Machine or Handmade Prototyping Boards
Whether starting from our own hobby projects or testing a new circuit concept, you'll be hovering between outsourcing PCB prototype boards or building your own board. Let's have a look at various aspects that may affect our choices.
Are you building a simple timer circuit or a full-featured universal controller? A simple circuit may require the use of a prototype board as the cost of a prototype machine may not be justified. The same goes for complex circuits where signal integrity is really important. This is when machine prototyping is the wiser choice.
Using a prototype board may limit your ability to use basic through-hole components. When using several surface mount components, you can still convert them to through-hole pins using a suitable adapter. However, if most of the components are SMD, or if footprints like QFN or BGA are involved, you would have no choice but to choose a machine prototyping board.
Of course, you want to save as much cost as possible in the prototyping phase. If you're building electronics just for fun, you might want to choose a low-cost prototyping method. Otherwise, time to market is more valuable than prototype cost, on behalf of a company, you may choose your prototyping board to be done by machine.
When a design becomes complex, it can take hours or days for manually soldering connections on a prototyping board. If anything goes wrong, any rework will delay days into weeks. If you are in a rush to develop a product development plan, you won’t want to waste any valuable types. Nowadays, various suppliers can deliver within days thanks to their leading manufacturing capabilities.
With today’s manufacturing capability, various suppliers are able to deliver within a couple of days. Ultimately, prototyping board which is done by hand or machine is best determined by your priorities and requirements.