Quick Turn PCB: Everything You Need to Know

The quick turn PCB is a printed circuit board that is designed, fabricated, and assembled in a notably short period. This short turnaround time ensures that schedules and deadlines are met even for high-volume orders, with the promise of quality products. This article explains the concept of quick turn in PCB manufacturing, discussing the process, benefits, and stages.

author avatar

01 Aug, 2022

High-tech electronic PCB with processor and microchips

High-tech electronic PCB with processor and microchips

Introduction 

Quick turn PCBs refer to printed circuit boards (PCBs) that are fabricated and assembled very quickly, hence the name 'quick turn' PCB, and electronics manufacturers avail themselves of this method because it promises qualitative end products, as well as cost and time efficiency. The rising demand for electronic devices and appliances translates into a huge, competitive market where large-scale production is necessary. Quick turn makes it possible for manufacturers to stay on top of their game in both quantity and quality.

What is Quick Turn in PCB manufacturing?

Quick turn in PCB manufacturing is a type of PCB production that enables manufacturers to complete projects or satisfy orders quicker than usual, and without compromising quality. Due to quick turn, the entire PCB fabrication and assembly process can be done in a very short time, usually ranging from 24 hours to 7 days, depending on the complexity of the board being produced, in terms of design specifications, surface finish, number of layers or board stack up, mounting techniques (SMT or Through hole) and lamination. 

Nevertheless, quick turn significantly cuts down on the production time that regular end-to-end PCB assembly requires, making it a whole lot easier for concerned stakeholders to meet demanding deadlines and pressing schedules.

Recommended reading: SMT Manufacturing: Everything You Need to Know

The quick turn manufacturing process involves sending the PCB design to the manufacturer in a Gerber file format. The Gerber format is the de facto standard file format for PCB data transfer from the designer to the manufacturer. This makes it possible to securely and effectively communicate all PCB data, including Board and Assembly information.

So, after the PCB design has been sent to the manufacturer, the fabrication company carries out a Design for Manufacturability (DFM) review on it and verifies the material and technical specifications, according to design requirements and IPC (Institute for Interconnecting and Packaging Electronic Circuits) standards. After the file and order are approved, the company sends out the PCB quote, and then the manufacturing and assembling process begins.

Prototypes are made to test the product's functionality in the early stages of the fabrication process, then pre-production batches are made for more accuracy checks, and finally, high volume full production is done in the shortest possible time.[1]

The quick turn PCB manufacturing process was initially used for prototype PCBs and low-volume production. But with the fast-evolving nature of the electronics industry, quick turn PCBs are now utilized in every stage of product development, from initial concept design and working prototypes to moving out the final product to the market fast.

There are 2 major benefits of the quick turn PCB assembly. The first is that it is time-saving. This is so because of the quick turnaround time it offers, giving users a competitive advantage in today’s market. New ideas can be quickly executed, with quick time to market and reap the benefits of the first one out.

The second prominent benefit is cost saving. Since production requires short periods, it translates to significant cost reduction for PCB manufacturers. Another way this production process cuts costs is where components are acquired at cost-effective prices, thereby reducing overall costs.

To detail other features and benefits available with quick turn, the following outline is provided:

  • Quick turn PCBs help save time taken by manufacturers for an otherwise end-to-end assembly process.

  • Most quick turn PCB assemblies are built using flex PCBs, which can be made bendable, compact, and can also be heat and vibration resistant, among other physical parameters.

  • The size of the quick turn PCB meets the growing demand for small-sized communication devices, and it is applicable in the IoT area.

  • Quick turn encourages prototyping, increases the speed of prototype production and even research and development, thereby enabling manufacturers to improve their time-to-market potential.

  • Prototypes help detect and fix possible errors in the early stages. It also creates opportunities to add more features and improve performance.

  • Quick turn PCBs help manufacturers fulfill the time-related commitment made to the customer while minimizing the overall costs.

  • Quick turn flex PCBs have high tensile strength, improved heat dissipation, durability, and the ability to enhance airflow.

  • Once they have been manufactured, quick turn PCBs can be assembled within 24 hours.  

  • Prototyping is an essential efficient and cost-saving strategy employed in quick turn PCB manufacturing, to ensure short turn times and delivery times.

  • The turnaround time for a quick turn rigid PCB is as low as 24 hours, while flex and rigid-flex PCBs may require about 7 days turnaround time. This is due to board and design complexities. [2]

Quick Turn PCB Prototypes

A PCB prototype is a fabricated PCB that is created to check and evaluate the functionality and capability of the final PCB assembly that is the objective of production, to make sure it meets the current required technical and electrical applications. 

These prototype PCBs are created with all the functionalities and properties that are expected from the final finished PCBs. Prototypes help prove the PCB design, providing the avenue to thoroughly test it and resolve any performance or regulatory compliance issues before full manufacture commences.

The prototype stage is where the correction, addition, or omission of features are done to ensure that the final PCB assembly is without any technical errors. This is done before the quick turn automation begins in earnest. Therefore, valuable time is invested in prototype testing to support efficiency and performance.

Early prototypes can be drastically different from the finished product. Therefore, the first batch of prototypes is usually done in smaller quantities. Prototypes are crucial because it is difficult to make changes to a finished PCB.

Quick turn PCB prototypes are therefore beneficial for the following reasons:

  • Save significant manufacturing costs.

  • Avoid manufacturing defects or spotting them at an early stage for correction.

  • Save valuable delivery time by meticulously checking the design for manufacturability.

  • Avoid manufacturing delays by reducing changes during production.

  • Provide chances for manufacturers to make adjustments before full production, based on client and user feedback.

Pre-Production PCBs

Pre-production PCBs are avenues to verify that production elements such as the supply chain, tooling arrangements, and even board layout are satisfactory, before committing significant resources to high-volume production.

It may seem similar to the prototype stage, but the preproduction is essential for optimizing assembly procedures and gathering information about realistic manufacturing time and cost, so it goes beyond the functionality testing that happened during prototyping.

Large-scale PCB manufacturing can be fraught with many issues which need to be resolved in a batch production phase.

PCB pre-production is therefore useful for:

  • Ensuring confidence and satisfaction before going to the mass production stage,

  • Checking that final tooling arrangements are accurate,

  • Optimizing board layout for maximum efficiency, and

  • Detecting and rectifying errors to save the cost of reworking. [3]

Batch Produced PCBs

Full-Production PCBs

When all the testing, corrections, and amendments have been made, full production can commence. This happens when the engineering and design team are satisfied that the basic prototypes work to the required expectations. They can also decide to make further enhancements to the design at this stage, to increase efficiency.

Full production orders are usually considerably larger than the prototyping and pre-production stages. Materials are procured in mass quantities for large-scale production and assembly of the actual boards that will be used in devices and other applications.

As long as the manufacturer has gone through all the preceding stages, there is an assurance of high-quality PCBs and streamlined production for quick delivery. [4]

Key Takeaways

Quick turn PCB fabrication is the most efficient way to manufacture printed circuit boards, having received an industry-wide commendation for helping to ensure the fast production of large-scale orders, with very little chance of end product defects. It is a standardized process involving research, design, prototype fabrication, testing, and pre-production batches to achieve full production assemblies, all while saving time and cost.

References

1. PCBA Store. Everything About Quick Turn PCB. 2021. [Cited 2022 Jul 29] Available from: https://www.pcbastore.com/blogs/quick-turn-pcb.html 

2. Creative Hi-Tech. Things to Know About Quick Turn PCB Assemblies. 2020. [Cited 2022 Jul 29] Available from: https://www.creativehitech.com/blog/things-to-know-about-quick-turn-pcb-assemblies/#:~:text=Overall%2C%20quick%20turn%20PCBs%20help,be%20manufactured%20in%20minimal%20time

3. Millennium Circuits Limited. Key Benefits & Advantages of Prototyping your PCB. 2022. [Cited 2022 Jul 30] Available from: https://www.mclpcb.com/blog/benefits-of-prototyping-pcbs/ 

4. Advanced Circuits. Understanding the Difference Between PCB Prototyping and Full Spec Production. 2021. [Cited 2022 Jul 30] Available from: https://www.4pcb.com/blog/understanding-the-difference-between-pcb-prototyping-and-full-spec-production/

01 Aug, 2022

Broadcast Journalist, Content Strategist, Communication Enthusiast with 6+ years background experience in Mass Communication, B2B and B2C Content Strategy, Content Management, SEO Copywriting, Tech Writing, Editing and Proofreading, Marketing, Brand Identity Management, Entrepreneurship, and Leaders... learn more

Stay Informed, Be Inspired

Wevolver’s free newsletter delivers the highlights of our award winning articles weekly to your inbox.