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NRE and Tooling Costs - What You Need to Know for Your PCB Project

Definition of NRE

NRE is an acronym that stands for Non-Recurring Engineering. The term is used to describe any one time costs that are undertaken during a manufacturing process. The NRE charge on your turnkey PCB assembly quote accounts for the cost of services such as the programming of Pick & Place, Reflow Soldering, and Inspection machines, as well as the creation of solder stencils and electrical test beds for your particular project.

How to Minimize NRE Costs

Some NRE cost is unavoidable in any project; we must create stencils and test beds for your project, and we must take some time to program our fabrication and assembly machines according to your specific needs. All that being said, there are a number of parameters for your PCB that can affect the total NRE cost, and simple awareness of these parameters can help to reduce charges that may have previously seemed somewhat arbitrary.

The three parameters having the greatest effect on NRE costs are the Physical Dimensions and Number of Layers for your particular PCB design, as well as the Quantity of your order.

Minimizing NRE through Physical Dimensions & Number of Layers

Creating stencils or test beds for PCBs that are physically larger, or incorporate a greater number of layers, will of course require increases in both effort expended and material consumed. Quite simply, if your aim is to reduce NRE cost, you should design for a physically small PCB, and you should only incorporate multiple layers if absolutely necessary.

Minimizing NRE through Order Quantity

This next parameter may seem less intuitive at first glance, but the best way to reduce NRE is to increase the quantity of your orders, and to panelize multiple projects. The simplest way to illustrate this concept is with an example: let us assume that you have two orders to place for two separate projects, each consisting of 50 PCBs. If you were to place these orders separately, you would receive a separate NRE charge for each one; however, if you had requested panelization of your two orders, you would receive only one NRE charge.

Minimizing NRE through Repeated Orders

Finally, it should be mentioned that Bittele will keep the stencils and programming files that were used in the production of your turnkey PCB assembly projects, meaning that NRE cost will be reduced for future production runs. Some NRE cost will remain to account for assembly setup and electrical testing time, but we can offer a substantial discount if we already have the stencils and programming files on hand for your design. Even in the case where a component has changed since your last run, we will work with you to reduce your NRE cost as much as possible.


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