When a European PCB manufacturer celebrates an anniversary of several decades and looks back on a successful business development, that is something special. The authors of this success story are Luc Smets and Dirk Stans, managing partners of Eurocircuits with its main office in Mechelen, Belgium. The recipe for their success: a clear focus on prototypes and small series of PCBs with standard technology, with or without assembly, supplied to European hardware developers quickly, cheaply and reliably.

In May 1991, Luc Smets and Dirk Stans founded their company to produce printed circuit boards. In the late 1990s, they’ve quickly foreseen the potential of the Internet and used the then new medium to put their vision for the future of PCB manufacturing into practice. In early 2000, they launched eurocircuits.com, a portal for ordering printed circuit boards. With the philosophy of "always offering the customer the best professional quality at attractive prices", visionary and strategist Luc Smets continuously tackled the new challenges of the information age and paved new paths for innovation.
Dirk Stans en Luc Smets van Eurocircuits
A successful duo for 30 years: Luc Smets (left) and Dirk Stans, managing partners and founders of Eurocircuits.
(Photo: Eurocircuits)

Recognising and exploiting the potential of the Internet

By allowing customers to place orders directly online, administrative costs were greatly reduced. With the focus on standardisation of technology, it was possible to combine PCBs from different orders on a production panel and thus produce them together (order pooling). Step by step the service offering grew to the services that you see today, where developers can have their PCBs manufactured and assembled in a single  order. Depending on the availability of components, Eurocircuits can dispatch assembled PCBs for prototypes and small series production runs to customers within 6 working days.

Eurocircuits employs 450 people today and manufactures PCBs and assembles them in two modern factories in Hungary and Germany according to the high European sustainability standards. For over 12.000 active customers Eurocircuits processes more than 110.000 orders a year where 88% of orders have a lead time of 5 or fewer working days.

Interactive smart web tools and valuable knowledge for PCB designers

Designers have round-the-clock access to user-friendly, interactive smart web tools for design verification, pricing and ordering. In addition, there is online chat support that’s available in 6 different languages.

Especially useful and valuable is our Visualizer that allows ‘Virtual Manufacturing’: virtually produces the design even before the customer places their order. Eurocircuits checks all data for PCB Manufacturing as well as the BOM and CPL for PCB Assembly for manufacturability (DFM) and completeness. "This allows us to proactively support hardware designers in delivering their projects on time and within budget," says Dirk Stans. "Our goal is to help our customers prepare their designs so that production is right the first time, whether it's a prototype or a small production run." The Visualizer immediately provides an overview of the availability of components or possible alternatives, as well as an exact price calculation, even before the order is placed. After delivery of the prototype or small series, the validated production data is available to the customer, enabling a smooth transition to volume production.

Eurocircuits shares its knowledge with full transparency. A weekly Technology Thursday through  social media channels, a blog with valuable tips for designers and a special TV channel explain to designers, using examples.  We aim to describe the inter-relationship between PCB design, manufacturing and assembly in an accessible, clear and entertaining way.

Supporting young technical talent is of great importance to the company. "It is natural for us to support the designers of tomorrow and their teachers within the European electronics industry," says Dirk Stans. Currently, Eurocircuits supports more than 50 student projects throughout Europe. Besides supplying printed circuit boards and assemblies, Eurocircuits also shares its knowledge during workshops to guide students towards producing PCB designs that are ready for manufacturing.

Working and living responsibly and sustainably in Europe

This year Eurocircuits will invest 7 million euros in its two factories in Hungary and Germany prioritising the ongoing environmental and sustainability project according to ISO 26000. Eurocircuits is investing over 2 million euros in renewable energy production and in infrastructure  to reduce water and energy consumption, zero waste production, reduction of air pollution and climate-neutral transport. "We believe that these measures will give us a competitive advantage over our non-European competitors. Above all, we believe that sustainability will secure the future of our Europe," the directors emphasise.

Despite the success there is also a sense of melancholy. 30 years ago the European PCB market accounted for more than 40% of the global PCB production market but now accounts for only 2.5%! Now, China produces more than 50% of all PCBs. "This dependence, like that which exists for other electronic components, is dangerous and could cost Europe dearly, as we have seen in the past couple of years," warns Dirk Stans.