systems.

General cost factors for assembly are calculated based on the current standard time of operation for 2024. Factors that affect cost include:

  • Rates: Hourly rates for SMT assembly, Axial/Radial assembly, Manual assembly, Testing/Other, and MFG Equipment
  • Manufacturing Parameters: SMT components (simple), SMT components (mid-complexity), SMT components ( high-complexity ), TH components, Manual placement.
  • Product/Board Parameters: Size of the board, SMT components complexity, TH components, Time for the manual TH parts insertion and soldering, test time, AOI inspection time, Conformal coating, PCB singulation, Label placement, Packaging.
  • Specific customer requirements for assembly.

Labor costs are also dependent on the skill of your laborers. The number of layers and size of your design will also affect its production costs—the average price of PCB assembly varies per square inch depending on the labor and design complexity. This number might also vary based on rates and overhead expenses. The total time is dependent on the size of your project, which includes the cost of manufacturing. Since the overall cost is based on rising labor costs and other expenses, the quote can vary widely based on the project.

Component Count and Complexity

Assembly time and cost is directly proportional to the number of components that need to be mounted. More complex components, such as BGAs or tiny passives, increase the overall cost.

Board Size and Layers

The size of a PCB affects its assembly time, with any larger boards requiring additional time. Double-sided and multi-layer boards also need more complex assembly equipment.

Soldering Process

Soldering technology, such as selective, manual, wave, or reflow, greatly affects automation, adding time and cost to the levels and throughput.

Testing Requirements

Any testing step (such as ICT, flying probe, AOI, X-ray) increases overall time and cost, though this also drastically reduces defects.

Location of Assembly

Location and labor drastically affect costs, such as going rates, facility expenses, and overhead. This is compounded based on the country and region of assembly.

Board Design

Volume, ease of assembly, and testability all factor into cost, with board design potentially reducing manufacturing costs.

What Is the Typical Cost per Assembled Board?

Board assembly prices vary widely based on a number of factors, with price being anywhere between $5 and $50 per board. This depends on complexity, design, order volume, automation, geography, labor, and more. Simpler boards in higher volumes might be anywhere between $2 and $10, though you always need to consider the quality of the manufacturer.

Still have doubts on how we can help you? Call us now and we will answer your questions.

What Percentage of Total Product Cost Is Assembly?

Printed circuit board assembly accounts for anywhere between 30% and 60% of the total production cost for electronics. While the lowest BOM components may only represent roughly 10% of the product price, some electronics require more complex boards whose labor, design, and materials drive up the total costs.

How To Save Money On PCB Assembly

PCB Design

Cutting costs on PCB assembly starts by knowing how to design PCBs optimally. There are many factors that determine the final price of bare PCBs, including the following:

  • Surface finish type
  • Size and shape
  • Layer count
  • Via technology

Each of the elements listed above can be redesigned to reduce costs when manufacturing PCBs. For instance, “vias” are responsible for building connections on the circuit board. Whether you opt for blind via or a buried via will have an effect on the price of the product.

PCB Layout Estimation

There are many tasks involved in ensuring a project’s success, which inexperienced designers might not be familiar with. Dense high-speed digital boards or advanced PCB layouts require other factors to ensure a successful layout. These factors are sometimes not considered or factored into the base assembly quote, which can lead to project overruns or abandonment.

Here are a few factors that can affect a PCB layout project cost:

  • Part count and net count can provide a better starting point for estimating PCB cost.
  • Highest pin count and smallest-pitch BGA are components that require careful planning and strategy to ensure proper layout.
  • Higher layers in a component can make layout easier, but it depends on copper pour requirements.
  • Some digital interfaces might require specific design rules, to ensure performance metrics are met.
  • There are unique RF structures such as bandgaps, waveguides, and passive circuits that require very careful design and layout—these may have additional requirements that drive up costs.
  • If available footprints/layouts need to be created from scratch.
  • Additional engineering design services can be a separate quote.
  • Schematic design, layout, routing, documentation, assembly prep, and simulation can all add to the total estimated cost.

Comprehensive Bill of Materials

Create a bill of materials (BOM) that encompasses all the components and subparts required for manufacturing the PCB. We suggest using this PCB design checklist to determine whether your BOM includes all necessary items, including assemblers, part numbers, reference designators, and footprints. A good BOM should also include replacement parts for each component.

Order Time & Quantity

Volume and order time are critical factors that determine a product’s price. Generally, the higher the order volume, the less the unit price will be due to economies of scale. Only select manufacturers that can satisfy your company’s order volume and turnaround time—be as lenient as possible with order times to keep costs minimal while still adhering to your product’s PCB design limits.

Inspection & Testing

It’s not worth diminishing costs if it requires your product quality to diminish as well. Therefore, you must always test and inspect your product so that no faulty PCBs make their way to the market. Otherwise, you may find that the cost of fulfilling refunds and damaging client relationships outweighs any cost savings by skipping out on proper inspections.

Be sure to use a trace width calculator to accurately control the temperature of the traces in the PCB’s internal and external layers. With a proper inspection protocol, you can minimize long-term risk for your company and ensure that your circuitry is responsive and adaptive to different temperature environments.

Author Profile

Sunny Patel
Sunny Patel is the Engineering and Sales Manager at Candor Industries. Sunny is trained as a IPC-A-600 trainer, AS9100 Lead auditor, IPC CID and got his Engineering degree at the University of Toronto.