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I had a talk with a friend the other day who told me that he had many issues with PCB-manufacturers in China (copying his product, long delivery times, bad quality) and that he had to sell his company because of all these issues.

So I wonder: if I want to produce a PCB-board in higher quantities that also require some IP-standards, and needs certification for the european market, how do I know wheter or not the company I'm going to work with is reliable?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Even though this question is marked closed, I would say, if protecting your IP is of concern to you, there ARE PCB manufacturers here in europe also. A simple Google-search would turn up a few names, like this and whole list of these. p.s. I find the question quite reasonable. \$\endgroup\$ – Duck Dodgers Jul 25 at 7:46
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks, did you also face similar issues? Well I'd like them to be in China becuase there it's cheap or maybe somewhere else in Asia. But I think you'd face such issues also in Taiwan for example \$\endgroup\$ – Cowboy_Patrick Jul 25 at 14:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ I actually did not. Except hobby projects, I never had to have an PCBs made overseas. But I know from work that, companies usually sign NDAs with their suppliers and their customers, so that neither party is leaking secrets to competitors and so on. You could have an NDA with your PCB manufacturer. Be warned the legal process is not exactly the same and fair all over the world. p.s. between price and IP protection, you have to decide how much pain you are willing to take on the price side, for your IP. Or is the price difference so big, that you are willing to risk the IP anyways. \$\endgroup\$ – Duck Dodgers Jul 25 at 15:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ Are you talking about PCB assembly or bare PCB boards? The latter is pretty straightforward and low risk (if someone wants to copy your product, and if you're successful they will!, then they can easily reverse engineer a PCB design for a small sum of money- having the Gerbers saves little compared to costs like injection molds). Many China makers can make boards that conform to international standards, do your due diligence and check them out like any supplier. \$\endgroup\$ – Spehro Pefhany Jul 25 at 16:40
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If you don't want your PCB copied, then don't send it to China. Also, PCB is only half of the design, they don't have the component values or firmware\software. However, if someone really wants to reverse engineer your design, they will find a way. It's not hard for a customer in any country to order your design (if you're selling it) and copy it verbatim. Even scratching off component values won't help, as you can de-encapsulate ICs and get a good idea of what the chip is.

There isn't a good way to evaluate a PCB house (or any business) before purchasing. But you can inspect the PCBs post production. Most PCB houses will give you a cross section of the board, which can be inspected under a microscope. This will allow you to check the layers and copper weight. Usually PCB manufacturers offer (now most are free) an electric continuity check, and they check the continuity of all the traces. Most board houses will do an excellent job; they want repeat business. If you find a mistake (and it was their mistake) ask them to correct it, many will.

I have had a few issues with board houses, but it doesn't matter the country of origin, sometimes mistakes slip through. If there are enough problems, I switch manufacturers. No manufacturing process is going to be 100%, but it's reasonable to expect higher than 98%.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Ok thanks. Yeah I guess if they really want to they could copy any product if they want to. Thanks for the clarification \$\endgroup\$ – Cowboy_Patrick Jul 25 at 18:36

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