Insider Tips for Cost-Effective SMT Assembly Solutions

One of the most recurring questions among electronics assemblers and engineers is “How can I cut down my costs for SMT PCB assembly?” Unfortunately, the answer to this question is that there’s no such thing because one issue that cheap services tend to have is compromising the quality of the project. As a result, the end output either has mediocre performance or is prone to breaking down at random points.

However, you don’t need to panic because there are workarounds for dealing with the high costs of SMT assembly. In this article, we’ll explore some tips and tricks for cost-effective SMT assembly solutions so that the investment in circuit boards won’t break your budget.

SMT Assembly: A Summary

To refresh your knowledge, before we proceed deeper into this topic, we’ll explore an overview of what an SMT assembly is. Surface mount technology or SMT for short, is a method of producing circuit boards through the placement of key components directly on the board substrate surface.

It is an alternative means to manufacture circuit boards if you think the through-hole method of PCB production won’t suffice for you. One of the notable perks that surface mount technology has is that it tends to provide a better and speedier process for those who want mass-produced, quality electronic circuit boards. It is also an affordable alternative to through-hole production, but it is still quite an investment.

How to make SMT Assembly Solutions more cost-effective?

Now that you’ve refreshed your knowledge of what SMT assembly is, it is time to explore some tips and tricks to mitigate the expenses you’ll incur from circuit boards made through surface mount technology. Here are some of the ways that you can make every dollar count for the circuit boards you’ll be getting.

1. Track down a professional PCB assembler

Be aware that not all PCB assembly services provide services that can go well with your budget; some claim they do, but in truth, they do not. However, before you track down a professional PCB assembler, it is ideal that you conduct an estimate of your project first. Know the requirements, and know how much it will cost you. Once you have an estimate, you will want to find your SMT circuit board assembly provider of choice.

However, don’t be impulsive in your search for a professional assembler, as there are some key factors for you to consider.

Certifications and Adherence to Industrial Standards. Keep in mind that a certified manufacturer of PCBs is a solid option, as they are likely to deliver quality PCBs. Check whether the manufacturer is ISO 9001-certified and follows industry standards. Certified and proven manufacturers can help you mitigate the costs of investment in SMT assembly. If you want to be more niche-specific, check them for more certifications such as ISO 13485:2016 for healthcare for instance.

Access to cutting-edge technology for manufacturing A manufacturer that uses a facility with the most cutting-edge technology is another way to mitigate the hefty costs of SMT-made PCBs. That’s because, through efficient manufacturing methods, the PCBs created are a nice mix of quantity and quality, making every single dollar spent worth its value.

Access to a reliable supply network. If you want to cut costs on the expenses of manufacturing SMT-made PCBs, you’d want to look for a manufacturer that has a network of component suppliers. These networks of component suppliers can make the sourcing of needed materials easier, which can influence the final bill.

2. Check and optimize your initial schematics through a DFM check

Before you proceed to look for a PCB manufacturer that offers SMT assembly services, you will need to double-check and optimize your concept design. Fortunately, some manufacturers can conduct what is called a DFM check, which tends to be free of charge. During a DFM check, your design is assessed on which parts are crucial to the success of your design, the layout of your PCB design, size, and many more criteria.

3. Make a list of the raw materials required for your project

No project can be successful without raw materials and key components, so it’s best to create a list of those items before presenting it to a circuit board manufacturer with PCB SMT assembly services. However, you would also want to list down some substitute or replacement materials if the ones on the main list aren’t available for purchase.

By creating a list of raw materials for your project—substitutes included—you can mitigate the cost issues when sourcing materials. If it so happens that your manufacturer can do the sourcing for you, even better!

4. Don’t underestimate the value of test runs and inspections

Early defect detection is crucial to the success of your project and to ensure that your investment is as cost-efficient as possible. Testing your printed circuit boards to see whether they are working as intended can cut down on additional tweaks and expenses because detecting issues early is cheaper compared to a complete replacement of your PCBs.

It’s best that you check with your manufacturer that does SMT assembly just to be sure if they have facilities and services dedicated to testing and inspecting their circuit boards. Knowing that they have dedicated tools and facilities for error-checking should help in making the finalized expenses lower than before.

5. Tweak the number of orders and lead time

Be mindful of both the purchase quantity and the lead time. A general rule of thumb is that if you purchase more SMT assembly-made circuit boards, they tend to get less expensive. However, you’ll need to factor in your manufacturer’s fabricating capabilities in case you want to purchase in bulk to accommodate your products.

As for lead time, estimating this is kind of tricky as each manufacturer has different lead time calculations. Discuss first with your manufacturer how they work, what time they start working, how fast they can source the materials, and the average time of completion for their circuit boards. Keep in mind that the longer they take, the cheaper they tend to be than your expected investment.

The bottom line about cost-effective solutions for SMT assembly

SMT assembly is a large investment for your company, as it will factor in the materials, design, and time needed to complete your printed circuit boards. However expensive it may be, there are some ways to mitigate those costs and hopefully lower your final bill with your manufacturer. Take note of what we’ve discussed in this article so you can have a shot at lowering your printed circuit board expenses so that it won’t break your company’s budget.

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