Small-scale production of simple electronics: in Russia or in China?

I recently developed one simple device. I had to decide how to make a trial batch of 50 boards. I think this experience will be useful to all DIY enthusiasts who are already thinking about what to do next after the device is ready.

I note that this note is not a marketing research or something like that, claiming to be an objective coverage of the issue. This is solely one private personal experience.

1. Device


The device itself is very simple and fairly typical. Without going into details: STM32 microcontroller, 8x2 LCD indicator, four buttons, the minimum required body kit. Divorced on a two-layer board, SMD mounting (about 70 points of soldering) and output (35 points).

2. Why is the assembly on the side?


Despite the fact that I am professionally engaged in the development of electronics, but in this case it is my personal project, which I did in my free time (which is never enough). Of course, assembling 50 boards yourself is basically possible (especially if there is a stove). And that would be one of the cheapest manufacturing options. But, since this activity does not yet generate income, then investing your time in a dumb assembly is not the best solution, IMHO.

3. What you need to get started


In order to start working with manufacturers, you need to:

- Generate Gerber files for the board. Everything is obvious here, you just need to remember to check the capabilities of a particular production (clearances, track width, etc) and make a DRC.

- Prepare a list of elements (BOM list). And it is advisable to find all the components on Digikey or Farnell (or where you planned to purchase) and enter the order code or link to each element. Some manufacturers with whom I corresponded did not accept the BOM list without this. In the end, you yourself will know how much a package will cost on a board.

4. Where to look for a manufacturer


I searched on alibaba.com and aliexpress.com
Keywords: PCBA, PCB assembly.
Prices are indicated there just like that, you should not pay attention to them. You can rely on the Minimum Order, but as it turned out, not always.

A message sent to the manufacturer from alibaba gets to the sales manager, and then follows the correspondence by email. I must say that the Chinese respond promptly and write detailed letters in reasonably well-understood English.

5. Delivery to Russia from China


In fact, the import of electronics entails working with customs. Fortunately, there are a lot of companies that import goods from China to domestic sellers-dealers who actually solve all transport and customs issues. I also made a request among several such firms. On average, it turns out about $ 50 for delivery to Moscow.

6. Sampling


I managed to communicate with four manufacturers from China and two from Russia.

The conditions were as follows:

- Interested in the cheapest option to the detriment of the timing. I needed to get the lowest possible price, even if it took a very long time.

- In order to optimize the price, I asked if it is possible to buy components directly in China, where they are obviously cheaper than in online stores like Digikey. By the way, no one agreed to make such a selection. I do not exclude that some cheaper Chinese parts will nevertheless be delivered, but this is not stated in the estimated cost.

Actually, the results are in the table.

China
ITEAD Studio imall.iteadstudio.com$ 594
Hangzhou Singo Tech Co., LTD www.hzsingo.com , hzsingo.en.alibaba.comquickly replied that they did not make small batches (although it is written on alibaba that from 100 pieces)
DALIAN JY ELECTRONIC TECHNOLOGY CO., LTD. www.jiayuan-dl.com jydz.en.alibaba.com$ 520
HongTai Technology LTD. www.htpcba.com htpcba.en.alibaba.com$ 970


Russia
Nevskaya Electronics LLC nelectro.ru$ 1250
PC Altonika www.pk-altonika.ruThey quickly replied that they didn’t do small batches, they recommended that they turn when the batch was from 500 pieces - it’s more profitable
Contract Electronics www.contractelectronica.ruDid not answer
Electronics for life e4life.ruDid not answer


Conclusion


I chose a Chinese manufacturer. And I will recommend to all colleagues, at least, to consider the possibility of production in China, regardless of the volume of the batch.

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