Direct to consumer printed circuit boards, often referred to as D2C PCB, is a relatively new industry that has revolutionized the way people build and design electronics. Since there is no middle man or high cost barrier to entry, more people than ever before are designing printed circuit boards at affordable prices. This is exciting news for electrical engineers, who are now able to design and manufacture professionally printed circuit boards, customized for their specific project, or for a client, quickly and easily.
No More Middle Man
In the past, you had to go to a printed circuit board broker in order to get in touch with PCB manufacturers. Brokers charged a fee in order to place your order and receive it from overseas manufacturers. They became necessary largely because of language barriers between their clients and the overseas factories that were producing the bulk of printed circuit boards. As companies began to favor overseas factories due to decreased regulations and lower prices, the need for printed circuit board brokers increased. Today, that is no longer the case, thanks to direct to consumer printed circuit board ordering.
Language barriers and added costs have been diminished by advances in technology. Now it is easy to find a printed circuit board manufacturer who you can communicate with directly. Now, you can also use intuitive software to design your circuit boards, so there is no longer an issue with double checking your design to make sure it is functioning properly.
Small Volume Ordering is a Game Changer
Small volume ordering allows you to order customized printed circuit boards, specifically for a particular project, without having to deal with the added cost and risk of a minimum order. Since manufacturers are now able to fulfill orders as small as a single circuit board, you can create prototypes and fix issues with professionally manufactured circuit boards. This makes you and your product appear more polished, whether you?re trying to get it from the design stage to mass manufacturing, or you?re a hobbyist or student who needs a single board for a special project you?re working on.
High Tech Options are Now Accessible to Everyone
Your options are nearly unlimited when it comes to direct to consumer printed circuit boards. You can use flexible boards, materials that are able to withstand extreme temperatures, multiple layers, and components that used to be reserved for large corporations. With high tech options at your fingertips, coming up with innovative products is easier than ever.
Software Makes Designing PCBs More Efficient
New software options make designing PCBs easier and more efficient than ever before. You are able to see mistakes, automatically generate parts lists, and use PCB cost calculators and component sheets to virtually swap out components. This means that you can try different combinations of options to find out how they would function and compare PCB costs, before your circuit board is ever actually printed. This makes your job much easier, especially if you are working with a third party, since you are able to give them options to choose from, prior to sending the design to the manufacturer.
Options to Create Your Own Products
Since you can now create your own printed circuit boards without virtually no barriers, you are able to create your own products and prototypes prior to pitching your idea to any investors or companies. This opens up a huge number of options for the direction you want to go in your career as an electrical engineer.
Design PCBs for Your Existing Clients
As an electrical engineer, if you don?t want to create your own printed circuit boards, you can still enjoy designing printed circuit boards for new or existing clients. While it may seem easy to simply buy circuit boards and design them with all of the new tools available, many clients don?t want to take the time and effort to learn about circuits, software, and components. You can now design printed circuit boards for clients with no minimum order.
Electrical engineers are going to be seeing many job openings and other opportunities related to direct to consumer printed circuit board ordering in the future. Printed circuit boards are already used in nearly every mass-produced electronic device, but with the additional accessibility provided by the direct to consumer model, electrical engineers will see an increase in demand for their already desired skill sets. How you take advantage of the growing industry of direct to consumer printed circuit boards is up to you. The opportunities, like the possibilities of D2C PCBs, are endless!
Arthur is one of four Co-founders and Engineering Manager of Gerber Labs, an Orange County based engineering startup that is currently rolling out a platform that makes custom printed circuit boards (PCB?s) accessible to electrical engineering students, hobbyists and small businesses.