A survivor’s story

The number of PCB fabricators in Europe has fallen dramatically over the last decade. In contrast, Eurocircuits in Belgium has grown on average more than 50% every year for the last 8 years.
Patrick Martin discloses the secret of success. Threatened by low Chinese production costs and artificial currency rates, most surviving European PCB fabricators have responded in one of three ways. Close down production in Europe and move to the Far East. Become brokers importing the bulk of their turnover, or move upmarket into low volume, high added-value production.

Eurocircuits has developed a fourth solution. They saw that there is one market area which was more resistant to the Far Eastern threats, R&D departments and specialist manufacturers. These two
groups need prototype and small series PCBs on fast deliveries. They are not necessarily looking for high technologies but they need fast responces, assured quality and reliable deliveries. They need competitive prices but cannot sacrifice their other requirements.

Problem detected, problem solved

In 1999 Eurocircuits saw the benefits of an internet-based business model. Provided the prices are right and the system secure the user benefits from a faster reaction and a shorter time to market, while the system itself cuts down administrative costs.

Combining their web-based solution with a production model they are able to deliver small batches of PCBs at a low cost. They faced three challenges: poor material utilisation on small orders, high tooling costs per order, and controlling large numbers of orders in production.

The solution was to adapt and extend an old technology, order pooling. Combining different orders onto standard production panels answers the three challenges: material utilisation is improved, one tooling charge is spread over several orders, and production control is greatly simplified.

Pooling is spreading

Today Eurocircuits handles more than 200 orders per day. This successful order combination demands correct PCB data at the outset and it needs skilled engineers and powerful software to make up the production panels. Meanwhile Eurocircuits has extended the pooling principle to unframed laser-cut stencils. The stencils are pooled onto large panels, laser-cut, then separated out and shipped with the PCBs.