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Getting a Teflon PCB
Make it easy When designing a new product, or revising an existing one, designing and getting a prototype of the Teflon PCB is often a difficult and expensive task. If we examine why this is so, we will discover ways to make the process easy.
Like any other product that is built to your specification, a new printed circuit board has some up front costs that are the same no matter how large, or small the production volume is. To design a new board, or revise an existing one, will have an engineering cost. There will also be an expense to manufacturing a new solder cover for the new board. Any change from an already paid for solder mask will require a new one to be made.
It is a common misconception that a small change in the Teflon PCB should have a small charge to realize this change. As you see, a change is a change regarding the cost of printing the board. It also does not follow for the engineering. It is often the case that someone has a product designed years ago by one engineer that they want slightly modified by another engineer. The new engineer will need to evaluate the present design to see how best to achieve the wanted change.
This can be frustrating to the company paying the bill as they can feel cheated to pay almost the cost of a modern PCB when they just want to change their existing Teflon PCB.
The approach around this is to prepare ahead when you are sketching PCB from scratch and work with a company that will support you do this.
Let's consider a Teflon PCB that in extension to power and a power on light, will have 2 inputs and 2 outputs. It is possibly, if not likely, that additional features are desired for the next iteration of the product, let's say 4 inputs and 3 outputs and a display. The details of this desired iteration are not to the forefront but it is logical that the next iteration would benefit from this, sometime in the future (this can be even years later).
Remember, there is a fixed cost to the solder mask and the engineering time. The added cost of engineering the future desired features is negligible compared to the cost of designing from scratch. Just because there is circuitry on your Teflon PCB does not mean you have to populate it when you have boards made. You can, in essence, make a board that has two revisions.
While it is true you will still have to make a modification to the software in your micro-controller, this will be easier and cheaper than revising the entire board.
This will be especially true if you keep good notes on the board and a good copy of the software with notes to where you want to modify it.
When you are seeking to have Teflon PCB designed and built, look for a firm that will help you work through these issues. Use their expertise to see what is reasonable to plan for and what is not. If the firm you are working with does not want to help you with this; look for another one that does.