5
\$\begingroup\$

Okay, here's the situation: Currently, I am making a small batch of 100 boards of my project. This is a small order, so start up costs are about 10% of the final cost, and the factory charges $50/hour (they say I can get it done in one or two hours.) These will be made in China. Places in the UK or USA won't even talk to me for an order of 100, or if they do, they provide me with outrageous prices (5-10x as much as China.)

Now I know China is cheaper, but to many people, seeing "Made in China" cheapens a product. If I were to make, say 1000 or 2000 boards, would the cost to make them in the USA or UK, or even any European country be competitive with China, even if it was slightly more expensive? I know the Arduino is "Made in Italy", and the low price point of it makes me consider the possibility that I too could get mine made in a country with higher wages. What are other people's experience with this issue?

\$\endgroup\$
  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ You tell us. Go get some quotes for your board and find out what is cheaper. There is just so many variables for us to be able to tell you one way or another. Price will depended on size, components, minimum spacing, etc. \$\endgroup\$ – Kellenjb Feb 27 '11 at 3:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ I imagine China will have better prices in high volumes as well. If the small batch works out well, I suggest you use the same company for the larger production. The risk and hassle of switching companies will negate any price difference. \$\endgroup\$ – markrages Feb 27 '11 at 4:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ @kellenjb. I've asked many suppliers. In my question, I say they won't talk to me or give me outrageous prices. One quoted me $100/board for just assembly, excluding components! The product only sells for $85! \$\endgroup\$ – Thomas O Feb 27 '11 at 10:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ If they wont talk to you what makes you think that they would be willing to talk to any of us for an equal order. \$\endgroup\$ – Kellenjb Feb 27 '11 at 16:32
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @Kellenjb, I'm asking for others' experience on this matter - perhaps people have managed it before? Some will talk to me, they just give me stupid prices. \$\endgroup\$ – Thomas O Feb 27 '11 at 17:08
4
\$\begingroup\$
  1. Most of these local companies in fact will outsource your order to China.

  2. You don't need to print 'Made in China' if you just ordered PCB from China. 'Made in' means place of last significant tech operation, so if Arduino's PCB is from China, but soldering is local - 'Made in Italy' is legitimate.

  3. Premium cost is significant for real local production, maybe not 10x, but more than 2x.

  4. If you can get it done on 2-sided PCB - just make it yourself using popular hobbiest tech. You can hire 1 guy, train him and he'll do you 2000 boards easily :-) This is popular here in Russia - guys who mastered self-made PCB sell products on self-made PCBs and save time & money of PCB production. 100 boards is very easy to do at home.

| improve this answer | |
\$\endgroup\$
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ I considered making them at home but I came unstuck when I realised how much time it would take. There are 80 x 0603 components, 2 x TQFP, 8 x SOT23, as well as many others. I'll be producing prototypes myself, but production simply has to be done by machine to be viable. \$\endgroup\$ – Thomas O Feb 27 '11 at 1:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ Well, 1 minute per tqfp, 5 seconds per sot&0603, 10 minutes per board (worst case). Making this board using toner transfer method would require some 1-2 minutes of human time, so 12 minutes per board in total. Maybe you can just hire a student to do that. Also, if you use resistors on parallel buses you can get quad & octal resistors to save time. \$\endgroup\$ – BarsMonster Feb 27 '11 at 2:09
  • \$\begingroup\$ 1 guy = 40 boards per day, 800 per month :-) Hehe :-) \$\endgroup\$ – BarsMonster Feb 27 '11 at 2:10
  • \$\begingroup\$ @BarsMonster, maybe if I live in Russia, but in the UK labour is expensive; min wage £5.80/hr IIRC. Future possibility of considering hand assembly but I think machine assembly is best. \$\endgroup\$ – Thomas O Feb 27 '11 at 2:56
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ In Czech Republic the minimal wage is £1.7/hr (e.g. 3.5 times less than in UK) and I can get "hand pick&place" assembly from £9/hour plus some tiny fee per component. Trained worker can do between 500-1000 components per hour. So I don't see any particular reason why this could not be done in any European country or in U.S. for less than 7 quids per board in your case, and possibly for half of that. It's obviously possible in Italy, so look harder. These are often small companies that do only small series or prototypes and do not advertise much. \$\endgroup\$ – Jaroslav Cmunt Feb 27 '11 at 6:43
5
\$\begingroup\$

If you do a 2 sided PCB and plan on doing one sided mounting all SMT except for minimal throughole.

Then, when you order your PCBs, you can order a solder paste template. You can put together a wooden holder with a bottom into which the board fits exactly. Pop in a PCB, place the solder template in there, then put some solder paste in there and use a squeegee (you can get them at a paint store) cut to fit it, and then just spread the paste over the board. Then remove the template and the PCB should have the correct paste on it (remember to clean the template). Then just place the components carefully.

For an oven, you can use the Black and Decker Infrawave series. It's important to get a good temperature profile (to not heat up too quickly or cool too quickly). There are many articles online on this oven. You can also use the Cuisinart convection toaster too.

So, you can do 4 board easily at a time this way, easily in 10 minutes if they are small boards. Thats 24 per hour. You hire someone at $24/hour. Thats $1 per board!!!!!!! It'll take one person a little over a week to do 1000 boards. Recommended you use diagnostics in your flash to test the board and light an LED. You can always load diagnostics, run the test, then load your desired code and lock the MCU....it you are trying to save space. Testing the boards is the slow part perhaps.

For enclosure, you'll want to use an off the shelf plastic box. I don't know of a cheap fast way to do your own enclosures. Vacuum forming can work, but it's still slower than 24 per hour. Remember 24 per hour is $1 each, 12 per hour is $2 each, etc, etc...

Good Luck. Post if you find other info.

| improve this answer | |
\$\endgroup\$
1
\$\begingroup\$

It is very dependent on the design. For something that is all SMD with minimal manual work, the advantages of going overseas can be minimal - the trick is to find a local asssembler geared to your volumes, who doesn't charge a large 'get out of bed' fee for setting up etc. Larger places will be less interested in small jobs, but really small places tend to have a precarious existance and can have disappeared next time you need something done. Even with a 'right size/attitude' place you will generally have to fit inbetween the jobs from their larger customers, so getting stuff turned round quickly is near-impossible unless you're lucky, as even if you offer to pay twice as much it's still small for them and they're always going to prioritise their bigger customers. As mentioned above, successful lower-end assemblers who are ticking along nicely often don't need to advertise, and can be hard to find - recommendations are very useful - maybe ask a few companies making stuff on a similar scale to yours who they use for assembly - people are often happy to reccommend, as once you find a good place, you want them to stay in business.
You also have to consider that board assembly cost isn't the only cost involved - things like test, optimising for good yield etc. are very dependent on good communication and understanding between client and subcontractor, which can be nonexistent with Chinese suppliers. For something made in 100s I wouldn't even think of using China - the time to get things set up and the uncertainty that you're going to get what you want just aren't worth it.

| improve this answer | |
\$\endgroup\$

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.