The Real Cost of PCB Design – Part 1

The year 2020 has seen some remarkable events: a world pandemic, economic uncertainty, unusual weather events. Much attention has been given to keep people safe, sound and healthy. This has presented some challenges and unique opportunities to businesses. Mobile/cloud computing, fast Internet and streamlined video conferencing allow people to connect and businesses to continue operations. (Most of our staff is able to work from home because we had everything already in place to do so…)

A good example: Altium recently held their AltiumLive 2020 Virtual Summit. This was a wonderful way of getting users, designers, engineers and others together for training, education, and discussion. Events I attended were certainly enlightening and stimulating. Thanks to the Altium staff, presenters and sponsors for such a timely event!

So… I had been kicking around an idea about the true cost of pcb design, and some of the presentations gave me good fuel for thought: how much does it really cost to design a printed circuit board? Accounting may look at the hours spent in actual design or on a contract service as the only cost incurred. Is this a reasonable and accurate assessment? Are there any “hidden” costs associated with the pcb design process and cycle? What about the potential of ongoing, or continual costs?

Management may feel this is a process that is simple enough. You have a design team that has engineered good boards in the past. Production and support staff have been equally proficient. Fair to say expectations are similar for the next project. Can improvement be made to reduce product cost, reduce time to market and improve quality?

Future blogs will take a look at several steps of the design process and some factors that impact cost. Areas of topical interest would include (but not necessarily presented in this order):

  • Schematic capture and presentation
  • Bill of material and component specification
  • Design and layout of physical pcb
  • Manufacturing and test

It would not be possible to adequately consider all of these topics in one single blog. One topic may take several blogs. Please stay tuned for our future blogs on this subject. And feel free to comment on any area you would want to see specifically addressed or commented on (or maybe even corrected, thanks!).

(Photo Credit: Aneta Pawlik on Unsplash)

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