HOW DO I LOWER MY BOARD COST?

White paper by Steve Hodge

and Stelios Androulidakis

SAE Circuits Colorado, Inc.

9/16/13

 

Depending on details such as layer count and material types, boards can vary in cost greatly. In most cases, size and layer count dictate most of the board’s cost, yet there are a few little things that can be done to help lower the overall cost of fabrication, thereby reducing the price on a customer’s end.

The following chart shows two columns: the first is SAE Circuits standard capabilities, but the second column shows design details that can help increase the manufacturability. This helps drop the overall price.

PCB FEATURE

STANDARD

Lower Cost

Max. Board Thickness

0.225″

0.093″

Max Number of Layers

18

4-6

Smallest Drilled Via Hole

0.0078″

0.012″

Maximum Hole-to-Board Thickness Aspect Ratio

10 to 1

4 to 1

Cu Thickness Range

0.25 oz to 4 oz

1/2 oz

Best Panel Array Size(s)

8.25″ x 11.25″

No Array

Blind / Buried Vias

Yes

No

Controlled Depth or Selective Routing

Yes

No

Countersink Capability

All sizes, ±0.005″

No

Plugged Vias

Yes

No

Castellations

No

No

Plated Slots

Yes

No

Ceramic, or Teflon Substrates

Yes

No

  • BOARD SIZE: Though all of the above-suggested changes can help lower the board price, one of the most important factors is size. We manufacture most products on 18”X24” production panels, so size of the board is directly proportional to price due to material costs. For multilayer boards, the usable area on this panel is 16.5”X22.5”. The more boards we can fit on this panel, the better.
  • LAYER COUNT and THICKNESS: Many designers are used to designing boards with the standard thickness of 0.062”. This has been a standard thickness ever since the late 1960s when 1/16” counter laminate was used to make the first circuit boards. This is not a standard based on material resistance or anything that important. As a matter of fact, today’s pre-pregs have such good resistance, that a mere 0.003” will keep a 400V arc at bay. If you are willing to move away from the “standard thickess” models, you will find that you can easily shave up to 20-30% of the bare board price for a standard 4 or 6 layer board. For a double sided board, try a 0.047” or 0.039” thickness, and you’ll be amazed at how much your board price can drop.

There are different approaches that can be used when looking to save money and resources on a specific design. Please don’t hesitate to contact us at stelios@saecircuits.com with your individual need.

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