6 Basic tips for designing a cheaper circuit boardPCB manufacturing costs depend on many factors that should be taken into consideration while you are designing your product. If you're a newbie to PCB design then your design might not be cost optimized. (If you are an experienced designer you likely already know most of these things but can use this post as a quick refresher.)
Here are some design considerations that will help reduce the price of your PCBs:
1. Minimize board size
This is pretty obvious, but the bigger the board, the bigger the price. Keep your boards as small as possible to keep the cost down.
2. Minimize your board layers
Adding additional layers can be useful if you need additional routing space, need power and ground supply planes, need to control trace impedance, or need low noise performance. A four layer board will cost you roughly twice the amount of a two layer board, so if you are very cost sensitive then this is something to keep in mind.
3. Avoid irregular shapes
Some PCB fabs charge extra for irregular shapes. When you panelize a PCB, all the material not used around it is considered waste material which you also sometimes have to pay for. Try to use standard shapes like squares and rectangles Also try to avoid internal cutouts unless completely necessary.
4. Skip the through-holes
Through-hole mounting is often beneficial because it provides stronger mechanical bonds, but unless you are building something complex, it is usually better to stick to surface mounting. This is because the drilling required for through hole results in more expensive board and limits the total area of the PCB for routing signals. This becomes more of an issue with multilayer boards since the holes pass through all layers of the board. Through-hole components require a setup separate from SMT placement which also significantly increases the assembly cost of a board.
If you do need to use through holes, try to use the biggest diameter possible for the holes since smaller holes require more precise machinery which increases cost. You can refer to this Multi-factory Compatible Drill Table to help you determine what size hole you should draw.
5. Go Green
Green is the industry standard for solder mask color. Although making your PCB a different color will definitely make it unique, it will require additional process time due to cleaning and changeover which you will have to pay for.
6. Time is of the essence
A large majority of the cost of PCB and assembly is simply determined by time. Anything that requires the PCB or assembly house to spend extra time on your project (i.e. having BGAs on your board will require additional inspection time) will increase the cost of your boards.
Happy designing everyone!