Just Ask Happy: Is PCB Fab Returning to the U.S.?


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We asked for you to send in your questions for Happy Holden, and you took us up on it! The questions you've posed run the gamut by covering technology, the worldwide fab market, and everything in between. Enjoy.

Q: If the U.S. brings more PCB fabrication back to America, will it more likely be to the captive or contract shops?

A: There are only a few captive fabricators in the U.S., but I hope that more OEMs will consider going captive as a way to ensure a source of supplies, lower costs, minimum lead times, and continuous improvements. OEMs should emulate the activities of Whelen Engineering, the emergency lighting company in New Hampshire that went captive and returned all of its PCB fabrication from China. Whelen cut its costs in half, improved quality, ensured its IP security, and cut weeks off their cycle time—all with an investment that had an ROI of fewer than two years.

But if PCB fabrication is to return to the U.S. from abroad, the majority will be to contract shops.  If so, I hope that the OEMs will consider partnering with those contract shops and not treating their manufacturing “as just another commodity,” just as they don’t consider their proprietary circuits to be commodities. How circuits are manufactured is not like making soap; each PCB is different and deserves the necessary focus and care in its construction.

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