Things You Must Know About PCB NRE

Manufacturing of printed circuit boards (PCBs) is frequently required in the design and implementation of medical devices.

Medical PCBs are used in the equipment and devices that our doctors and nurses utilize because of the rapidly developing technology and improvements in the medical business. The boards act as the brains of the machines, allowing them to work and, as a result, save lives. They’re crucial in healthcare, and as innovation and growth continue, diagnosis, therapies, and research techniques will increasingly rely on automation.

Spirometers, defibrillators (AEDs), and lung ventilators are just a few examples of medical devices that rely on PCBs to work.

A one-time expense to create, design, or produce a new product, such as a PCB, is referred to as non-recurring engineering (NRE). Based on the products, process, and even supply chain strategy, it might signify different things in different industries.

Before getting to know more about PCB NRE, you must be aware of NRE meaning.

NRE Meaning

NRE refers to specialized setup expenses for constructing a newly introduced PCB assembly in the PCB sector, particularly in pull-based contract manufacturing.

NRE (non-recurring engineering) costs are not included in the product’s regular per-unit cost.

The majority of NRE costs are determined by:

  • The product’s level of intricacy.
  • The degree of innovation.
  • Required Certifications.

The term “NRE” for PCBs refers to the special setup costs associated with producing a newly introduced PCB. It is usually used for two types of costs:

1.       Electronic architecture and electro-medical devices.

2.       Design of firmware

3.       Tooling

4.       Machine programming

NRE Cost

Now that you know about NRE meaning, let’s shed some light on the NRE costs:

The Architecture of Electronic Systems:

Key electronic components are defined in the electronic medical device architecture to properly satisfy the product performance criteria.

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To determine the best and most cost-effective option, it is important to be familiar with the specific range of electronic components available on the market.

Do tests with a partial prototype to verify how components perform in your specific electro-medical device, rather than just comparing specs on paper.

Firmware Design:

Firmware development and design is a complex process that takes up to 70% of the time to refine and analyze the code, making this stage rather expensive.

The cost of PCB firmware programming is related to the complexity of your medical equipment; the more complicated it is, the more lines of code and debugging it will take.

If your project is more complex and problematic, it would be preferable if you had a highly experienced Firmware engineer who can lead the integration of both Firmware and hardware.

You must examine the device’s complexity, risk level, and technology’s newness, among other factors.


Since they are custom built for a specific product and a specific customer, each of the items listed below can be considered an NRE expense. For example, solder stencils resemble fingerprints. They’ll only be used for one type of PCB; thus they’ll only be made for that type of PCB after that. Following that, no fresh stencils are required to continue manufacturing that component.

Fixtures, presses, and the other tooling listed below are in the same boat:

  • Stencils
  • Artwork
  • Metal
  • Jig
  • Fixtures
  • Press-fits


A programming cost is charged for programming each piece of equipment used during the fabrication of a given Printed Circuit Board (PCB) (e.g., selective solder machines, reflow ovens, and inspection machines).

Programming each machine—pick and place, selective solder machine, reflow oven, inspection machines, and so on—for a given board requires time and effort. This is equivalent to a programming fee. Unless the product’s design is modified, this cost is one-time; the contract manufacturer can construct the component using the same programmed data.

How to Minimize The NRE Cost?

You should design stencils and test beds for your product and should spend time setting up the manufacturing and assembly machines to meet the specific needs. Therefore, there is always some NRE cost in every project.

Three major elements have the greatest impact on NRE cost. These three are:

  • Physical Dimensions
  • Number of Layers for your PCB design
  • Quantity of your order

This is to say that numerous PCB parameters influence the total NRE cost, and merely being aware of these parameters can help to reduce charges that previously appeared to be random.

Reducing NRE through Physical Dimensions & Number of Layers:

Developing stencils or test beds for PCBs that are physically larger or have more layers will, of course, necessitate an increase in both effort and material consumption. Simply put, if you want to save money on NRE, you should design for a physically tiny PCB and only use extra layers when strictly essential.

Reducing NRE through Order Quantity:

The following parameter may appear contradictory at first look, but increasing the number of your orders and panelizing many projects is the best method to reduce NRE.

To demonstrate this principle, consider the following scenario: Suppose you need to place two orders for two separate projects, each consisting of 50 PCBs. If you placed both orders separately, you would receive a separate NRE charge; but, if you requested penalization for both orders, you would only receive one NRE charge.

Is It Better to Amortize or Break Out?

There are two ways to pay for NRE. The expense might be amortized or broken down. Breaking out entails paying everything required NRE upfront, including the lot’s tooling and code. It’s also possible that the fee will be spread out over time. This means the NRE is included in the unit price and paid in instalments. A contract manufacturer might charge $110 per unit if an assembly costs $100 per unit. When the NRE is paid, the per-unit cost drops to $100.

However, keeping track of amortised costs is challenging. Some contract manufacturers won’t tell — or won’t know — when it’s time to get rid of the amortized NRE. That’s why, to keep track of the NRE you pay, it’s best to break it down as much as possible.

Wrapping Up

Now that you have understood the NRE meaning and how much it costs, you can go to a local board shop and observe the process yourself.

You might not be able to receive those if you quoted from an overseas PCB fabrication company. Speak with your vendor and request that they are explained.