PCB Design - What Does it Cost?

Determining the cost of a PCB design is theoretically simple - estimate the number of hours and multiply that by an hourly rate.  The complex part is estimating the number of hours and determining the hourly rate.  911EDA has been providing PCB design services since 2000 and have quoted thousands of designs.  We have developed a calculator that uses and structured process applied to a baseline formula, which is then modified to accommodate "outside the box" items.

An Altium PCB schematic with a calculator

Documents Needed 

One of the questions we are asked most often by new customers is "What do I need to provide for you to quote a design?".  Some files are required, while others are optional but certainly helpful in finding an accurate price.  More information means a more accurate quote.  Less information can sometimes lead to a re-quote where additional hours are added.

     Required Information for a Quote

  1.       Schematic (Native design file or PDF)
  2.       BOM (Bill of Materials)
  3.        Mechanical (DXF, IDF, PDF, or simple X-Y dimensions)

     Helpful Information for a Quote

  1.        Netlist
  2.        Routing Rules / Constraints Document
  3.        Placement Floorplan
  4.        Component Datasheets (only for components with layout notes)

Additional Things We Would Like To Know

Below are some common questions we might have, especially for new customers:

  1.        General schematic/technology questions?
  2.        Manufacturing cost or design for manufacturability (DFM) concerns?
  3.        CAD tool requirements? (At 911EDA we support most tools)
  4.        Do you have an internal component library?
  5.        Target completion date?

Estimating Time - Baseline

With a general understanding of the design and the basic questions answered, we can estimate the hours required for the project.  For PCB design, the tasks are virtually the same for every board:

  1.        Library component creation
  2.        Critical placement
  3.        Placement
  4.        Critical routing
  5.        Routing
  6.        Output file generation

To put a time to these tasks, we have created a calculator based on a count of component pins, components, nets, desired number of layers, and the usable area of the board.  Using the documentation you provided a baseline number of hours is generated for each of the layout tasks.

Estimating Time - Add-ons

The baseline number is then adjusted with “add-ons”, items which impact the standard time it takes to complete a design. Some common “add-ons” are:

  1. Component pin density.  This is derived from the usable square area (inches) / number of pins.  Anything over 400 pins per square inch would increase not only the placement time, but the routing as well.  This calculation is also used to determine if HDI is necessary from a density standpoint (not package).
  2. Routing density.  Based on the number of internal routing layers, number of nets, and shape of the board, a factor is applied to the routing baseline.
  3. Routing Topologies and Timing requirements.  DDR memory schemes are good examples of technologies that take a bit longer to successfully incorporate into a layout.  Other examples would be; RF designs with shield walls, Power Supplies, large number of differential pairs, PHY’s, etc.
  4. HDI. Necessary due to either package size or component pin density. HDI is a real game changer on what can be accomplished on a PCB as well as differentiator between designers.
  5. Mil / Aero. Technologies used on military / aerospace are typically no different than what we see in the commercial world but because of their stringent design guidelines, review process, complex documentation and project management requirements, these boards take longer to complete in all areas.

Estimating Time - Example

Here's an example calculation from a recent design quote:

Baseline Inputs

  • Board Size: 6 x 4”  
  • Layers: 8 
  • Pins: 1848  
  • Comps: 544 
  • Nets: 353 

Baseline Time Estimate

  • Library:  4 hours
  • Placement: 15 hours
  • Routing: 24 hours
  • Outputs:  6 hours

Add-Ons

  • DDR3 (1 bank)

Total Time Estimate: 54 hours

In this example, we have a relatively straight forward design that is expected to take 54 hours. This considers all aspects of the design process, including library, layout, and project management, required to produce a design that will meet your electrical constraints and manufacturing requirements. 

Hourly Rate

To generate the price for this project, we would multiply the 54 hours times an hourly rate. PCB design rates at 911EDA range from $90-$145 per hour. The factors affecting the rate include turnaround urgency, technologies, software tool choice, etc.  911EDA is ITAR registered, which means all work done at 911EDA is done within the United States and performed by U.S citizens.  We do not send any work off-shore, which many companies do to save cost and offer a lower rate.

Conclusion

As technologies change, we do still need to update our calculator from time to time.  We always compare the actual number of hours worked with the number of hours we estimated in order to ensure our calculator is working properly.  If you have questions about our PCB design services, our hourly rates, or would like a quote please contact Ryan O'Connor at (800) 320-2480 or at ryano@911eda.com.