The right PCB manufacturer offers convenience, affordability, and support that keeps costs to a minimum – allowing electronic enterprises to maximize a product’s value and profit. While options for reliable PCB manufacturing were limited half a decade ago, today’s electronic engineers have a broad array of design options in the US and offshore markets.
But, with each market providing its own unique advantages and disadvantages, it can be challenging to know which one to choose. To guarantee businesses have the highest quality and most reliable PCBs, check out our detailed comparison of offshore and USA PCB manufacturers below.
Benefits of PCB Manufacturing in the USA
The benefits of choosing a USA PCB manufacturer are many — especially if you need readily available customer service, faster delivery, and a manufacturer with a deep understanding of USA-based regulations and standards.
Better Customer Service
At the forefront of advantages for USA PCB manufacturers is the ability to access customer service in the same language. With PCB components being incredibly detailed and complex, businesses need seamless communication with a manufacturer who understands their questions and issues, no matter the context or detail.
Additionally, with a company and its manufacturer both in the USA, the ability to visit, inspect, and collaborate face-to-face is much easier. This convenience can lead to better problem-solving and quicker resolution when issues arise.
Lastly, choosing a USA PCB manufacturer ensures companies don’t risk clashes in business etiquette affecting a deal. For example, in Hong Kong, the world’s largest exporter of printed circuit boards, business deals are often cemented verbally rather than through contracts — causing confusion and lack of accountability when problems arise.
Smoother Shipping Process
USA-based PCB manufacturers often have faster lead times for domestic clients since no specialty customs or quarantine shipping processes need to be completed. This means a faster turnaround time for end products to be completed on schedule.
Moreover, with both parties in the same country, shipments and deliveries are more easily tracked and traced, leading to faster resolutions should a package go missing.
And most important to overhead costs, domestic shipping within the USA has no tariffs, duties, or taxes that need to be paid. This saves businesses thousands of dollars in the long run without sacrificing quality or delivery times.
Challenges of PCB Manufacturing in the United States
Ultimately, the advantages of hiring a USA PCB manufacturer often outweigh any potential disadvantages. But understanding the potential barriers to USA-based PCB options helps businesses plan for any potential problems in advance.
Some Increased Costs
Not every country has the same minimum wage protections or higher living costs as the USA. As a result, USA-based PCB manufacturers price out slightly more expensive than their offshore counterparts.
Additionally, US-based PCB suppliers will charge additional sales tax based on location, and shipping costs may increase due to competition from other US-based shipping companies.
Cons of Offshore PCB Manufacturing
Outright disregard for offshore PCB manufacturing isn’t always necessary, but there are some unique challenges associated with using PCB makers not located on US soil that businesses need to know before making a choice.
Many offshore PCB manufacturers are in time zones significantly ahead of the USA. China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan, the world’s three largest producers of PCBs, are all at least 12 hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time, making it difficult to discuss design issues or corrections as soon as they arise.
Also, with English less popular in areas known for their affordable PCB manufacturing, language barriers and difficulties in communication are more commonplace — making it harder to get the desired end product.
Risk of Theft
A greater distance between a business and its PCB supplier also exposes companies to a greater risk of fraud, scams, and theft. The ease with which an offshore PCB manufacturer could stop taking calls, refuse to return funds, or fail to complete an order is real. Businesses must thoroughly research offshore options before signing off on a deal.
Furthermore, intellectual property rights are not always respected nor enforced as much globally as they are inside the USA — potentially exposing businesses to the theft of sensitive proprietary information.
Even with all the seals and stamps in place, shipments from offshore locations often run into shipping problems. Packages can get lost in transit or customs due to language barriers, incomplete paperwork, and a lack of tracking options.
And some businesses might see the savings of using an offshore PCB manufacturer disappear, considering tariffs, taxes, specialty protective packaging for the long journey, and other international shipping-related costs.
Advantages of Offshore PCB Manufacturing
Using offshore manufacturers often makes a lot of sense for businesses needing the benefits only available through foreign PCB suppliers.
Cheaper Manufacturing Costs
The primary draw of using offshore PCB manufacturers is the lower cost of production. These lower costs are primarily a result of lower wages for workers, reduced operating costs (utilities, rent, etc.), and lower taxes for businesses.
The raw materials for PCBs are also more economical in their country of origin, further reducing costs and ensuring no degradation of materials as a result of shipping to USA suppliers.
Custom Order Size
One thing that some businesses find advantageous is the customizable order sizes. Offshore companies are known to make one-off, “small-batch” orders that US-based suppliers may not accept. This feature makes them an attractive option for small businesses, freelance engineers, and development teams needing a PCB or two to develop a new prototype.
Find Your USA PCB Manufacturer
The right USA-based PCB supplier is a valuable partner in designing, manufacturing, and assembling printed circuit boards. Compared to offshore options, these PCB makers provide the benefit of geographic proximity, easier communication, and a reduced risk of fraud.
It’s often the case that you get what you pay for, so companies need to make sure they weigh their options carefully before selecting a PCB supplier just because their prices are low. It’s essential to do the proper research, get accurate quotes, and ensure any manufacturer you partner with is equipped to handle the complexity of your project.
Learn more about how to choose the right onshore PCB manufacturer to guarantee a successful PCB project from start to finish.