Home > News > Content
The Key PCB Price Elements
May 29, 2018

So what really influence the cost of print circuit boards?

The universal answer more often than not is, “it depends,” lets dig a little deeper and talk about the key elements... Top 10 Cost
Drivers.
1. The base and the number of Layers
2. Size of the PCB
3. Panel Utilization & Number of PCB’s on a Working Panel (Standard 18 x 24)
4. Holes, Sizes, Drilling Technology
5. Trace Width & Spacing
6. Finishes
7. Base Laminate Used
8. Copper Weight & Thickness of Board
9. Routing or Die Punching of PCB Profile
10.Labor Costs
1. The base and the number of Layers
Normally there are FR4 FR5 CAM1 CAM3 Aluminum base, copper base, and ceramic base and so on, it is easy understand
that the price isdifferent. The number of layers depends on the level of complexity of the PCB itself. Simply put, the higher
the layer count, the more the cost to produce.
2. Size of PCB – Size matters... the larger the size of the board, the more material will be required to produce them.
3. Panel Utilization – This refers to the number of “arrays”... how many PCBs per array can be produced on a working panel.
This is calculated by the percentage of utilization which is calculated by the total area for the PCB divided by the total panel
area (based on a typical 18 x 24 working panel). The higher the panel utilization percentage the lower the overall costs. A
program with utilization above 75% is considered to be good. Features that need to be taken into consideration include,
tooling holes, fiducials, coupons, as well as thieving rail sizes as required to process the arrays. Simply put, getting 4+
print circuit boards per array is efficient.
4. Number of Holes, Sizing, & Drilling – Number of holes, and variety of hole dimensions are major contributing factors
on PCB costs. Depending on the number of sizes and the quantities of each hole diameter equates to longer machine
time, and more use of drill bits, increasing costs. If hole size requirements are extremely small, laser drilling may be
necessary and add significant costs.
5. Trace Width & Spacing The width of the individual “traces” (think current connectivity) and how close they are to each
other from a trace edge to trace edge can impact the cost based on the imaging and plating equipment or process
capabilities. The tighter the trace width, the increase in your PCB cost.
6. Finishes – The type of surface finish specified will impact your costs based on the surface material used, as well as
the manufacturing method needed to produce the boards. Lead Free hot air solder leveling - HASL, or HASL is your
lowest cost alternative, followed by immersion tin, immersion silver, organic solder preservative OSP, flash gold,
immersion gold, thick gold. There are several commonly used alternative finishes, each of which has its own
advantages and disadvantages that should be taken into consideration before deciding on a particular surface finish.
Suppliers with technical and engineering support will be able to help decide this important cost driver.
7. Base Laminate – The base material laminate that is specified will impact your costs. I recommend your PCB
supplier of choice use a laminate they are currently using and familiar, assuming it meets your specifications.
8. Copper Weight & Thickness
The copper in a PCB is rated in ounces, and represents the thickness of 1 ounce of copper rolled out to an area of
1 square foot. Example- a PCB that uses 1 oz. copper has a thickness of 1.4 mils. The base copper thickness used,
or how much the product is going to be platted up to meet the required thickness will impact your cost. Typically the
lowest cost option is 1/2 oz of copper, and it typically increases up from there in 1 oz. increment up to 9 oz. Most
boards fall in the 1 – 2 oz. range as a general rule. · 1/2 oz. = 0.7 mils · 1 oz. = 1.4 mils · 2 oz. = 2.8 mils
9.Routing or Die Punching PCB Profile There are different methods used to remove the laminate material to develop
the profile of a PCB. The main method is “routing,” which incorporates a high speed routing bit cutter to remove the
laminate materials. The other method is by producing a punch which would remove the laminate during a punch
process. Typically the punch process is a lower cost option, but it will have some additional tooling costs to develop
the punch tool.
10 Labor Costs – Lastly labor cost is a significant factor in producing printed circuit boards. Most board assembly
facilities incorporate a batch processing manufacturing process, which will require significant handling for each of
the individual processes, as well as moving the product from process to process. Using lower labor cost
manufacturing locations, offshore, will most probably reflect a lower per unit cost. Other items that may impact your
costs include the level of IPC standard the board is to be produced to, as an example, IPC
Class 2 which is a general standard and commonly used in standard electronics, ICP Class 3, is more stringent,
and finally military standards which will also impact your board costs.
If you’re interested in finding out how to reduce your print circuit board order by up to 10%, please email
hq.niu@pcbsmart.com