PCB manufacturing is an elaborate process and it is important that you understand the various stages in the process so that when you need to get your PCB manufactured, you would know what it entails and how to go about the entire manufacturing process.
Before you could approach any PCB manufacturing company, you should have the PCB design or the Gerber files ready. The Gerber files have to be sent to the PCB manufacturing company to get your quote. Based on the quote given and agreed you will proceed with the PCB prototype building. In order to get the best deals, you should send your requirements to multiple companies and get multiple quotes. This is very important because the PCB fabrication cost varies from one company to the other for the same requirements.
PCB prototype building is to test the PCB design to ensure that everything is working in the way they should. Before you could go for mass production, one has to first get the prototype tested and approved. Failing to pay attention to details in the PCB prototype building stage, will lead to massive loss when you go for mass production. Moreover, without testing the prototype, you would also not know whether your entire product will work and whether it is stable.
After getting the PCB prototype finalized, you should next proceed to the PCB mass production. You would have the freedom to make changes, tweaks or modifications to your design until you go for mass production. If you do not want to lose money on the mass production of PCBs, you should have all possible issues resolved in the prototype stage.
Once the PCBs are manufactured as per the specifications, the next step is assembly of the components to the PCB. This step also includes the sourcing of the components used in the PCB. You could either source the components for your PCB and send to your PCB assembly company or you could let your manufacturer take care of the PCB components sourcing. You need to check the pros and cons of both approach and the savings factor and make well-informed choices.
The next step is the assembly of the PCB as per your product design. The type of soldering and the nature of the assembly will all be determined in the initial stages itself. You will not be making any changes at this point of time after you have the final prototype approved.
Once the PCB is assembled as per your requirements, they have to be shipped to you. The shipping process takes time and when you are planning your orders and your manufacturing schedule, you need to take into account the time required for manufacturing and also the time required for shipping. This will help you with better planning of your PCB orders.
As you could see the entire PCB manufacturing process is very elaborate and unless you are careful, things could go wrong at any stage. Find the right manufacturer and most of the issues would be taken care.