Luc Smets and Dirk Stans (above), managing partners of Eurocircuits in Mechelen, Belgium, set up the company in May 1991 with a focus on prototypes and small series PCB runs with standard technology. These could be supplied with or without assembly to European hardware developers quickly, cheaply and reliably.
In the late 1990s, they saw the rise of the Internet and in 2000 launched eurocircuits.com as a portal for ordering printed circuit boards. Allowing customers to place orders directly online cut administrative costs and the focus on standardisation of technology, it was possible to combine PCBs from different orders on a production panel and produce them together through order pooling.
This led to the current service 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 factories in Hungary and Germany. The company has over 12.000 active customers and handles over 110.000 orders a year where 88 percent of orders have a lead time of 5 or fewer working days.
Despite the success, Stans points to the decline of board making in Europe. When the company started in 1991 the European PCB market accounted for more than 40 percent of the global PCB production market, but now accounts for only 2.5 percent. Now, China produces over half 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 Stans.
The online capability is key, he says.