Which PCB fab do you currently like the best?


  • Hero Member

    I've been using JLCPCB for the last several PCB fabrications. I've pretty much convinced myself that on Sundays they may continue progressing work that's already in progress, but nothing new seems to start until sometime later on Monday. i.e. there's no apparent advantage to submitting new work on Sunday (China time). Also, it seems to inevitably take 2 days to fabricate, but even if finished early on the second day, nothing gets truly shipped until late on day 3 at the earliest.

    Since the quality seems about the same with all of the fabs, the main differentiators these days boils down to price and speed. Are there any fabs with faster turnarounds than this that anyone here likes to use?



  • Pcbway do produce better finished pcb, but the big advantage of jlc is their SMT service


  • Hero Member

    @lood29 said in Which PCB fab do you currently like the best?:

    Pcbway do produce better finished pcb

    How is it better? Aside from the quality of silkscreen, which I have noticed varies from one vendor to another, what should I be looking for?



  • @NeverDie Just for clarification, you are not asking about assembly, right?

    What a great thread (inquiry).

    I've relied on OSH Park for PCB manufacturing. Never have I found a mistake that was not of my own making. But for assembly, I'm really impressed with my one JLCPCB experience - and the parts availability (LCSC, I think). Their online CAD program (EasyEDA, I recall), was a small hurdle but easy enough.


  • Hero Member

    @Larson said in Which PCB fab do you currently like the best?:

    @NeverDie Just for clarification, you are not asking about assembly, right?

    Right.


  • Hero Member

    If/When I advance to the point of designing the RF chips directly onto a PCB instead of relying on RF modules, the assembly feature would probably pay for itself. I'm not quite there yet, but maybe later this year. LCSC has nRFx chips, whereas a lot of the desirable nRF52x modules just aren't available anywhere. So, if I can't buy, maybe the answer is build from scratch!

    Fortunately, there is one advanced project that could maybe serve as a pathfinder:
    https://www.openhardware.io/view/742/rayBeacon-nRF52-on-the-go-Development-Kit
    but I don't see where he has an antenna built into the PCB. I'll have to inquire with the author about that.


  • Hero Member

    Another thing I've noticed about JLCPCB is that if each item in my order is just the minimum quantity 5, the whole order seems to get fabricated in about a day. If any item is higher than quantity 5, then it seems to get kicked into a slower queue. I don't have extensive datapoints to say definitively, but so far that seem to be the pattern.


  • Hero Member

    Well, maybe PCBway really is better. I was about to place an order with JLCPCB, but they said production wouldn't start until Monday, whereas PCBWAY said they would be finished in 24 hours. Then again, even though they say the "processing time" is 24 hours, now that I've placed the order, they're saying that the estimate finish time is on Monday, August 8. Huh? That's more like 48 hours. Hopefully by "finish" they mean shipping on Monday.



  • @NeverDie said in Which PCB fab do you currently like the best?:

    higher than quantity 5, then it seems to get kicked into a slower queue

    Well, you could play the game of ordering 4 separate orders if you wanted 20 boards. Seems silly... but if that is their system.... I always enjoy the minimum order so I can find my errors, then order the updates, and find my errors, then order the updates. Life is itterative.... until it isn't. What a blessing to have so much technology at such a little price. If you make a mistake you lose a little and remember the error.



  • How is the shipping time vs cost for JLCPCB and PCBway?
    I'm in the US and just ordering small prototype numbers, so OshPark works well for me. But I am thinking of a larger qty order at some point.


  • Hero Member

    @nagelc With JLCPCB, if I place an order on Monday morning (china time), I can receive it by Friday afternoon (US time) if I select DHL, which costs around $21 for the shipping. Shipping cost is a little higher with Pcbway, but build cost for multiple copies of the same board is lower at the margin with Pcbway, which I hope may be a day or two faster on turnaround. We'll see. According to their tracking, they're now 18% of the way done with their 24 hour processing claim, so they'll have to hustle if they're going to get it to 100% done in about another 12 hours. So far, the main difference is that it's the weekend, and Pcbway is at least doing something to progress a new order, whereas JLCPCB would be waiting until Monday to even start.


  • Hero Member

    @Larson It turned out that in the end it didn't matter. Despite their estimates, it still took them 2 days to build. With JLCPCB, the patterns has been 2 days of build time and then ship on day 3 or 4, but usually day 3. There seems to be considerable lag between them finishing production and them shipping it out. Fortunately, once DHL gets it, delivery is very fast, usually in 2 days, including weekend days. I've had no complaints about quality, so that's why here I'm mainly focused on speed, because it's important for keeping momentum going vs. a project stalling out for want of a nail, as it were.


  • Hero Member

    It's really quite amazing. I used Pcbway back in 2017 to build 10 pieces of my coincell sensor PCB:
    https://www.openhardware.io/view/510/Multi-Sensor-TempHumidityPIR-LeakMagnetLightAccel

    At the time, it cost me $38 at PCBway, plus shipping, to have them fabbed. Now I could probably get 30 of the same PCB from PCBway for $5. Plus, pcbway has kept the zip file, so if I had misplaced it, I could either download it or just hit the re-order button. Nice! Shipping costs are a little more now than then, but you get the picture. Prices have gotten so low that the PCB fab price is almost trivial, and I fab all kinds of breakout boards and add them to the orders because it's just so cheap to do so now, and they can piggyback on the shipping cost, which often doesn't go up for the incremental baggage.


  • Hero Member

    Meh, 24 hours later after submitting the files, PCBway is still only 56% complete on its production, but that still places them ahead of the 0% complete that JLCPCB would be if I had ordered by JLCPCB instead over the weekend.


  • Hero Member

    OK, PCBway finished its fabrication. I've got this figured out now. PCBway, and probably the others as well, don't start the clock ticking when you submit your files and make payment. Instead, they start the clock ticking whenever the job gets to the MI stage of production. So, in that technical sense, PCBway made good on its 24 hour production advertisement. There's no apparent limit though on how long the job spends in either engineering pre-production, nor in how long it takes to ship the PCB's after the build is complete. The fab's don't seem to make any promises with regards to either of those, but either/both can stretch out the turnaround time. That said, it appears PCBway may be generally faster than JLCPCB, and definitely faster in tackling new orders submitted over the weekend. For those reasons, I think I'll be using PCBway going forward.



  • Thanks. I'll have to try them out. It is crazy how cheap it has become at least for small prototypes.


  • Hero Member

    Well, maybe they're all about the same. I placed an order with PCBWay entirely because of their promised 24 hour build time. Four different PCBs in the order. One completed within 24 hours, but 3 did not:
    Screenshot from 2022-09-01 22-14-39.png
    Being late by a few hours can be the difference between shipping today versus shipping tomorrow.


  • Hero Member

    Oh great, the new China lockdown has halted shipments, so my boards are in limbo until China unlocks its lockdown.

    I've hit my hassle threshold. I need to find a domestic fab....


  • Hero Member

    I finally did receive the boards (4 different designs in all), but on one of the designs PCBway incorrectly drilled 3 of the holes with the wrong diameter, rendering the board useless. I've never had a FAB make a mistake like that before. Because of this, I probably won't be using PCBway again. What a bummer.

    I'm trying to remedy the situation by drilling a 1mm hole where they should be, but I'm finding that none of my drills will even hold a 1mm drill bit. Anyone know of a way to drill 1mm holes?



  • @NeverDie Here is a set I found on Amazon.

    Do you have a Dremel tool? I'll bet there are several sets of those. Dremel also has a nice jig that will hold the drill stationary and you can press down through it.

    Drilling the hole is one thing, connecting it to a trace could be a little tricky.

    [Edit: spelling errors.]



  • @NeverDie said in Which PCB fab do you currently like the best?:

    ... a project stalling out for want of a nail...

    That is poetic.

    I try to have some sympathy for my favorite (OSH_Park) and order multiple boards at once. Some pain of waiting is involved - only a week - and some waste is incurred by me as I correct my own errors before they ship. But I do like that they only ship three boards, instead of five, when I only need one. They must be annoyed by little-guys like me so I try to do my part with loyalty.



  • Elecrow or JLC PCB with slower shipping is pretty good price wise. Even with fast shipping with DHL it doesn't cost that much, make sure you add taxes and the $15 brokerage fee unless you clear customs yourself. Total for 3 day shipping is about $30 in my experience. Other then that, OSHPark is great but depending on the size of the board and quantity it will cost more in total then the Chinese board factories.



  • For the past 2 weeks, I had the opportunity to challenge PCBWAY and JLCPCB at almost the same time for the same boards including turnkey components and PCBA.
    Here is the short version of the story:
    PCBWAY:

    • Ordered on October, 12th
    • PCB finished on October, 14th - 37 hours later
    • Components sourced on October, 18th
    • PCBA finished on October, 21st
    • Parcel shipped on October, 21st
    • Parcel received on October, 25th
    • Price: $208.61 including VAT and shipping ($35.73)

    JLPCB:

    • Ordered on October, 20th
    • PCB finished on October, 21th - 20 hours later
    • Components sourced on October, 20th (yes)
    • PCBA finished on October, 21st - 8 hours after PCB !
    • Parcel shipped on October, 22nd
    • Parcel received on October, 24th !
    • Price: $82.98 including VAT and shipping ($24.19)

    At the arrival, all the boards have been tested successfully from both providers.
    So, basically, JLCPCB is the winner. Oh by the way, the quality of JLCPCB is a little higher than PCBWAY: black PCB.

    QQ.


  • Hero Member

    How many of each PCB did you order? I've found that factors into the build time. On JLCPCB, if you order just 5 of each board, thebuild time is usually 24 hours or less. If the build number per board is >5, then I've found the build time is kicked up to 48 hours (sometimes longer).

    I haven't encountered any errors in the PCB's that JLCPCB fabbed, whereas one set of boards fabbed by PCBWAY was drilled incorrectly, so for that reason I've gone back to JLCPCB. Even if it sometimes takes longer, it's better to have it done right.



  • @NeverDie I have ordered 10 pieces each time.

    Qq



  • @qqlapraline Those are some quick times for assembly! I usually am doing a board with parts they don't stock, so I have only used them for assembly a few times, and not recently, so it's good to hear.

    @NeverDie I've used JLCPCB a bunch of times now, and I have yet to find an error that affected the board electrically. I've found small things like sloppy printing or some rough edges of the copper, but always small, and like I said, it has yet to cause an issue for me. For prototyping they're really hard to beat.


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