In yesterday's prototype design process, a prototype was first designed in-house and then outsourced to a third-party PCB manufacturer. Today, innovative PCB design teams are convincing their companies to bring rapid PCB prototyping in-house. Here's 6 reasons why:
When you’re trying to get a prototype out the door, time is of the essence. Going the common route means building a week or more into your production schedule to accommodate transit time between you and a manufacturer. This is to say nothing of the internal lag outsourcing causes within your own design and development process. Many engineers hesitate to request a prototype until it’s "finished," meaning more delays if they discover any problems.
With in-house prototyping, this doesn’t have to be the case. In-house prototyping means you start building a prototype sooner, thereby converting time you would be waiting for a product in transit into the time you’re spending developing and perfecting your idea. In-house prototyping, therefore, can turn an artificially inflated schedule into an efficient schedule, one that uses time actually working on a product, not waiting to get a product back from a manufacturer.
Considering in-house prototyping means considering revenue streams and how much return is coming back from where that revenue is invested. Conservation of revenue just makes sense. In order to accommodate the traditional manufacturing method, your money must necessarily go into the shipping costs and the vendor’s profit margins.
Keeping your prototyping in-house means conserving that money by investing it in yourself. It also means the ability to conserve money by prioritizing more promising projects, as opposed to investing within projects that have stalled. This is not the case when you outsource prototyping. Most PCB manufacturers require that you commit early to running your full production through their houses, giving you less freedom with your prototypes while also requiring a greater investment. In-house prototyping has also been known to help resolve material waste with improved circuit layouts.
If your product is more than just a PCB, and it requires the collaboration of different departments (mechanical/hardware, software, PCB designers) all pooling their energy, why let the turnaround time associated with the PCB prototype make everyone else wait? In-house prototyping can often be done on the same day, freeing up that time to allow the team to bring the most innovative product to market faster.
With rapid in-house prototyping, you don’t have to accept the errors and workarounds inherent in the process of outsourcing to a board house. Having in-house capabilities eliminates the need to produce costly dies and molds. With traditional manufacturing, the problem of, say, a flange that doesn’t fit into a receptacle often goes unnoticed until after a mold has been created. Remaking the mold, however, is extremely expensive – a cost avoided with in-house prototyping.
Security protocols differ from company to company and are usually not the first consideration when selecting a vendor. Shipping your prototype to a manufacturer means navigating the various security protocols of both your manufacturer and your shipping company. This can lead to security leaks, which may leave you vulnerable to piracy. This concern is eliminated by in-house prototyping, which ensures that your product is consistently protected by your own security protocols.
The rapid production allowed by in-house PCB prototyping means you can produce many PCB prototypes in the time normally consumed by outsourcing. More iterations not only means better designs, it means you don’t have to settle for a manufacturer’s self-inflicted manufacturing limitations.
Transitioning to in-house PCB prototyping is a commitment to a culture of innovation. Properly instituted, this changes a design team's sense of comradery and commitment that will translate directly to your bottom line.