Help me understand a PCB assembly quote?

I often see quotes containing charges for NRE, setup, tooling, etc. What do these mean? What do I need to understand to make sure I design my board in such a way that cost is minimized?

NRE is Non Recurring Engineering.
This will include creating the photo-plot films for etching the board, setting up the drill machines to drill the board, programming the routers to route the finished board out of the panel. There are many steps in creating a board and machines have to be programmed, jigs made etc.
Talk to your vendor and ask for them to be explained. If you can visit a local board shop you can get to see the process first hand.


Paul is correct with regards to the PCB Fabrication. When it comes to Assembly:


  • Programming the Pick & Place machines to populate the boards.
  • Programming Optical Visual Inspection machines for Quality Control
  • Programming of Selective/Wave machine (if applicable)…
    basically any sort of programming/preparation required to get the line ready to assemble and quality control the build.

Setup: unlike NRE which is generally a one time charge unless new revisions have significant or modifications that affect the production greatly, Setup is usually charged on every build, and it basically:

  • Setting up the machines
  • loading components onto feeders

Tooling is purely a PCB Fabrication charge and is not really relevant to Assembly.


Hooman Javdan
Vice President
Circuits Central Inc

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An important consideration is to allow yourself heaps of time - more than 1 month - between pulling the trigger on an order of PCBs/PCBAs, and expecting delivery. The shorter you make that delivery date, the more your costs will rise exponentially.

Also, allow yourself the time to select the slowest cheapest delivery options at each step of the way. Overnight or 2-day delivery is a massive cost at this end of the quantity spectrum.
If a vendor also offers PCBA Testing services (at the end of their production line, using a test jig that you make and give to them, to test your product to your specifications) I would recommend doing that too - it’s quicker and cheaper to deal with failures while the PCBAs are still in the same factory they were just manufactured in!

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what hoomanj said is right, and you should use DFM to check if there are any problems and it usually will recommend you several plans to minimize your cost, btw this is what my trusted PCB manufacturer- NEXTPCB is doing, also there are still other DFM SOFTWARE doing this stuff. BTW, I have tried their $0 for PCB prototype, you could have a try. and recently they launch $7 SMT service, you could know about it.