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Proto-Electronics.com moves into top gear, article published in Electroniques magazine

Read this article published about Proto-Electronics.com in June 2017 by Electroniques magazine

This specialist in the speedy delivery of small series of PCBs has extended its offer both for PCBs and components. It has invested in new production machinery, added a delivery option and redesigned its web site. Already present in Germany, it is now targeting Italy.

Proto-Electronics.com is a specialist in the express production and delivery of small series of PCBs (between 1 and 50). In practice, customers use the Proto-Electronics.com web site to choose the PCB adapted to their design and provide either all or part of the PCB parts list. They can transfer their parts lists directly to the web site in an Excel file. Using that data, Proto-Electronics.com looks for the best prices for the required components from its four partner suppliers (Digikey, Farnell, MouseR and RS Components).

In most cases, customers use Proto-Electronics.com and its partners to acquire components, “except when the PCB has strategic components”, say, Proto-Electronics.com’s sales manager. Then the company issues a quote. If the customer accepts the quote, they proceed to payment: by bank card, transfer or using 30 day payment terms which are usual for businesses.

A complete offer

Proto-Electronics.com has just extended its PCB, component and box offer.

“For PCBs we can offer 75 µm spacing between tracks!  Compared to 100 µm previously, as well as new materials such as those sold by the American Rogers, which are specific to radio frequencies and hyper-frequencies”. Remember that the maximum number of proposed layers for PCBs is twelve.

New finishes are also now available: HAL SN100C, Enepig, meaning nickel-palladium-gold, or a technique identical to Enig with an additional layer of palladium placed between the nickel and the gold to prevent the nickel – and chemical silver – from oxidising, guaranteeing good wettability and an even deposit, which is perfectly complementary to silver wire bonding. “ Proto-Electronics has the most complete on-line offer”, believes the sales manager.

Concerning boxes, Proto-Electronics.com has also beefed up its offer with BGA and QFN models with 0.35 µm spacing and with size 0201 CMS boxes (normally used for resistors and capacitors).

As for the offer of components from specialised online and catalogue dealers, Proto-Electronics.com is about to add a fifth partner to its suppliers: the Pole TME.

In addition to upgrading its component, box and PCB offer, Proto-Electronics.com is also enhancing its delivery lead time offer. Next summer, the company is going to add a fifth delivery mode located between the “standard” and the “economic” modes to supplement the four existing modes. Until now, customers could choose between: “urgent” mode (delivery within 5 business days from the on-line order), “rapid” mode (delivery within 8 business days); “standard” mode (12 business days); and “economic” mode (20 business days).  The new mode will be between the standard (12 business days) and the economic (20 business days).

An easy to use web site

At the beginning of the year, Proto-Electronics.com put version 2 of its web site on-line, a version with a new page layout and improvements in parts lists – as well as more details – documentation of the product and service offer, technical documentation, etc. “We are always looking to improve the PCB definition tools and ordering tools and how to use them”.

This is one of the reasons the company has just hired a webmarketer to look after customer communication and web site improvement – in particular the simplification of web site use.

Currently, Proto-Electronics.com employs 22 people: eight (salespeople) work from Proto-Electronics; fourteen others, based at Altrics, are in charge of assembling the PCBs.

They have also invested in production. “This year we invested 300,000 euros”, announced Proto-Electronics.com’s sales manager. The money was used to buy a second brazing furnace, an X-RAY 3D AOI inspection machine, a machine for board cleaning and a second screen printing machine. In practice, the 14 Proto-Electronics.com employees based at Altrics assemble the PCBs using a computer-assisted production method.

Thus, after screen printing, some components are fitted on the board manually using computer assistance, while others are placed automatically (using a CMS positioning machine) or semi-automatically (BGA boxes…). Then the PCB goes for reflow.

European coverage

Even though Proto-Electronics.com is closely following the progress of 3D PCB printers, it currently does not plan to purchase such equipment. Indeed, even if this type of machine makes it possible to produce a PCB in one night, that rate would not be enough to meet the company’s demand: “we are getting 15 to 20 orders per day, each one being quite large, an average of 10 PCBs”.

At the start of 2017, Proto-Electronics.com opened offices in Germany. Two people are in charge of that country of which one was hired last year. There is also a web site in German. The company is currently recruiting a person to take charge of the Italian office at the same time as they translate the web site into Italian.  “The Italian office is scheduled to open in 2018”.

Proto-Electronics.com does not lack ambition: even while it is planning 2 million euros of turnover in 2017, it is targeting 10M€ in 4 years. Finally, in order to better convince clients from sensitive sectors, such as automotive, Proto-Electronics.com has just obtained ISO 9001 certification.

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