Direct to consumer printed circuit board ordering is a relatively new business model taking over the industry.
What is D2C PCB Ordering?
D2C PCB ordering is shorthand for direct to consumer printed circuit board ordering. This is when the middle man is cut out of the ordering and manufacturing process, and the consumer is able to speak to and order from the manufacturer directly. By not using printed circuit board brokers, the cost of ordering PCBs became much cheaper, and accessible to people who may not have been able to order professionally manufactured printed circuit boards in the past.
What is a PCB Broker?
A printed circuit board broker used to be (and often still is) the go-between connecting printed circuit board manufacturers with consumers. Printed circuit board brokers were often needed because of a language barrier that created issues when consumers were trying to order circuit boards from manufacturers overseas who typically spoke a different language, and who may not be equipped to accept orders directly from the public. As printed circuit board manufacturing has evolved, it has become easier for printed circuit board manufacturers to work directly with consumers, since designs can easily be uploaded online, and the language barriers have decreased with advances in technology and the ability to translate online in real time.
How has Direct to Consumer Ordering Changed the PCB Industry?
With the declining need for printed circuit board brokers, the printed circuit board industry has progressed in order to meet the increased demand from consumers. Hobbyists, inventors, students, and professionals all began to place orders, opening up an industry that was oftentimes very closed off to outsiders. This began to increase the popularity of making your own electronics, and drove up the demand of low to medium volume orders that printed circuit board manufacturers usually did not accept in the past.
Low Volume Printed Circuit Board Orders
With advances in printed circuit board manufacturing technology came the ability to buy circuit boards and produce custom-designed printed circuit boards more easily. This led to PCB manufacturers accepting the low volume orders that they were unable to produce economically in the past. As the market continued to open up for consumers, people who only needed a small run of circuit boards, or even a single circuit board, were finally able to order what they needed, directly from the manufacturer, without breaking the bank.
The Spread of Printed Circuit Board Manufacturers
Printed circuit board manufacturers had migrated overseas along with many other manufacturing industries, due to lower costs and looser regulations. As the technology for printed circuit board manufacturing became cheaper, some companies began to pop up in the United States and Europe. This further decreased the language barrier that had created difficulties in the industry years ago. Being able to deal with a domestic manufacturer made the process of ordering circuit boards directly from fabricators less intimidating to many people.
Today, there are many printed circuit board manufacturers all over the world who work directly with consumers to produce printed circuit board orders from as little as one board, to as many as thousands, in all levels of complexities. If you are a hobbyist, student, inventor or maker, you are now able to order exactly what you need, with no middleman involved.
Arthur is one of four Co-founders and Engineering Manager of Gerber Labs, an Orange County based engineering startup that is currently rolling out a platform that makes custom printed circuit boards (PCB’s) accessible to electrical engineering students, hobbyists and small businesses.