The fabrication of a PCB prototype board is a three-step process, consisting of printing the silk screen to protect the desired copper traces, photoengraving to chemically etch away the unwanted copper and finally milling away of the copper using a PCB Prototyper machine. After each circuit connection is electrically tested, the board is then populated with the components, resulting in the finished prototype PCB assembly.
A PCB Prototype Machine, or PCB milling system, is a single machine that can perform all of the required actions to create a prototype PCB board. These systems allow for precise and rapid PCB prototyping by automating the milling and drilling of circuit board prototypes, completing the process in a matter of minutes. By comparison, outsourcing the fabrication of prototype PCB boards can add days to the development time and may not be an option if circuit design security is an issue. When planning the fabrication of PCB prototypes, remember the following guidelines:
1. If outsourcing, contact PCB prototype board suppliers capable of meeting your time and quality requirements.
2. Purchase PCB prototype equipment for the benefits of in-house fabrication.
3. If required, have your PCB prototype boards assembled lead-free.
Outsource your PCB prototyping workWhen staffing and/or equipment costs for in-house PCB prototyping outweigh production deadlines and any security concerns, then outsourcing is the better choice.
Save time and reduce security risks by making PCB prototypes in-houseEquipping your staff with a state-of-the-art PCB prototyping machine will pay off in the long run in terms of time saved getting your product to market.
Fabricate prototype PCB boards in compliance with the RoHS lead-free directiveIf you are building PCB assemblies for home appliances, toys, computers, power tools, communication gear, lighting, consumer electronics, sporting equipment, ATM machines, or vending machines, then the RoHS directive requires that the printed circuit board assemblies or these categories of items be manufactured without the use of lead (Pb). Interestingly, medical devices are generally exempt.
- If outsourcing, try to determine whether the plant is using current or dated equipment. Find out how much of the work, if any, that they in turn send out. Make sure they are able and willing to do flying probe testing and also bed of nails testing. Check for UL certification. Investigate the accuracy and fineness of their drilling.