I keep hearing this expression thrown around when talking about or to PCB fab houses. Can someone tell me what it means, or refer to ?

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    \$\begingroup\$ @Leon: Getting the things you designed built is a important part of electrical engineering. Even if you are at a large company and don't interface with manufacturers personally, it is still important to understand the process. \$\endgroup\$ – Olin Lathrop May 21 '14 at 17:29
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    \$\begingroup\$ I have actually laid out a design and as part of the process of sourcing pcb fab houses, i'm getting acquainted with some terms that i'm not familiar with. I don't know how that makes it off topic. \$\endgroup\$ – igorvanhelsing May 21 '14 at 17:34
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    \$\begingroup\$ Argh. If I'd known you were going to accept the first answer you get after only 30 minutes, I wouldn't have bothered to write a detailed answer. \$\endgroup\$ – Olin Lathrop May 21 '14 at 17:39
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    \$\begingroup\$ @OlinLathrop Please, always write detailed answer because your answers are great. \$\endgroup\$ – Daniel Grillo May 21 '14 at 17:55
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Kaz: But how exactly that general English term is applied within the context of electrical engineering is on topic here. This is a good question. I often vote to close poorly worded, off topic, or badly written questions, but this one is none of those things. Lighten up. \$\endgroup\$ – Olin Lathrop May 21 '14 at 19:13

"Turnkey" means that you only provide documentation to someone else to build something. They then source all the parts, get other parts modified or made, etc. Basically you send them specs and money and they send you fully built units.

Note that this doesn't really apply to PCB fabrication. Or more accurately, PCB fabrication is basically always turnkey anyway, so that term is not used in that context. You don't provide copper sulfate, laminated FR4, or etching solution to the PCB house. You provide only Gerber files (the documentation), and they do and buy whatever is necessary to make the complete finished boards.

What you are probably confused by is that some PCB houses also offer assembly services. Those could be turnkey or not. But that's really a assembly issue. Someone doing turnkey assembly for you would get boards fabricated as part of the process. The the same company is offering the turnkey assembly service that is also a PCB house, then they will produce the bare boards internally. However, there are plenty of assembly houses that aren't also PCB fabs. In that case for a turnkey job, they will subcontract out the PCB fab, usually to a company they have special business relationship with just for that purpose.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Olin, thanks for the detailed answer to my question. btw (this is really of topic) what are the perks ones get for getting his answer accepted ? (just curious) \$\endgroup\$ – igorvanhelsing May 21 '14 at 17:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ Having an answer accepted is worth 15 reputation. See the details in the Help Center. \$\endgroup\$ – Dave Tweed May 21 '14 at 19:48
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    \$\begingroup\$ Fine answer. I'll add that things that are not "turnkey" are either fully or partially "kitted", meaning that the customer provides all or some of the parts to the fabricator (i.e., the customer provides some "kit") \$\endgroup\$ – Scott Seidman May 21 '14 at 20:21

They not only fab the PCB but also buy parts and do assembly.


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