Buying Cheap PCBs? Good Luck With That


This column is meant for those customers who need printed circuit boards but don’t want to communicate with the PCB shops directly. It’s meant for those customers who believe that a PCB is just a thin piece of green plastic that anyone can build. This is for those companies who feel that the board shops are just job shops and that they should just shut up and build what they’re told to build. If you see yourself here, then read on because it is going to get worse…you’re going to get exactly what you deserve.

If you don’t want your PCB vendor calling with questions, then you’re going to get what you deserve. Here’s the deal; the PCB engineers are calling up to get all their data right and to make sure they deliver the best product possible. They are also calling you to suggest a better way since they have built thousands of PCBs and you have built none. I would warn you to beware of those vendors who never ask you a question because in the end, sooner or later your boards are going to fail and you will get what you deserve.

If you don’t even want to visit a PCB shop because you have no interest, because you feel that you know everything there is to know about PCBs, if you are thinking, “how complicated could it be putting out these little pieces of green plastic?” then you are going to get what you deserve. The more you know about the PCB fabrication process the better you will be able to design your boards. And by the same token, if you think there is nothing to learn, then of course, you are going to get what you deserve.

If you think that all PCB suppliers are the same, that PCBs are a commodity and that it doesn’t really matter where you get them…you are going to get what you deserve.

If you think that PCB fabricators make way too much money and they should let you show them how to really price their boards…you’ll get what you deserve.

If you think that a 28-layer blind and buried via board is a commodity…keep thinking that and yes, you’ll get what you deserve.

If you think that all that matters is price and that your purpose in life is to find the cheapest, lowest-priced PCBs you can get your hands on…you are going to get what you deserve. And I challenge you to go out in front of your customers and let them know how proud you are that your product is made up of the cheapest, lowest priced PCBs you could get your hands on…you will get what you deserve and if those customers buy from you, they will get what they deserve.

If you think that you can buy cheap boards from people who break the rules, people who have no social conscience, companies who bear no ecological responsibilities, or from countries who have no interest in human rights, then you are going to get what you deserve—and good luck looking your kids in the eye when they ask you what you did to help save the world.

But if on the other hand you take great pride in your relationships with your board vendors, if you take their advice when it comes to helping you to design your PCBs, or you ask them for help in providing you with the best possible PCBs to make your end products that much better, if you rely on your PCB vendors to help you with your impedance measurements, your CTE management materials, your thermal controls and all of the other parameters that go into making you products that best they can be, if you make sure that your vendors are following all of the rules when it comes to meeting their specs and qualifications, in meeting ITAR requirements, in meeting EPA requirements, in treating their people fairly and with respect….you will get what you deserve and that will be a good thing…a very good thing. Support your PCB fabricators, look out for them, listen to them, and yes respect them. Look at them as your PCB experts…because after all they are.

Its only common sense.

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