Blog  /  Quick-Turn PCB: Fast-Built Circuit Boards for Rapid Prototyping

Quick-Turn PCB: Fast-Built Circuit Boards for Rapid Prototyping

Electronics and technology are advancing at a rapid pace, which is partly due to intense competition in the industry. It would make sense if the foundation blocks of electronics (circuit boards) get built at a similar pace to match the rapid advancement. Quick-turn PCB has a fast production time and can enable you to get your products to market well before your competition. We will analyze these circuit boards and the factors affecting their turnaround time. Take a look!

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What is a Quick-Turn PCB?

A quick-turn PCB is a circuit board designed, fabricated, assembled, and tested in hastened processes that take short periods. Depending on the design complexities, this production time can vary from 24 hours to seven days.

Production Stages for Quick Turn PCBs

Quick-turn boards undergo three production stages.

Prototype Stage

Manufacturing a prototype PCB incorporates all the vague requirements and details required to reduce the delivery time and manufacturing costs. Additionally, the PCB prototype allows users to test how the finished product will work. It enables clients to make the required changes while manufacturers can check for faults to enhance performance and efficiency.

So, this stage captures the corrections, omissions, rectifications, additions, and subtractions to ensure the production PCB has zero technical or mechanical shortcomings.

Beta Run/Pre-Production

A beta run involves building quick-turn boards in batches of hundreds to several thousand pieces. It is one of the most vital phases in the process because these PCB templates usually translate to the final product. So the manufacturer must eliminate all mistakes in this stage.

 

Multiplied PCBs

Multiplied PCBs

 

The process entails conducting electrical tests, optimizing the board layout, checking tooling arrangements, avoiding pitfalls, etc.

Full Production

The final production stage is quick-turn PCB manufacturing for market applications. Orders in this phase are higher and better than in the other steps but can take longer.

Quick-turn PCB fabrication can only reach this stage once the design and engineering team has gone through the previous phases to fine-tune everything and build high-quality boards.

Key Features of Quick-Turn PCB Prototypes

The primary feature of quick-turn PCB prototypes is their speedy production. These boards are meant for projects requiring quick development, especially if you want to beat the competition.

These PCB prototypes are also highly flexible because you can reconfigure them quickly if they need adjustments.

Although ideal for designing small quantities of circuit boards, this prototyping method reduces production time significantly and provides a broader window for making adjustments and fine-tuning the board before mass production.

The fine-tuning also ensures there are zero manufacturing delays by minimizing production changes.

As a result, you’ll enjoy a longer period of getting your ROI before having to adjust or upgrade the board because it will end up being almost perfect when customers buy your product.

Quick-Turn PCB Prototyping Process

This prototyping process begins immediately after the design and begins with the design files.

Design File and Specification Review

The designer sends the centroid and Gerber files, the bill of materials and other prototyping documents to the manufacturer to commence production.

DFM Check

On receiving the required design documents, the manufacturer performs a design for manufacturability test before material selection. This process ensures the fab house can effectively manufacture the board and eliminates any production issues that can cause setbacks or delays.

A technician analyzes a PCB design before approving it for production

A technician analyzes a PCB design before approving it for production

Material Selection and Inventory Check

The manufacturer then checks if all the materials are available in the inventory, including the substrates and the electronic components required for assembly.

Prototype Fabrication and Assembly

Production begins once everything is in place and proceeds rapidly, followed by component assembly.

Quality Control

The complete quick-turn prototype circuit board undergoes inspection and testing for quality control to ensure the customer gets a high-quality working product.

An electrical engineer examining PCBs on a test bench

An electrical engineer examining PCBs on a test bench

Shipping

The circuit board(s) gets packaged and shipped to the customer for prototyping. If any changes are required, the customer carefully evaluates and sends the feedback to the manufacturer for correction.

Special Offer: $1 for 5 PCB Assemblies!

One requirement only: Order must be placed using a company account.
Please email [email protected] for details.
Special Offer: $1 for 5 PCB Assemblies!

Fast Turn PCB Assembly

This assembly process involves producing complete boards rapidly in as little as 24 hours but can go up to five days if you want a batch of circuit boards. Fast-turn assembly enables tech companies to build proof of concept under short deadlines to hasten product development and time to market.

A batch of PCBs straight from the production and assembly line

A batch of PCBs straight from the production and assembly line

The assembled batch is usually small, 10-100 orders, and includes double-layer or multilayer boards with surface mount or through-hole components.

Factors Affecting the Turnaround Time of a PCB

The time to market for quick-turn PCBs depends on several factors, such as the following.

Design and Test Procedures

Adhering to the DFM and DFT guidelines enables faster completion times, plus high-quality boards. Also, check the availability of components before including them in your design and determine the best layout strategies for compact designs. Lastly, establish clear test protocols and requirements in advance for a quick turnaround time.

 

Engineers designing PCBs using CAD software

Engineers designing PCBs using CAD software

 

 

Lamination Cycles

A High-Density Interconnect (HDI) board with multiple via structures requires sequential lamination cycles, a task resembling fabricating multi-layer boards. This board type increases manufacturing time, cost, and complexity.

 

A laminated PCB

A laminated PCB

 

The time required for each lamination cycle depends on the board layer count in the stack-up and the material used. Each separate layer adds an average of 4-5 days to the production process, which includes the drilling, filling, and plating time. And board manufacturers require at least one extra day for outer layer processing.

Via-in-Pad Plated Over

Via-in-pads have become typical in most PCBs because they can keep heat from the component's lower section or save space. However, incorporating them can add at least one extra day to the cycle time.

 

PCB pads and vias under a microscope

PCB pads and vias under a microscope

 

Fabrication Drawing Specifications

A fabrication drawing indicates vital manufacturing data, such as the following.

  • IPC class
  • Mechanical dimensions
  • Via drill chart
  • Layer stack up
  • Plating thickness

So, you need to know the PCB manufacturer's capabilities to close the gap between the design document and the DFM to reduce or avoid rework time delays. And always mention if the prototype follows IPC class 2 or 3 manufacturing standards.

Similarly, carry out multi-layer PCB stack-ups while considering material cost and availability. Rare materials will require more time to source, increasing the turnaround time. While at it, verify the drawing's controlled-impedance table to ensure it identifies the trace width and target impedances that require controlling to avoid delays caused by mismatched information.

Surface Finish

Surface finishing is also time-consuming because each coating requires a specific completion time. For instance, ENIG takes 1.5-2 hours to complete, while HASL only requires 15-20 minutes at most.

 

Surface-finished PCB edge connectors 

Surface-finished PCB edge connectors 

 

So, it will take more time to complete a high-quality PCB with two finishes, such as ENIG for the surface-mount connectors and hard gold for the edge connectors. Each finish gets applied separately, and the time will add up.

Assembly Drawings and Fabrication Notes

Fabrication notes and assembly drawings assist in circuit board inspection because they contain the parts list, bottom and top views, shapes, etc. Consider the following points to prevent delays during the board assembly process.

  • Adhere to the DFA guidelines while confirming zero component footprint mismatches.
  • Follow kitting guidelines if supplying parts
  • Ensure silkscreen feature markings remain visible
  • Send a complete BOM that includes the manufacturer part numbers and product descriptions.

Benefits of Quick Turn PCB Manufacturing

Quick-turn PCBs are better than traditional PCBs because of the following advantages.

Time Savings

Customers can leverage the time savings in the manufacturing process of these boards to gain a competitive advantage in the market by launching products faster. Additionally, quick-turn PCB fabrication encourages innovation and quick execution, enabling you to translate new ideas to the market in a short time.

Cost Savings

The process assists the DFM, resulting in a significant reduction in production costs. The fabrication stages also utilize cost-effective materials and components, reducing costs.

Board Variety

Manufacturers usually provide multiple PCBs in their selection to meet the requirements of different users.

 

A PCB ready for assembly

A PCB ready for assembly

 

Factors To Consider When Choosing a Quick Turn PCB Manufacturing Partner

Circuit board manufacturing is an intricate process. Doing it more rapidly requires even more care, so always consider these factors before choosing your quick-turn PCB manufacturer.

Experience

Rapid prototyping & production requires experience if the end product is to be functional and of high quality. So consider manufacturers/assemblers with a good reputation in the market.

Speed

Also, consider the delivery time before handing over the designs. Some manufacturers can complete the process in 24 hours, while others can do it in a few days. But faster is not always better. The vital factor is to ensure the manufacturer's speed matches your schedule. And short production runs usually cost more.

Equipment

Any quick-turn PCB manufacturer should have the equipment to fabricate high-quality boards faster. You can ask for their equipment list, but the best way is to visit the factory and see for yourself.

 

A PCB in a pick-and-place machine

A PCB in a pick-and-place machine

 

Quality

Fabricators should pay more attention to quality than speed, so high-speed manufacturing should not compromise product quality. Ideally, this partner should have quality control process certifications.

OurPCB has multiple certifications and several high-profile clients, which assures you of our quality in PCB manufacturing and assembly.

 

Several PCBs under production in a factory

Several PCBs under production in a factory

 

Cost

Cost is significant because you can only complete the deal if the quote is within your budget. Cheap might not always be best because there might be a compromise in quality. So try to get a good deal with an assurance of quality.

OurPCB: Best Quick-Turn PCB Production and Assembly Manufacturer in China

When selecting a quick-turn PCB fabricator and assembler in China, you must consider factors like production capabilities, PCB quality, pricing, the ordering process, communication when getting a quote, and customer support.

At OurPCB, we have high-quality facilities that can produce all types of circuit boards and trained, certified professionals to handle the production and assembly processes and our customers. Our prices are also reasonable, and we’ll give you a free quotation on your design specifications.

Wrap Up

In conclusion, quick-turn PCBs have immense benefits but can experience multiple delays due to some of the factors above. But most importantly, you should partner with a reputable manufacturer to build and assemble the boards at a reasonable cost while maintaining speed and quality. Contact us for information about our circuit board manufacturing process, and we'll contact you.

 

 

Special Offer: $1 for 5 PCB Assemblies!

One requirement only: Order must be placed using a company account.
Please email [email protected] for details.
Special Offer: $1 for 5 PCB Assemblies!