American tech startups and seasoned companies are steadily increasing in numbers and capacity. Many rely on overseas manufacturers for PCB production, but these deals carry inherent risks in quality, privacy, and timely efficiency of moving between testing stages to the production line. The distance between designer and manufacturer also limits the amount of service that foreign manufacturers can offer. But a new wave of domestic manufacturers are finding ways to compete with the price of offshore PCB producers while offering design assistance for all aspects of electronic design.
The company Twisted Traces, from Wood Dale, Ill., is setting the bar high with services that range from assistance in electronic, software, and mechanical design. Local deliveries can be made within a week, reducing costs by 30 percent to 40 percent, and intellectual property does not need to be divulged to unseen partners overseas. Quality of productions is high enough to offer RoHS, UL, FDA, WEE, REACH, and SMTA compliance for PCBs produced, accommodating a large range of applications.
Twisted Traces produced a Nixie Tube clock for high-end bookcases. The same clock is available to everyone, or so I was told by company reps at Sensor Expo 2013 in Chicago.
One of the most potent aspects of Twisted Traces is the assistance offered to companies and individuals that are getting started or accelerating production. The company offers “Quick Turn” PCB assembly services that allow for fast prototyping. Design for manufacturability is at the heart of all facets of design to allow for fast and future growth or collaboration with other manufacturers.
Most recently, Twisted Traces launched new co-op panels that allow for multiple PCB designs to be built on a single panel. Collaborating companies or individuals can split costs on 2-layer or 4-layer boards, and a new website makes it possible to upload Gerber and convert CAD files (like ODB and AutoCAD) to Gerbers used to make a PCB. Customers can provide specs like the placement of surface-mounted components, BGA/QFNs, and through holes. There is the option to run a custom or full Design Rule Check on the proposed PCB, as well.
If time is an issue, and you would like to do some quick prototyping, pre-made prototyping boards are also available and can be customized and delivered in just five days. Of course, completely custom boards can also be manufactured.
Flexible PCB design and production is an option, and the firm also uses SLIC material for giving corrosion resistance and steel-like properties to high-density durable boards.
For small scale PCBs, the Twisted Traces team offers custom-made, laser cut, frameless solder paste Surface Mount Tech (SMT) stencils, or foil stencils. Frameless SMT stencils are convenient during PCB prototyping, for short-term use, and can be made specifically to facilitate manual printing tasks and produce high-quality, high-precision parts in minutes. Again, these stencils can be produced quickly using Gerber or CAD files.