July 3, 2018

Building a printed circuit board (PCB) requires numerous steps, man-hours, and resources. These small green boards with copper maze-like patterns must be manufactured carefully, down to the tiniest detail. One missed step could result in the PCB faulting and not functioning as intended – running an electronic device.

As you plan and submit your design to your PCB manufacturer, keep in mind all of the details that contribute to the overall cost of the board. From the board size to the thickness of the materials, every decision regarding the look and feel of the board will influence the price.

Let’s take a look at some of the factors that cause the cost of a PCB to fluctuate.

PCB Manufacturing Cost Breakdown

When determining the cost of manufacturing a PCB, there are two costs to consider – the primary and secondary costs. Here are the primary costs that are significant factors in shaping the price.

Board Size

One of the most significant factors in the cost of the PCB is the size of the board. The bigger the board, the more materials and resources are required, resulting in a higher price.

Number of Layers

Expect to have a more expensive PCB if the board requires additional layers. When you start adding layers, compared to a standard single or double-sided PCB, again, more resources and materials are needed. Multi-layered boards can quickly become more complicated, which will increase the price. The price jump fluctuates depending on how many additional layers you need.

Number of Holes and Size

Manufactures drill holes into the layers of the board to help with the alignment processes, as well as for the electrical connections between the layers. The type of hole needed (blind vias, buried vias, or through holes) will dictate the cost of the board. Also, the size of the hole is significant as that will determine which machine is used. Typically, smaller holes will require laser drilling, which will greatly increase the price.

Lead Time

When it comes to manufacturing a PCB, time is money. The more complex your design is, the more time it will take to manufacture. The result will be a higher cost to make up for the additional time needed to complete.

Trace Width/Spacing

If the design of your board requires minimal amounts of space as possible, expect to see a price jump. The same goes for the trace width – the finer the width, the more expensive it will be. Use a trace width calculator to determine the measurements of the width and spacing.

Material Type

The materials used to manufacture your PCB will influence the price due to the cost of the materials themselves. FR-4 (fiberglass and materials brought together with an epoxy resin) is the most common material used.

Thickness

The thickness of the material dictates the price due to the amount of the material needed. A PCB requires copper, and it is measured in oz. The higher the oz., the more copper your board requires. Between 1 and 2 oz. range is standard.

Board Standard

The standard of board an electronic device requires will influence to cost of manufacturing the PCB. The level of IPC Class 2 is relatively standard across the majority of electronics. However, if you move into an IPC Class 3 or Military standards, expect to see an increase in price.

Soldermask Color

Green is the standard soldermask color (the finishing color you see on the board). Other color options are available, but deviating from the standard will add a small price increase.

Surface Finish

The finish of the board can be done in a variety of ways. You can have a gold, tin, nickel, silver, organic preservatives, or a hot air solder finish. Depending on which one you choose, the price may increase.

Quantity

Lastly, the number of boards you require can influence the overall cost. Some companies offer discounts with higher quantities. Also, be mindful of a minimum quantity amount requirement on your order.