Low Cost PCB Prototype Manufacturer

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Printed circuit boards (PCBs) are essential components in most electronic devices and products. They provide the foundation on which components are mounted and connected with traces etched from copper sheets and laminated onto a non-conductive substrate. As products progress from initial concept to prototyping and then production, having access to low cost PCB prototypes can help manage development budgets.

Choosing the right PCB prototype manufacturer is key to getting high quality boards delivered quickly and affordably. There are many domestic and overseas manufacturers to select from, each with various capabilities, services, and pricing models. Evaluating factors such as capability, turnaround time, quality, customer service, and costs are important in determining which provider is the best fit for your project requirements.

This article provides guidance on selecting a low cost PCB prototype manufacturer suitable for your needs. Key factors in choosing a provider are detailed to help identify manufacturers that balance fast delivery, quality boards, and budget friendly pricing.

Factors in Choosing a Low Cost PCB Prototype Manufacturer

When evaluating PCB prototype manufacturers, several important factors should be considered:


  • Technology – The PCB technology capabilities should match your board requirements. Evaluate which technologies the manufacturer supports such as:
    • Layer count – From simple 2 layer to complex 12+ layer designs
    • Min trace/space – How small of traces and spaces between copper features they can reliably fabricate
    • Finishes – Sold mask solder, immersion silver, ENIG, etc
    • Via construction – Through hole, blind, buried, microvias
    • Board materials – FR-4, Rogers, aluminum, etc
    • Special processes – embedded components, controlled impedance, HDI
  • Design Rules & DFM – Understand their design rules and any design for manufacturability (DFM) services they offer to ensure your design files can be efficiently manufactured.
  • Certifications – Leading manufacturers should be certified to quality standards like ISO 9001. Some may hold specialized certifications like ISO 13485 for medical devices or AS9100 for aerospace applications.
  • Production Scale – Beyond prototypes, understand their production scale capabilities if you anticipate needing larger production runs in the future. Do they support quick-turn low volume along with higher volume production?
  • Engineering Support – Some providers offer engineering services that can help optimize your design for best manufacturability and cost-effectiveness. Take advantage of any consultative support they make available.

Turnaround Time

  • How quickly can they deliver your prototype boards?
    • Leading manufacturers offer expedited turnaround times of 24 hours up to around 1 week for standard delivery.
    • Be sure to factor in your complete design cycle time including iterations as needed.


  • evaluate the manufacturing quality and consistency you can expect
    • Do they have a reputation for consistently delivering high quality boards?
    • What quality certifications have they achieved?
    • Can they provide sample PCBs that demonstrate their quality?

Customer Service

  • Strong customer service can greatly improve your experience in getting boards swiftly manufactured to your requirements. Consider:
    • Technical support – Do they provide engineering support to help with design reviews, DFM, etc?
    • Communication – How responsive are they via phone, email, and any online customer portals?
    • Experience – Read reviews and talk to past customers to understand ease of doing business with them.


  • PCB prototype costs typically consist of:
    • Non-recurring engineering (NRE) charges – This may include charges for processing your design files, testing fixtures, or tooling specific to your boards. Ask what is included and clarify any NRE fees.
    • Recurring charges – The per board costs, generally decreasing with higher quantities. Confirm any minimum order quantities.
    • Shipping – Confirm costs for any requested shipping methods. Leading manufacturers often provide free shipping.
  • Request formal pricing quotes from your candidate manufacturers to fully understand costs. Be sure to factor in costs of any iterations you may need. Also understand costs associated with any design revisions you may need post-prototyping as you progress to production.
  • Evaluate not just price per board but the total value – quality, turnaround time, and customer service. A slightly higher board price may be worthwhile for greater expertise, capabilities, and service.

Leading Low Cost PCB Prototype Manufacturers

Many well known manufacturers offer low cost PCB prototype services combined with robust capabilities, quality, and turnaround times. Some of the leading providers to consider include:


  • One of the largest and most well established PCB manufacturers located in China
  • Offers 24 hour express turnaround along with standard 5 day delivery
  • Extensive capabilities include 12+ layer boards, HDI, blind/buried vias, FR-4 and metal core boards
  • Order online with instant quotes and design file check
  • Quality certifications include ISO 9001 and IATF 16949


  • Very large China based PCB manufacturer with manufacturing sites globally
  • 24 hour rush service available along with standard 3 day delivery
  • Capabilities include 10 layer designs and requirements like impedance control and flex/rigid boards
  • Convenient online ordering and design analysis
  • Known for being one of the most budget friendly options


  • China based manufacturer with US sales and engineering support teams
  • 24 to 72 hour expedited services offered
  • Strong engineering support for design reviews and DFM optimization
  • Flexible order quantities from 5 boards to high volumes
  • Quality certification includes ISO 9001

OSH Park

  • US based manufacturer known for purple solder mask PCBs
  • Small quantities possible with no minimum orders
  • Standard pricing per square inch of board area
  • Design sharing community to find open source projects
  • 15 day standard turnaround time

Seeed Studio

  • China based manufacturing with US warehouse available
  • Extensive capabilities beyond PCBs including components, modules, and on-demand assembly
  • Fusion service combines PCB fabrication, assembly, and testing into a single solution
  • Standard 5 day turnaround for under $10 per board

This list highlights some of the many reputable manufacturers providing quality, low cost PCB prototype services. Be sure to diligently evaluate multiple providers against your specific requirements to determine the best option. Reach out for quotes and also research the provider’s reputation for delivery, quality and service.

Key Considerations in Choosing a Manufacturer

To recap, some of the most important factors when selecting a PCB prototype manufacturer include:


  • Technology expertise – Ensure they can support the layer count, materials, features, and complexity you require
  • Design support – Take advantage of any DFM guidance to expedite manufacturing
  • Certifications – Look for ISO and industry specific quality certifications

Turnaround Time

  • Evaluate standard and expedited delivery times
  • Factor in potential design iteractions to determine if times meet your schedule


  • Look for consistent, high quality results confirmed through sample boards, certifications, and customer reviews

Customer Service

  • Assess ease of doing business through ordering, communication, and engineering support


  • Understand complete pricing including NREs, board costs, shipping, and potential re-spin fees
  • Request formal quotes from multiple manufacturers and compare comprehensively

Prototype Iterations and Revisions

Keep in mind you will likely go through several rounds of prototype iterations and design changes as you test boards and evolve the design from prototype to production ready. Selecting a manufacturer that can support quick turnaround for these iterations at reasonable costs is ideal. Also work closely with your selected manufacturer so design changes can be implemented quickly and cost effectively through their process.

Be sure to budget for enough prototype boards including spares and multiple versions. Building sufficient time and costs for potential re-spins will help avoid delays during critical prototyping phases. Disciplined documentation of changes through the prototype and revision process will also help the process go smoothly.

Manufacturing at Production Scale

While this article focuses on prototype services, also keep in mind manufacturers that can support your needs beyond prototyping and into final production. Look for those that offer both low and high volume manufacturing so you can easily scale up production.

Be sure to engage your selected manufacturer early in the design cycle to help ensure a smooth transition from prototype to production. Look for manufacturers that offer engineering consultation during design to optimize your boards for production processes and testing. This may help identify any required design changes early which are much easier to implement before prototypes are built.

With careful selection of the right PCB manufacturing partner focused on your prototyping requirements, you will be on the optimal path to deliver high quality electronics products on time and on budget.

Frequently Asked Questions on Prototype PCB Manufacturing

What are important factors to consider when selecting a PCB prototype manufacturer?

Some of the key considerations are:

  • Capabilities – ensure they support required specs like layer count and advanced features
  • Turnaround time – evaluate standard and expedited times
  • Quality – look for certifications and consistently high quality deliverables
  • Customer service – ease of ordering, engineering support, communication
  • Cost – understand complete pricing including NREs and potential iterations

What is the typical turnaround time for PCB prototypes?

Standard turnaround is usually around 5 days from China manufacturers or 15 days for US fabs. Expedited services can deliver boards in as fast as 24 hours. Be sure to factor in potential design spins and revisions as well.

What are the main costs involved with PCB prototype orders?

Typical costs include:

  • NRE fees – for processing, testing, tooling
  • Board costs – typically decrease with larger quantities
  • Shipping – some manufacturers offer free shipping
  • Re-spin fees – if design changes are needed

How many prototype boards should be ordered?

Order enough to allow for proper testing, failures, multiple revisions. 10-25 boards is typical for initial prototype testing. Budget for potentially ordering multiple versions for design changes.

When should PCB manufacturers be engaged for production?

Early in the design process for consultations on design and manufacturability. Look for those offering guidance during prototyping to ensure a smooth transition to production.