Finding a PCB board manufacturer for your electronics project or product can be overwhelming with all the choices available. You want a reputable company that can deliver quality boards on time and on budget. This guide will walk you through what to look for in a PCB manufacturer, questions to ask, and how to select the right one for your specific needs.

What is a PCB Board and Why Use a Manufacturer?

A printed circuit board (PCB) is the foundation of an electronic device, providing the base for mounting and electrically connecting components through copper traces etched from copper sheets and laminated onto a non-conductive substrate.

As PCBs have become more complex with higher density components, specialized tools and expertise are required to design and produce them. This makes using a PCB manufacturer the best option compared to attempting to etch your own boards.

The benefits of using a PCB manufacturer include:

  • Expertise and capabilities – PCB manufacturers have the right equipment, technology, and skills to handle everything from simple double-sided boards to complex multilayer boards. They stay on top of latest manufacturing processes.
  • Quality – Reputable PCB manufacturers have rigorous quality control standards to ensure high yields and prevent defects. This results in reliable PCBs.
  • Cost effective – Their economies of scale and streamlined production keeps per-unit costs low. Their experience results in minimal wasted materials and time.
  • Speed – Large PCB manufacturers have rapid turnaround times, some delivering in as little as 24 hours.
  • One-stop service – Many provide end-to-end services including, design, prototyping, testing, and assembly.

Factors to Consider when Selecting a PCB Manufacturer

With so many PCB manufacturers to choose from, here are key factors to consider to find the right one:

PCB Specifications

First, have details ready on the PCB specifications:

  • Layers – How many layers is needed? Double-sided, multi-layer (>4 layers)
  • Board thickness – Standard 1.6mm or thinner flex/rigid-flex?
  • Size – Dimensions (max length x width)
  • Materials – FR-4, Rogers, Teflon, etc.
  • Copper weight – 1 oz, 2 oz or heavier copper
  • Finishes – Immersion gold, ENIG, HASL, etc.
  • Hole size – Smallest drill diameter needed
  • tolerances – How tight are spacing and lines size requirements?
  • Impedance – Are controlled impedance traces needed?
  • Testing – Any automation test point, fixtures required?
  • Certifications – UL approval, IPC standards
  • Quantity – Prototypes, small, medium, or high volumes

Providing detailed specifications will help determine if a PCB manufacturer has the capabilities to fabricate your board.

Quality Systems

The manufacturer should follow rigorous quality standards at every process stage:

  • Design for Manufacturing (DFM) – DFM checks ensure your design files meet their manufacturing requirements
  • CAM – Computer-Aided Manufacturing with Gerber file checks
  • Testing – Bare board electrical testing ensures conductivity and detects shorts
  • Quality Management System – ISO 9001 or IATF 16949 certification
  • IPC Standards – Meeting standards for fabrication and assembly from IPC, an electronics industry association, for reliable PCBs

Frequent inspections, process controls, and testing reduces risks of defects and inconsistent quality.

Assembly Capabilities

If you need assembled PCBs, look for assembly services:

  • SMT Assembly – Surface-mount technology for small components
  • Through-hole assembly – For inserting and soldering leaded components
  • In-circuit test – Validating proper assembly before shipping
  • Conformal coating – Protective coatings prevent short circuits
  • Box Build – Final product assembly into enclosure

Choose a manufacturer that offers the type and complexity of assembly needed. Having PCB fabrication and assembly in one place streamlines logistics.

Lead Times

  • Prototypes – Look for fast turns of 1-5 days for prototyping small batches
  • Production – Plan for standard 15-20 day lead times for production. Ask about expediting options.
  • Rush Services – Some factories offer faster 3-7 day builds for quick-turn or emergency orders. There are usually extra charges.

Compare lead times across manufacturers. Factor in your product development timescale and launch deadlines.

Location and Logistics

  • Look for manufacturers with production facilities near you to simplify shipping and communications.
  • Import/export requirements – Using an offshore manufacturer adds customs clearance time/costs.
  • Shipping options – Check shipping fees, delivery times, and tracking support.
  • Time zone differences – Different time zones can delay real-time communications.

Proximity reduces shipping delays and costs. It’s easier to visit local factories for audits and quality checks.

Pricing and Payment Terms

  • Volume discounts – Larger orders often get discounted rates. Be sure to ask.
  • NRE Fees – One-time non-recurring engineering fees for complex designs.
  • Payment terms – 50% down with balance due on delivery is common. Understand payment schedule.
  • MOQ – Check for minimum order quantities. Good for small batches.

Aside from size, complexity and materials impact pricing. Review complete quotation details.

Design Support

Look for extensive design support:

  • CAD file formats – Multiple format compatibility (Gerber, DXF, STEP, etc)
  • DFM Checks – Will they review your design files for manufacturability?
  • CAM Previews – Do they share Gerber viewer files to preview before manufacturing?
  • Design Reviews – Can they spot potential issues before fabrication?
  • Library Services – Do they offer component library services or generate footprints for you?
  • Consulting – Is design for manufacturing consulting offered?

Their experience and design expertise prevents headaches from design flaws down the line.

Customer Service

You want a responsive, communicative manufacturer:

  • Technical experts – Quickly get answers from engineering staff
  • Language support – Good if they offer communications in your language
  • Timely responses – 24-hour email and phone support is a plus
  • Project management – Dedicated rep to guide your project
  • Issue resolution – Clear process for managing any production issues

Good customer service ensures your needs are understood and addressed.

Top 10 PCB Manufacturers Near Me

Here is a list of some of the leading PCB manufacturers operating in the United States and Canada, in alphabetical order:

1. Advanced Circuits

Location: Aurora, CO

Services: PCB manufacturing and assembly. FR4, HDI, Flex and Rigid-Flex boards.

Quality: ISO 9001:2015 and IPC 6012 Class 3 certified

Lead Time: 24 hours for prototypes. 15 days standard.

2. Epectec

Location: Toronto, Canada

Services: Quick-turn PCB prototypes and small production runs

Quality: IPC-A-610 electronics assembly standard

Lead Time: 24-48 hours prototyping. 7-10 days production.

3. Imagineering Inc.

Location: Missouri, USA

Services: Prototype through production. SMT assembly.

Quality: ISO 9001:2015 certified. IPC standards.

Lead Time: 24 hours for prototypes. 14 days production.


Location: Nevada, USA

Services: Low volume PCB manufacturing & SMT assembly

Quality: TS16949 certified. IPC standards.

Lead Time: 2 days for prototypes. 3 days for small batches

5. PCBWay

Location: Canada

Services: 1-day prototyping and 5-day production printed circuit boards.

Quality: ISO:9001 certified and meets IPC standards

Lead Time: 1 day prototyping. 5 days production.

6. Sierra Circuits

Location: Sunnyvale, CA

Services: Quick-turn prototypes. Medium to high volume production.

Quality: ISO 9001:2015 certified. IPC standards.

Lead Time: 24 hours prototype.15 working days production.

7. Sunstone Circuits

Location: Mulino, OR

Services: Fast PCB prototypes, small-medium production runs.

Quality: ISO 9001:2015 certified. IPC standards.

Lead Time: 24-48 hour prototyping. 5-15 days production.

8. US Circuit

Location: Rochester, NY

Services: Prototype and production circuit boards.

Quality: ISO 9001:2015 certified. IATF 16949.

Lead Time: 1 day prototyping. 15 days production.

9. WellPCB

Location: China with US office

Services: 1-day prototyping and flexible small batch production

Quality: ISO 9001 certified. IPC standards.

Lead Time: 1 day prototyping. 3 days small batch.


Location: China

Services: PCB manufacturing and assembly services.

Quality: TS16949 certified. UL approved.

Lead Time: 3 days prototyping, 5 days production.

This list covers some of the major local and international PCB manufacturers with fast delivery times to North America. Check reviews and talk to representatives before deciding.

Questions to Ask Prospective PCB Manufacturers

Contacting manufacturers you’re considering and asking specific questions helps verify their capabilities match your needs. Here are some important questions to ask:

  • Can you manufacture PCBs with my specifications? Provide them the details.
  • What materials and layer counts can you support?
  • What is the process for getting a quotation? Is there an online quoting tool?
  • What DFM checks do you do on customer files? Will you provide a manufacturability review?
  • Can I see Gerber viewer files before manufacturing proceeds?
  • Which CAD file formats do you accept?
  • How do you ensure quality control at each step? What certifications do you have?
  • Can you meet my lead time requirements? How can I expedite for faster delivery?
  • What are your minimum order quantities for prototyping vs production?
  • Do you provide design, component sourcing, or assembly services?
  • Can I visit your manufacturing facility for a site audit?

Get clear, detailed answers to these questions before moving forward with a PCB partner.

Factors for Choosing the Right PCB Manufacturer

Selecting the ideal PCB manufacturer involves balancing factors like lead time, location, capabilities, quality, and budget:

  • For fast prototyping with standard FR4 boards, use a manufacturer with 1-3 day quick-turn services.
  • If budget is critical, choose a factory with competitive pricing and minimal NRE fees.
  • For complex or high-performance boards, find a manufacturer with proven expertise in your needs like HDI, flex/rigid-flex.
  • If responsive customer support is important, ensure they have communication processes that work for you.
  • For tight-tolerance boards, use a manufacturer with the most advanced equipment and tightest capabilities.
  • For mission-critical products, select a high-quality manufacturer with rigorous quality control and testing.
  • If supply chain resiliency is important, dual sourcing using a local and offshore manufacturer helps mitigate risks.

Take time to carefully evaluate manufacturers against your specific priorities and requirements to find the right match.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are some signs of a good PCB manufacturer?

Some signs of a good, reputable PCB manufacturer include:

  • Years in business and positive customer reviews
  • Responsive sales and engineering teams
  • Rigorous quality certifications like ISO 9001 compliance
  • Meets industry standards like IPC specifications
  • Offers high mix services from prototyping to production
  • Wide range of PCB capabilities and assembly services
  • Competitive pricing with cost-effective global manufacturing
  • Fast turnaround times as fast as 24 hour prototyping
  • Provides excellent design support and DFM checks

Should I use a US or Chinese PCB manufacturer?

Both US and Chinese PCB manufacturers have pros and cons:

  • US manufacturers provide responsive communication and support along with fast shipping. However, costs are higher.
  • Chinese manufacturers offer greater pricing competitiveness but have longer lead times and communication barriers.

For prototypes and new product development, US manufacturers are preferred for their quick-turn services. For higher volume production, offshore manufacturers offer savings. Using both provides supply chain flexibility.

How many PCB manufacturers should I source from?

Working with at least two manufacturers, often one local and one abroad, provides production flexibility and risk mitigation. Relying on a single manufacturer leaves you vulnerable if they have delays or issues. Dual sourcing ensures continuity if one factory has problems.

What do I need to provide the PCB manufacturer?

You’ll need to provide the complete PCB design data. This includes:

  • Gerber files – circuit board layout artwork in standard Gerber file formats
  • Bill of Materials – list of components, reference designators, values
  • Component datasheets – specs for all electronics components
  • Assembly drawings – show assembly instructions, layers
  • Drill file – pin drill locations and sizes
  • Mechanical drawings – board dimensions, mechanical features
  • Layer Stackup – defines board layers for multilayer designs

Most manufacturers provide specifications detailing what customers must provide. Offering complete design data ensures they can accurately build your boards.

How can I lower PCB prototype costs?

Some ways to reduce prototyping costs include:

  • Use panelizing to manufacture multiple boards together.
  • Select standard FR4 material and 1 oz copper to minimize costs
  • Use hobbyist PCB fabs like OSH Park for very low volume
  • Only order quantity needed for validation testing
  • Optimize your design to use least number of layers
  • Use design tricks like putting multiple boards in one panel
  • Reuse prior designs by spinning new revisions

Following DFM guidelines also prevents expensive re-spins and modifications.


Selecting the right PCB manufacturer requires understanding your specific requirements and carefully evaluating potential partners. Use this guide to choose a PCB company with the capabilities, services, quality systems, and pricing model that aligns with your product needs. Building a relationship with a trusted PCB partner ensures you get the best boards delivered on time.

Categories: PCBA


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