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Cost is king.

I JUST READ "Built for Speed" (February 2004, p. 30). A true article for buying production PCBs. Who wants to take chances on a production run?

On prototype buying, cost is king! I buy only two-layer and four-layer SMT/mixed technology PCBs that any board shop can do. I shop price because most shops have good quality. I am willing to send my jobs blind: in other words, the shops are not going to look for mistakes (unless obvious); they run the job without engineering review. How busy shops are seems to be a factor; one Chicago-area shop, competitive for a long time, must be busier because its prices have gone up.

If I am willing to pay much more, I know many high-quality shops will carefully look over the PCB data and call if errors are found. I would use them for production runs, but our assemblers order production boards. (They shop price, too, but choose from fabs with which they have experience.) Since the development of embedded apertures, I don't need PCB data reviews by these more-expensive shops. Early in my career our purchasing department used production houses for prototype boards, which helped me, but we paid a lot for prototypes because we did not shop around (prototype-to-production tooling savings are insignificant compared to price differences between PCB vendors).

As a designer, I am more likely to need to meet with assemblers over what will work with their equipment (DfM) than with the CAM operator at a PCB shop. On the other hand, I am not designing leading-edge technology (BGAs, flip chip, etc.).

If you have money to burn, a very high-tech PCB, or will ramp to high volume, by all means use the highest quality, more expensive PCB shops for your prototype and production runs.

Jeff Adolphs

Engineering Technician

Lake Shore Cryotronics Inc.
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Title Annotation:Letters: our readers respond
Author:Adolphs, Jeff
Publication:Printed Circuit Design & Manufacture
Article Type:Letter to the Editor
Date:Apr 1, 2004
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