Guidelines to Help You Reduce Your Flexible PCB Costs

Flexible PCB is extensively employed in the electronics industry due to their numerous benefits, including space efficiency, weight reduction, flexibility, and durability. However, they tend to be pricier compared to other types of circuit boards. As an electronic engineer, cost-saving considerations are crucial for project success and maximizing profitability. In this article, TechSparks will delve into the cost factors of flex PCB, providing valuable insights to help you achieve cost reduction objectives.

Aspects of Estimating Flexible PCB Price

Material

Designers must meticulously consider material selection, as it profoundly impacts the functionality and performance of the final product. Additionally, the variety of materials chosen significantly influences manufacturing costs.

  • Substrate: Flexible PCB manufacturing involves four substrate materials, ranked by price in the following order under similar conditions: polyimide amide > polyimide > polyamide > polyester film.
  • Conductive layer: Employs metal foil as its material, with commonly available options including copper foil, aluminum foil, and stainless steel foil.
  • Adhesives: Are utilized to securely bond different layers of the flexible PCB together. Opting for superior materials enhances the overall structural stability, but comes at a higher cost. Arranged by price, the order is as follows: polyimide adhesive > epoxy resin > double-sided adhesive > non-conductive glue.
  • Electronic components: The number of components utilized is also a crucial factor affecting the pricing of building a flexible PCBA.

Layers

Flexible PCBs are available in single-layer, double-layer, and multi-layer configurations, each with its own cost implications. The number of layers directly affects the overall price, making it a crucial factor in cost estimation. This consideration is influenced by several key aspects.

  • Materials: Utilizing additional layers requires an increased amount of materials, including extra copper layers, prepreg, and core material.
  • Time: Constructing flexible multilayer PCB boards involves a stacking process, which demands more time for building the inner layers. This can potentially lead to delays. However, given the significance of time to market, expedited fees may be necessary to ensure prompt delivery.
  • Failure rate: Manufacturing flexible circuits is inherently more challenging than rigid circuits. The complexity further escalates with multi-layer configurations, resulting in higher costs for rework or repair.

Fixtures and Test

Due to the flexible nature of substrates used in flexible PCB fabrication, the use of jigs is essential to firmly secure them in place and achieve precise layer alignment. Testing is used to ensure production quality.

  • Fixtures: Flexible PCB manufacturers often offer a one-time milling fee for fixtures during the prototyping phase. However, once the project transitions to mass production, a milling fee will be levied.
  • Testing: The testing fee encompasses the production of test fixtures, the specific test type, and the level of testing conducted. Common tests include electrical testing, impedance testing, and environmental testing. It is widely acknowledged that intricate designs and stringent testing requirements necessitate more advanced fixtures, resulting in higher testing expenses. As a result, the overall cost of flex PCB manufacturing increases.

Delivery Time

Electronics manufacturers prioritize project lead time just as much as they prioritize quality. Shorter lead times provide manufacturers with greater flexibility to adapt production plans and respond to dynamic market demands. However, expedited turnarounds often entail higher costs.

  • Labor costs: Expedited production and reduced lead times can be advantageous for flex PCB manufacturers. However, the capacity of production facilities is limited. To accelerate production and meet tight deadlines, manufacturers may need to compensate workers for prioritizing tasks and working overtime, leading to increased labor costs.
  • Shipping costs: The time required for prototype PCB fabrication is usually brief, with a significant portion of the timeline allocated to shipping. Opting for faster shipping methods can expedite product delivery but may also result in higher shipping expenses. Various transportation options, such as express delivery, air freight, sea freight, and land transportation, come with different price points.

Manufacturing Difficulty

The manufacturing difficulty of flexible PCB is influenced by various factors, including design complexity, the number of layers, board thickness, component size and spacing, and required tolerances. A more intricate design that necessitates tighter tolerances and smaller components typically demands advanced equipment and a highly skilled workforce for successful production. Specific design features like blind and buried vias, microvias, and close-pitch components may require specialized manufacturing processes such as laser drilling.

Moreover, manufacturing difficulty directly impacts the yield of the production process. If a design proves more challenging to manufacture, it may result in a lower yield, requiring the production of additional boards to meet the desired quantity. Consequently, flex PCB price is increased due to the additional materials, labor, and equipment needed to manufacture a larger number of boards.

Strategies for Reducing the Cost of Flex PCB

In the above TechSparks has introduced the components of flexible PCB cost. Now, let us delve into strategies to reduce these costs and maximize profits.

  • Inventory management: Optimize production batches based on demand and inventory levels. This approach allows for cost reduction through mass production while avoiding excessive inventory pressure.
  • Surface treatment: Various surface treatment options are available for flexible circuit boards, such as HASL, nickel-gold plating, tin plating, and OSP. While HASL is a cost-effective method, it may pose challenges in high-density circuits, leading to uneven soldering. Therefore, it is crucial to choose the appropriate surface treatment based on specific project requirements, rather than solely considering cost.
  • Effective planning: Detailed project scheduling is essential to avoid expedited production, which can increase costs. Careful planning ensures a well-paced and cost-efficient manufacturing process.
  • Online quotation: Engage with different types of manufacturers, including service providers, brokers, and those offering online quotations. Manufacturers providing online quotations often offer more competitive pricing options.
  • Circuit optimization: Conduct circuit optimization based on flexible PCB design guidelines. This includes optimizing panel utilization, nesting and layout, and verifying circuit board indicators using Design for Manufacturability (DFM) principles. By reducing faults and buried vias, significant cost savings can be achieved.

Online Quotation for Cheap Flex PCB

In this section, TechSparks will highlight three manufacturers that offer online quotation services for PCB manufacturing. Choosing the right manufacturer is crucial, and their flex PCB cost estimator serves as a valuable benchmark for your decision-making process.

PCBGOGO

pcbgogo flexible PCB online quotation page

PCBgogo is a prominent Chinese PCBA manufacturer that offers comprehensive global services for rapid prototyping and assembly, including flexible PCBs. Since its establishment in 2015, PCBgogo has garnered a commendable reputation within the industry.

By utilizing PCBgogo’s services, customers can obtain high-quality circuit boards with accelerated turnaround times. These boards adhere to the ISO 9001:2015 quality management system and UL certification standards. While their flexible PCB quotations may not always be the lowest, PCBgogo prioritizes service excellence and top-notch quality.

One notable advantage is its user-friendly online quotation system. Customers can simply upload their design files and receive an instant quotation. This convenient and efficient process allows for cost evaluation and facilitates seamless budget planning.

ALLPCB

allpcb flexible PCB online quotation page

AllPCB, a renowned Chinese flexible PCB manufacturer, is dedicated to driving industry development and innovation. They actively engage in technology research and development while establishing strategic partnerships with industry collaborators, thus offering cutting-edge circuit solutions.

Equipped with advanced production equipment and a skilled technical team, they can meet the diverse requirements of customers for complex PCB projects. Their comprehensive services encompass rapid prototyping, low volume production, assembly, and component sourcing. AllPCB stands out for its unwavering commitment to superior quality, dependable lead times, and exceptional customer service.

By choosing AllPCB, customers can trust that they will receive cheap flexible PCB solutions.

PCBASTORE

PCBAStore, established in 2006, is a high-tech enterprise that specializes in providing professional PCB design, manufacturing, and assembly services to its customers. With a strong focus on PCBA manufacturing, they leverage advanced SMT equipment, high-speed placement machines, automatic presses, and 10-temperature reflow soldering machines sourced from renowned German and Japanese brands.

Their manufacturing capabilities encompass a wide range of products, including rigid PCB with 2-40 layers, flexible PCB with 1-8 layers, and rigid-flex boards. Additionally, they excel in producing HDI PCBs, high-frequency boards, and metal substrates, offering a diverse selection to meet various requirements.

The company boasts a team of experienced experts who are dedicated to providing exceptional service. When you engage their services, they offer a complimentary engineering document review service for your order. Furthermore, you can conveniently track the production and processing status of your order at any time through the online account panel.

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