From BOARD TALK
Reducing development costs through using a shared panel PCB prototyping service is proving increasingly popular. But the results can sometimes be disappointing and, in some cases, actually turn out to have been a false economy: A simple mistake at design time, poor quality control, or the use of inappropriate laminates can easily lead to prototype boards having to be re-worked – or worse – scrapped altogether. But a new scheme from ALR Services Ltd. promises a high-quality alternative to cut-price shared panel schemes.
Announced this week at Southern Electronics 2009, ALR’s new panel sharing prototype (PSP) service delivers production-quality prototype PCBs at prices comparable to the low-budget services available elsewhere. In what’s believed to be the first PSP service of its kind in Europe, the Oxfordshire-based company will employ the same rigorous standards it applies to its normal production services, including carrying out basic design rule checks to help avoid expensive pre-production errors. All PCBs are produced in the UK on top-quality, high Tg FR4 laminate, overlaid with solder resist and screened with component identity markings. Finally the boards are bare-board tested prior to delivery. ALR is offering the service on double-sided and four layer boards, with an impressive five day turnaround and no tooling charge.
"There are a number of suppliers already offering a ‘no-frills’ panel sharing service," says ALR’s sales manager Jo Saltman. "The idea is that by sharing a panel with others, customers can get their prototypes produced at greatly reduced cost. But with no design rule checks, no printing and no bare-board testing, customers have, up to now, just had to accept the risks associated with a ‘what-you-see-is-what-you-get’ service. If a mistake is made, the price of the supposedly cheap prototype boards starts to look quite expensive once the costs of replacement and time are factored-in."
"However there is no reason why customers should have to compromise on quality just because they are sharing a panel with others," continues Jo, "And with our service, they don’t have to. High-quality materials, pre-production design rule checks and post-production testing help to ensure the finished prototype board is as good as we can get it, which actually saves the customer time and money in the long run."
The shared panel boards from ALR Services are produced on 1.6mm High Tg FR4 (Ventec 150) with 1oz finished copper. Green solder resist and white silk screen component identity markings, are available on one or both sides if required. PCBs can be routed and/or scored and employ Lead Free HASL or Nickel Gold with a minimum hole size of 0.3mm.
ALR Services Ltd. is one of the largest printed circuit board brokerages in Europe, providing a wide range of circuit board technologies sourced from both UK and off-shore PCB manufacturers. Established over 14 years ago, the company has built-up a loyal customer base though its innovative business methods, technical expertise and its commitment to customer service. The company continues to grow, recently acquiring an additional 2000ft² of environmentally-controlled warehouse space and taking on extra staff to cope with increasing demand.