surface mount vs through hole small run costs?

Thread Starter


Joined Jan 21, 2011
Can anyone recommend a small run printed circuit board manufacturer? I have a project that involves about 60 components on a 3" x 5" board.

Our thoroughly designed & thoroughly tested prototype boards are through hole but for the 40 boards that we will need made --- they could possibly be surface mount if the costs would be significantly less by doing it surface mount vs through hole. It seems that a potential future replacement of a component would be much more do-able with a through hole on our ordinary workbench & lab grade soldering station. If the initial expense was less for surface mount it could be a reasonable trade off to not have the through hole.

From some of your recent experiences --- before we start just googling "small run PCB manufacturers" --- I am hoping some of you can give some suggestions on who would be the best fit?


Thread Starter


Joined Jan 21, 2011
Are you doing the actual assembly, or are you going to farm this out?

The component soldering of about 5 prototype boards will be done with through hole components but the 40 & possibly more will not be done by us because we do not have the manpower &/or equipment to do it efficiently & quickly enough. The prepping of the boards will be done by a company like Advanced Circuits or similar.

To clarify my previous post, I was projecting out into the near future --- we do not actually have the prototypes & the final testing at the point done like I said. For the purposes of finding out about what to expect ballpark cost wise --- I did fast forward a bit. I do know if we change to surface mount we will have to spec out all new components. There are only 3 IC chips involved --- so most of the components have less than 5 solder points.



Joined Feb 19, 2009
You could order the SMD placed and add the through hole when you receive the placed boards.

Or make the entire board SMD. For hand soldering, 0805 resistors and SOIC are the smallest I'd suggest, though you can do TSSOP with a hot air rework station, you need to put them on first, otherwise you'll literally blow the nearby caps and resistors off the board unless they are glued down.

See ChipQuick for solutions of flux and low melting point solder where you can reflow a board in a toaster oven quickly, no PID required.

There was a list somewhere with reviews of board houses and prices + prices w/mask + prices placed, etc. Or it was a thread that was lost in time. Nearly all of them are in China, or US based and batched them through China.


Joined Oct 15, 2009
Surface mount is typically cheaper due to reduced labor cost. There aren't too many pick and place machines that do through hole well so they are typically placed by hand. SMT will just use the chip shooter and place parts as fast as the machine can go then reflow happens,etc...

A neat trick that might be best for you is to add through hole pads as well as SMT pads for parts you might have to change so that in the future if you need to swap out a part you can desolder the SMT part and just solder in a through hole replacement at your shop.
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Joined Jul 17, 2007
Going to all SMT/SMD should shrink your board size signficantly, and therefore your board parasitics. Since your board size will be decreased, your board costs will decrease proportionally. However, with such a small run of boards, the costs to re-engineer the board layout seems to me to be difficult to justify.

Additionally, since your parasitics will be decreased, response of your circuit may change; where the configuration may be stable now, the change in parasitics may be sufficient to cause it to be unstable in the new configuration. It is impossible for us to even venture a guess at this, because we have no details about the circuit.

While the idea of adding provisions to replace SMT/SMD's with thru-hole may seem attractive, you might wind up with a board larger than what you have now - and you would definitely wind up with increased parasitics due to the added traces.


Joined Apr 24, 2011
To get some ballpark data check out Screaming Circuits as they have an online quote calculator.

Taking some guesses to make an example, 40 boards, 25 SMD parts, no thru hole parts, single sided, will be $704.50 for a 10 day turn.

I have not used this service. I got the link to them from Sunstone Circuits who make PCBs and are their partner.