When you are designing your printed circuit board or creating your printed circuit board array, do you give thought to optimizing the panel utilization of the manufacturer?
Domestically, printed circuit boards are priced “per panel” so your cost is directly tied to the number of pieces that can be produced on that panel.
Typical panel sizes for domestic PCB manufacturers are 18” x 24” and 21” x 24”. Most suppliers require a 1” border around the panel for tooling holes, coupons, etc. leaving a 16” x 22” or 19” x 22” area for the PCB’s. Of course, each piece also needs a small space around it for routing, etc.
This is true for individual pieces and arrays. It is not uncommon for a standard spacing and standard rail sizes to be used when requesting an array for assembly. Suddenly, instead of 4 arrays per panel, the manufacturer can now only fit 3. This has a dramatic impact on price.
As an example, with a simple 4 layer construction, this could increase the price from $12.50 to $16.50 each. On a simple 10 layer board the difference would be a price increase from $37.50 to $50.00.
Would it be possible to reduce the width of the rail or the space between individual pieces on the array? Could the design size be decreased by .25”?
Work with your supplier early in the design to ensure that you are making the best use possible of the PCB manufacturing panel. A good supplier is always happy to help!