Who does everybody use to make their PCBs


#1

I live in the UK and use HackVana to make all my PCBs and find the guy Mitch who runs it very helpful and cares about his customers and is so helpful. Who do you all use? I have heard about Seeed Studio, do any of you use them? Also read about ‘Dirty Cheap Boards’. While I understand it is a joke, the site is supposed to be real and can process orders at a cheap price.
Who do you all use and what do you think of their prices and service? I am happy to keep using HackVana, but would love to get anise about who else is out there and what makes them good. Sadly since I am in the UK I know my shipping costs will probably never be free and I will have to pay more that a lot of you who may be US based.

Cheers
Alan


PCB manufacture
#2

I’ve used hackvana a couple of times. Can’t beat the personal contact for non-standard stuff. I’ve also used SeeedStudio, Elecfreaks, Iteadstudio, GoldPhoenix and a couple of others including the ‘Dirty Cheap Boards’. No show-stoppers so far, but sometimes stuff does go wrong. It happens. In the end so far everything has always been put right.

I use oshpark for small/tiny prototypes (free shipping), excellent quality, decent speed.

The most annoying thing for all of them is the shipping time and customs interference / delay. I’m too stingy to pay for express.


#3

Thanks madworm. I know, 1-2 days to process, 4-5 days to produce and then sometimes up to 30 days for delivery. Then if you want it sooner it could cost $35 or more for 10 PCBs that only cost $15 to make. I checked out UK suppliers and the average was $460 whereas China is $15-$30.


#4

For production-like runs I would probably pay for express shipping from China, spreading the shipping cost over very many boards.

If I need a couple more boards I usually use one of the Chinese services and just wait…

For hobby-prototyping I just can’t afford the extra cost for express shipping, which is why I use oshpark for that. They’re best for very small boards & I don’t end up with 8 or 9 I won’t ever use if I can’t sell them.

Using local services is totally not possible for hobbyists.


#5

I’m in the US. I’ve used Accutrace through their http://www.4pcb.com/ interface three times for the $3/ea qty 10 deal for two-layer boards. All of the boards turned out perfectly. Their CAM people have e-mailed to clarify potential issues.

On the third batch, something got crossed on their end and the job wasn’t submitted to fab when it should have been, so they sent an e-mail and apologized and upgraded the order to free overnight shipping. Of course, when they did that, a huge storm shut down all flights into and out of Memphis, TN, so my overnight boards sat there for two days. (Why oh why does FedEx not have overnight facilities distributed throughout the country instead of everything going through one big hub?)


#6

not impossible, just not financially sensible - especially when one reads how most projects are financially “planned” :wink:

Years ago I ordered (Oz located) from PCBpool in Europe… a handful of tiny single sided, no silk, 2x1cm boards cost me over $100.

More recently I’ve started again with this and so far have been successful with Elecrow.
This is all hobby/prototype stuff though… so no production (yet) :smiley:


#7

I have used “PCBCart” from China a few times, completely painless just exported gerbers from kicad, no special setup or anything, sent them, and a week later boards got shipped, arrived a few days after that. They also do turn key assembly.


#8

Check out PCBShopper. It’s a price comparison site for PCB manufacturing. You enter your board’s specs and it shows you prices and delivery times from 25 different manufacturers, including the best-known companies in Asia, North America and Europe. You can also read and write Amazon-style reviews of the manufacturers.


#9

Thanks all for the info.
@aleroe I had no idea there was a comparison site, very handy. I have bookmarked that as am sure I will use it again and again.

Cheers all


#11

LOL, more sock-puppet spam from PCBWay. Those guys have no shame! Granted, it is a little more creative to go edit public wiki’s to post your name at the top of the list, then spam the link to the wikis - so it’s vandalism + spamming.

Makes me less inclined to have anything to do with PCBWay.


#12

@bobc Very interesting about PCBWay, are they known to this underhanded? I have never used them myself and now to be honest don’t want to.
Thanks to everybody’s help here with their advise, I have now used the below since people started to reply to me in this thred:

ITEAD Studio
Seeed Studio
Smart-prototyping
Elecrow

My last two boards came from Elecrow and I will now be using them as my sole supplier as they do HASL Lead Free for no extra charge and solder mask of Green, black, red, blue, yellow and white at no extra charge. Their production times are about the same as the others, the workmanship is about the same as the others too. I more care about the Lead free option and being able to get my boards in red and black.

I am about to finish a board which has a USB micro and an ATMEGA328P-AU (32-pin SMD) on it. I am still new to SMD work and laying the solder paste takes me time. I am interested in getting a stencil made as Elcrow will charge $16 for one. Since I have never used or seen a stencil before, am I right in thinking it is a laser cut thin sheet of steel (or other metal)? Also they charge extra for a frame. Would I need a frame, how is a frame useful as I believe the stencil sheet would be larger than the PCB, or would the frame slot perfectly over the PCB so I the user wouldn’t technically need to aline it up?
If anybody is able to show me photos of a stencil with and without a frame I would really appreciate it. Also any advice or comments about stencils would be so so helpful.

Thank you all again for your help, I do really appreciate it.

Alan

#13

And I was wondering how they got #1 in those lists all the time… doh :flushed: (I was a bit slow there).
LOL.
Good catch.
:thumbsup:


#14

I got two stencils from them so far (Ele) for different 100x100 mm pcbs without frame (frame seems to be the edges folded up and out with 2 bends to make it stiffer… I have a jig, so don’t need/want that).
I’d even go so far as to say that a frame will be bad if you want to do it free-flying on a desk by taping the pcb down and the stencil as well (so you can lift it up on a tape-hinge without loosing alignment).

The stencils I ordered in 20x25 cm and had both front and back side by side with a space between the pcbs of ~5 mm (when you aligned the pcbs to fit the stenciled pads).
The thickness varies… one has got 0.15 mm and the other 0.17 mm. I didn’t see an option that I could specify the thickness when ordering the pcbs… for ordering stencils only it’s adjustable.
Naturally I wouldn’t have a clue what thickness I would need. I see a question coming up on the forums about that… :slight_smile:
The stencil quality is good and they work. Wouldn’t have thought that some of the smaller pads would actually disperse paste to the pcb, but they did.

The frameless stencil is wrapped for transport onto a thin board of HDwood that seems to be a broken up pieces of the stuff they put under pcbs for milling/drilling.

The thing I’m not so fond of (but don’t have the know-how yet to know it better or what I want) is that they seem to adjust the pad sizes and formats how they see fit.
If you got a thermal pad (for example a simple SO-8 PowerPAK with a single solder pad for that), they did divide that into 4 smaller pads, automatically, no questions asked.
I didn’t measure it yet (but will), but I think they adjust stencil pad size from paste mask size downwards a bit.
For one of the pcbs I already did that in KiCAD before making the gerbers… for the other I can’t remember.
Just be aware that stuff like this can happen… if you’re a noob that might be good, if you’re a pro that means you just lost control of your process.

I’ll post a thread in projects I guess on this with some pics when I reflow again…
Should be in 1-2 weeks.

PS: also don’t use arcs/circles on Silkscreen with them (Ele)… they won’t print with certain of their fabs (they seem to use several fabs to make pcbs), one of them can’t print circles/arcs on silkscreen and does adjust soldermask how they see fit.

PPS: I didn’t have a need yet to communicate the automatic processes that seem to be running there and modify my work, but I will have to in future. Definitely easier with a local shop, but the price is magnitude(s) higher then naturally too.


#15

Hi

I use smart-prototyping. I give them 100/100. I made a few bare boards and one pre-production SMD prototype. Pcb, sourcing, assembly. Every time I got perfect product. Also, people there are very friendly and helpful. I changed gerbers, parts after order and there was not a problem. I was quite a nuisance for them, they are, especially Minnie, very very kind, helpful and nice
I recommend them.

Tom


#16

“Pololu Robotics” ( https://www.pololu.com/product/446 ) has been recommended as a stencil supplier in some web pages (e.g., “Solder Paste STenciling” at https://www.sparkfun.com/tutorials/58 ) I have no affiliation with them and have never used them.

What they supply is a laser-cut plastic stencil that should be suitable for manual assembly of a handful of boards, up to perhaps a few hundred boards for a short production run.

Dale


#17

Over the last dozen years or so I have dealt directly or indirectly with about half a dozen “quick-turn” board houses. In terms of general fabrication characteristics, I can’t strongly recommend one over another.

(My worst batch of boards came from PCBWay a little over a year ago. I could detect mis-aligned drill hits with my unaided eyes. The accuracy was still within their advertised tolerance for hole positions, and certainly not severe enough to affect hand assembly operations, but it’s an area where they have room for improvement.)

Shop around based on price and delivery requirements. This isn’t always easy, since they seem to use different pricing methods. (E.g., one adds a charge for every drill size you specify, while another doesn’t.) And, they always seem to be running promotional specials - one guy gives you 10 boards for the price of 5; another gives you a 5-day turnaround for the price of a two-week turn; etc)

Dale


#18

http://www.basicpcb.com/
they are USA made, beautiful quality, ship in 4 days for free and they are cheap! Cant beat it.
since they are made in the US there is no waiting for customs to clear or expensive shipping costs.


#19

@p0727 sounds like you work for ‘basicpcb.com’ do you get commission? I thought I would give them a test for a quote, boy they are expensive. I told them I had a 2" x 2" pcb and that I wanted 10 of them. Their quote was $86.75 and I have no idea if they were going to charge me shipping costs as I live in the UK. I didn’t want to progress with the order to see if the shipping was free is that was way too high for me.
Since my original question back in October 2015, I sent the below orders to the below people to check them out:

HackVana
Orders: 3
Price: Good, £15 for 10 lots of 5x5cm
Quality: Very good
Delivery Speed (to UK): 3 weeks

Seeed Studio
Orders: 2
Price: Very Good, £12 for 10 lots of 5x5cm
Quality: Not bad, some solder pads scratched up though
Delivery Speed (to UK): 3-4 weeks

Elecrow
Orders: 8
Price: Good, £10 for 10 lots of 5x5cm
Quality: Perfect, never an issue yet
Delivery Speed (to UK): 2-3 weeks

ITEAD Studio
Orders: 2
Price: Very Good, £12 for 10 lots of 5x5cm
Quality: Some perfect, some had slight issues with Silk Screening
Delivery Speed (to UK): 2-4 weeks

Smart-prototyping
Orders: 1
Price: Very Good, £12 for 10 lots of 5x5cm
Quality: Mainly perfect
Delivery Speed (to UK): 3-4 weeks

Until Elecrow mess up, they will always be my main supplier. I have to use Lead Free as I am in the UK and lead is a big no no. You get to choose the solder mask colour for no extra charge (I have used Green, Blue, Red and Black so far). They also don’t do any annoying serial numbers on the board for their use. I have even sent them some rather odd shaped PCBs and they never tried to charge me extra for it (although not done this with other suppliers to know if they would have asked for more money to be fair).

I think it comes down to where you live. In the UK, I might as well buy from China as they are just as quick as from the US but if you are from the US, sure they will be quicker. I would love to buy from the UK, but when I phoned 3 large companies asking for quotes for a 10 lots of a 5x5cm board the average quote was £350.
Not sure if I can, but I will try and attach a photo of 4 of the last boards I had made so you can see Elecrow’s work.

Cheers all
Alan


First PCB Layout
#20

Alan,
No, I don’t work at a fab house but I do have many many years of experience designing PCBs…

I live in the US and I’m sure many users of this forum will find it helpful that you can get boards made in the US in 4 days at a VERY low price without having to wait 3-4 weeks (like you mentioned above) from Chinese board shops.

Also, with BasicPCB.com you don’t have to order 10 like a lot of other proto shops I have used before. I have made several protos using basicPCB and since I only needed 3 or 4 pieces, I paid about $9 flat (USD).

Another proto place that doesn’t have a min quantity is http://www.sunstone.com/. They also ship free in the us and they start out at about $28 (USD) for a 1"x1" 2-layer board and go up in pricing by the square inch.

When I need medium to larger boards I use http://www.4pcb.com/ for their $33 each deal - no matter how big my boards are, they charge a flat $33 as long as I do not exceed 60 square inches and another trick is they they allow you to put several parts on the same 60 square inches in an array for a small fee.

Bottom line for me is that I rather spend a bit more and not have to wait a month for my project, so I for the most part stay away from the Chinese manufacturers.


#22

I have used Seeedstudio for most of my PCB projects when the PCB size is less than or equal to 10cm x 10cm. Of course you can buy bigger PCBs thru their service.

BTW, their new order page https://www.seeedstudio.com/fusion_pcb.html is pretty easy to use.