Printed Circuit Board is the core component of virtually any electronic product, serving the primary purpose of housing components and enabling electrical connections. However, when it comes to PCB in the industrial sector, it often receives more attention than you might think.
I used to work at a PCBA company, and when we received inquiries from customers, the boss would frequently review the emails to assess the customer’s quality standards. Surprisingly, if it was clear that the customer operated in the industrial sector, it would receive greater attention compared to those in consumer electronics or other areas. Why does this phenomenon occur?
Importance of Industrial PCB
PCB used in the industrial sector, often referred to as an industrial PCB or an industrial control board, is a computer motherboard designed specifically for industrial automation and control systems. In modern industrial production, the PCB board is responsible for controlling and monitoring various production processes and equipment so any malfunction could lead to significant economic losses.
An industrial control PCB board must accommodate a wide range of complex circuits, including digital circuits, analog circuits, high-speed communication circuits, and embedded control circuits, and require the integration of numerous components on the board. To meet these requirements, multi-layer designs are commonly used, placing more circuit layers in the inner layers. However, as the number of PCB layers increases, manufacturing complexity and material costs also rise, making an industrial PCB potentially several tens or even hundreds of times more expensive than those used in consumer electronics.
Furthermore, in the industrial sector, a PCB faces various threats from extreme environments. Mechanical vibrations and impacts generated by various production equipment during operation can lead to issues such as solder joint fractures, component detachment, or connection failures on the PCB. Additionally, the presence of powerful electromagnetic fields due to the use of large electrical conversion devices like motors in factory facilities poses a significant risk of equipment interference. When faults occur, the high cost of repairs is just one aspect of the problem. Industrial users typically engage in B2B business collaborations and may have specific delivery timeframes defined in contracts. If an internal component failure results in a production interruption or a delay in delivery, it not only affects a company’s reputation but can also lead to a contractual breach.
Manufacturers' Fondness for Industrial PCB
Capitalists are unwavering profit seekers in the business world, typically showing no hesitation in pursuing any opportunities that may enhance their profitability. In this context, industrial PCB projects have become an area that piques their great interest.
Firstly, unlike the consumer electronics market, industrial PCB projects are often more complex and technologically challenging. Clients in this domain are often reluctant to switch suppliers easily because the design and production of industrial control boards require multiple adjustments and technical support. This also adds stability to long-term collaborations with manufacturers.
Secondly, the PCB industry places a stronger emphasis on a win-win philosophy. There is a high degree of mutual interdependence between clients and manufacturers, as the success of client companies directly impacts the performance of PCB manufacturers. In the consumer electronics market, where competition is fierce, clients are often more susceptible to external pressures, which may then be conveyed to manufacturers, especially smaller-scale manufacturers.
Furthermore, while PCB belong to the essential products market with high demand, most manufacturers primarily serve the domestic market. For example, in China, those manufacturers you find on the internet may be intermediaries, and their companies might not exceed 20 people. Opting for industrial PCB projects to achieve greater profits without expanding their scale is evidently the right choice.
How to Choose an Industrial PCB Manufacturer
For such an expensive PCB, opting for a local manufacturer is a wiser choice. This allows you to gain practical insights into their production capabilities and ensure reliability through an on-site visit, which is challenging with overseas production. However, if you’ve already decided to outsource your industrial control board manufacturing overseas, here are a few recommendations:
If cost is not your top concern, working with a broker can be an effective strategy. A harsh reality of overseas production is that intermediaries are challenging to entirely eliminate. In such cases, it’s better to find a reputable intermediary. These companies provide a “service,” and you can have a good experience with them as they closely follow every aspect of production and provide well-organized documentation, given their expertise in this field.
Inspect the manufacturer’s internal setup to ensure they have an independent engineering team. We’ve emphasized the price and complexity of industrial PCBs. If your partner has an independent engineering team, it will assist you in addressing both aspects. They can provide component alternatives and help you review and even upgrade designs.
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