Prototype and small volume PCB companies in China

The printed circuit board is the key electronic interconnection of electronic products and is known as the "mother of electronic products". The downstream of printed circuit boards is widely distributed, covering communication equipment, computers and peripherals, consumer electronics, industrial control, medical, automotive electronics, military, aerospace technology and other fields. The irreplaceability is one of the elements that the printed circuit board manufacturing industry can always develop steadily

The development of printed circuit boards in China started late, the high-end technology of making PCB boards lags behind developed countries. In 1956, China began to develop printed circuit boards. Compared with developed countries, China lags behind for nearly two decades before participating in and entering the PCB market. The concept of printed circuits first appeared in the world in 1936. It was proposed by a British doctor named Eisler, he pioneered the related technology of printed circuits-copper foil etching process.

In recent years, China's economy has developed rapidly, coupled with policy support for high-tech, China's printed circuit boards have developed rapidly in a good environment. 2006 was a landmark year for China's PCB development. This year, China successfully surpassed Japan and became the largest PCB production base in the world.

With the advent of the 5G commercial era, major operators will invest a lot in 5G construction in the future, so there is a need for China's printed circuit board technology to accelerate the update speed. However, at present, China is only the world's largest printed circuit manufacturing country, but it is not a strong country. Many technologies are still behind developed countries such as the United States, Japan and Europe.

Although in 2006, China’s PCB production value surpassed Japan and became the world’s largest PCB producer, China’s main production is PCB batch boards, but there are very few manufacturers of PCB prototypes with high technique. 

The production process of PCB prototypes mainly includes new product research, testing, development and pilot testing. The order characteristics of this type of PCB are mainly small area and multiple categories. Therefore, the area of a single order for PCB prototypes is generally less than 5 square meters. The market positioning of PCB prototype companies is to provide customers with the above services. Compared with batch board enterprises, customers have higher requirements for the response speed of the sample factory. Therefore, the sample factory needs to have stronger production organization and customer management capabilities (management and quality control), which is also one of the core competitiveness of PCB prototype enterprises.

Batch boards refer to PCB products that have sufficient commercial value and can start mass production after passing the R&D and trial production stages; therefore, the batch boards are used in the commercialization and large-scale production stages of products, and the order area is usually greater than 5 square meters. Therefore, the requirements for large-scale production capacity of enterprises are relatively high.

Both high-volume PCB boards and small-batch PCB boards show customized features,however, low-volume board manufacturers have higher gross profit margins.
There are many ways to classify PCBs. Among them, according to the needs of customers, they can be classified into sample and batch boards; according to the size of a single order, batch boards can be subdivided into small batches and large batches. The main features of the two are: high-volume boards are oriented to individual consumers, and the order scale is large; small-volume boards are oriented to corporate customers and have a high degree of customization.

Small-batch boards are for corporate customers and have a high degree of customization; there are many types of products but a single order area is small, generally no more than 50 square meters. Small-batch boards are mainly used in communication equipment, industrial control, medical equipment, aerospace, defense and other fields. There are many types of products, and the demand for a single type of product is relatively small, but the degree of customization of the product is high.

High-volume boards are for individual consumers, and the order scale is large. Downstream customers of high-volume board terminals are generally for individual consumers, and are mainly used in consumer electronics such as computers and mobile terminals; there are not many types of products, but a single order area is large, and the order area is generally more than 50 square meters.

Because it needs to meet the customer's requirements for the application scenarios, materials, area, and performance parameters of the final product, both large-volume boards and small-volume boards have customized features. In order to ensure the stability of the upstream, customers will not easily change PCB suppliers, but Order shares will be allocated among different suppliers based on quotations.

For high-volume board companies, under the premise of ensuring the quality of their own products, in order to obtain more order shares, in terms of pricing strategy, in order to consolidate the relationship with downstream customers to obtain more market share, large-scale board Companies generally only guarantee a relatively reasonable gross profit margin, and the quotation will not be too high. When orders increase, high-volume board companies can reduce costs and improve efficiency through continuous expansion of production capacity, growing with downstream customers and entering a virtuous circle.

However, the application areas of small-batch PCBs are mostly emerging mid-to-high-end areas, with a higher degree of customization, and a short delivery period to customers. Its many characteristics bring about the complexity of production process and process management and higher technical difficulties, which leads to the manufacturer's technology and yield from customer requirements are relatively high. Nowadays, there are few mid-to-high-end and small-batch PCB manufacturers in China, so small-batch PCB manufacturers have strong bargaining power for downstream, and small-batch PCB manufacturers have relatively higher gross profit margins under the same technical production conditions.

Although from the enterprise level, the profit level of PCB small-batch boards is higher. However, the core reason for the smaller number of PCB prototypes and small-batch board manufacturers in China is that the technology of PCB research and development is relatively low.

Technical barriers have caused many PCB companies to stay away from the prototype market. R&D means investing a lot of time and money, and it also has higher requirements for enterprise talent training and convening. In addition to technical factors, there are other factors that have become a pain point for the development of PCB small-batch board manufacturers.