Recommendation for PCB fab?


  • Hero Member

    I have a not small PCB that I want to have made (let's say 10 copies):
    https://www.openhardware.io/view/436/nRF52832-Breakout-Board

    Seeed Studio can make 10 of them for $5, but the $18 in shipping isn't desirable. On the other hand, it would be cheaper than getting 10 boards done at OSH Park.

    Which good quality fab has both low prices and low shipping costs? Any suggestions?


  • Hardware Contributor

    Last time I checked Elecrow had a 5$ shipping option with China Post, if you're ok with green color you can get 10 PCBs for 5$, else it's only 5.


  • Mod

    @NeverDie how big is it? Looks like less than 50x50mm? Dirtypcbs' protopack perhaps?


  • Mod

    @NeverDie I agree with @mfalkvidd.
    Dirty pcbs produces decent quality boards and allows panalization without extra costs.
    I usually combine some designs in a single 10x10 panel, and fill the remaining space with small adapter boards. Cost per pcb will be very low that way.


  • Admin

    @NeverDie

    There are some contradictions here, you want things fast, to have top quality, and won't pay for it.. ๐Ÿ™‚

    http://fastgood.cheap/

    That aside, as others have pointed out.. Look at dirtypcbs.. perhaps even panelizing things, there is an excellent tool available for assembling multiple gerbers into one production file http://blog.thisisnotrocketscience.nl/projects/pcb-panelizer/


  • Mod

    @tbowmo I fixed it!
    0_1502096941425_IMG_5356.PNG


  • Hero Member

    @tbowmo said in Recommendation for PCB fab?:

    @NeverDie
    There are some contradictions here, you want things fast, to have top quality, and won't pay for it..

    No. In my OP, I never said "fast." You read something into it that isn't there.


  • Mod

    @NeverDie then it's simple : panelized ditypcbs ๐Ÿ˜†


  • Hero Member

    How does dirtypcb's compare to elecrow? Does Elecrow also let you panelize as well?


  • Hardware Contributor

    @NeverDie said in Recommendation for PCB fab?:

    How does dirtypcb's compare to elecrow? Does Elecrow also let you panelize as well?

    I only made boards for Livolo switches with them so I couldn't panelize.
    As they have an option to select number of boards that are panelized that adds additional cost, I suppose they will not let you.


  • Hardware Contributor

    @NeverDie

    For me, elecrow is the best. But you can query this online tool which is very good: https://pcbshopper.com


  • Mod

    @mtiutiu I tried to use it some time ago, but I didn't find it very accurate... Maybe it was just me


  • Hero Member

    Well, if anyone is in a rush, it sounds like SeeedStudio might be a good choice. @nitroburn ordered 450 boards (I presume they were panelized) on a Saturday, and they were delivered to his door by Wednesday: https://forum.mysensors.org/topic/7231/small-nrf24l01-shield-for-esp8266-wemos-d1-mini/6


  • Admin

    @NeverDie
    that can be done with the other fab house as well, you just have to pay for express service/shipping ๐Ÿ™‚


  • Mod

    @NeverDie it took over a month for me with the standard shipping, as 10 days were taken by custom for no apparent reason


  • Hero Member

    @gohan said in Recommendation for PCB fab?:

    @NeverDie it took over a month for me with the standard shipping, as 10 days were taken by custom for no apparent reason

    Which one?


  • Mod

    Seeed studio. The production was done in a few days, but the shipping with singapore post was the usual 3-4 weeks as all the products from China. Next time I'll try dirtypcb and panelize some pcbs in order to optimize the order


  • Hero Member

    Elecrow charges extra to panelize, but it wasn't clear to me whether they do panelizing or whether you have to submit already panelized gerbers.


  • Hardware Contributor

    The easiest way, if you want to panelize, for cheap, with mouse bites (drills for breakable), has been explained by tbowmo and yveaux above, by using dirtypcb.

    Else that needs some tinkering.

    I usually use elecrow, and seeedstudio service too. it's up to you to panelize. ask them maybe they'll do it for free, but not sure. i imagine if all people would ask them this..
    And doing this, costs the same as ordering separate design boards (which are already milled..).

    So when i want to use their service, and not pay for sub boards, i panelize in one bigger board and separate sub boards with silkscreen lines (not milling) and cut them myself (i have saws for this, circular etc.). If you think to add mouse bites for breakable in this case, that won't be ok. They will ask you to remove them and to fix your panel or use their subboards fee.


  • Admin

    dirtypcbs support mousebites to separate pcb's, without extra fees..

    It seems that the tool from thisisnotrocketscience is tested primarily with dirtypcbs ๐Ÿ™‚


  • Mod

    @tbowmo is there any guide on how to use that program?


  • Hardware Contributor


  • Hero Member

    I placed an order with Elecrow just now. $9.70 for ten boards delivered seems like a bargain. I'll make another post once they're delivered so that we'll have a record of how long it takes to receive.

    I'll try the panelizing approach with dirtypcb's sometime soon. It sounds like a fantastic deal also.

    Thanks everybody for your suggestions!


  • Mod

    @NeverDie said in Recommendation for PCB fab?:

    I'll try the panelizing approach with dirtypcb's sometime soon. It sounds like a fantastic deal also.

    Let us know if you need any help with it!


  • Hero Member

    @NeverDie said in Recommendation for PCB fab?:

    I placed an order with Elecrow just now. $9.70 for ten boards delivered seems like a bargain. I'll make another post once they're delivered so that we'll have a record of how long it takes to receive.

    I'll try the panelizing approach with dirtypcb's sometime soon. It sounds like a fantastic deal also.

    Thanks everybody for your suggestions!

    I received the Elecrow boards today. Wow, just 17 days from order until receipt. 10 boards for $9.70 total, including shipping. Much cheaper than OSH-PARK, and only a few days extra. ๐Ÿ™‚


  • Mod

    @NeverDie how much are the boards and the shipping costs?


  • Hero Member

    @gohan Third sentence immediately above.



  • Very pleased with my Elecrow order as well. This is the first pcb I designed since the 1980's when you taped up the art work by hand ๐Ÿ™‚


  • Hero Member

    One visible difference though is that the elecrow pads are silvery in color, whereas the OSH Park pads are brass/gold in color:
    0_1503693971469_elecrow.jpg
    Does it matter?

    Also, the OSH Park boards have the annoying mouse bites, whereas the Elecrow are nice smooth edges.



  • The default surface finish at Elecrow is HASL. ENIG is goldie colour but more expensive. There are a few others as well.
    Good explanation of differences: http://www.epectec.com/articles/pcb-surface-finish-advantages-and-disadvantages.html
    OSH might be using OSP / Entek coating.

    IMHO it is an appearance thing for us hobbyists. As long as it is not bare copper it should be ok.


  • Mod

    @NeverDie I actually meant the costs split



  • US4.90 for 10 boards (100x50) on special, US4.85 shipping to Canada.


  • Hero Member

    Today I received another order from Elecrow. This time it took 18 days to receive from the date of order. However, they did send me 12 boards instead of 10, so that's nice. ๐Ÿ™‚


  • Hardware Contributor

    @NeverDie said in Recommendation for PCB fab?:

    Today I received another order from Elecrow. This time it took 18 days to receive from the date of order. However, they did send me 12 boards instead of 10, so that's nice. ๐Ÿ™‚

    That is still pretty quick if you selected the cheap shipping option !


  • Hero Member

    @Nca78 said in Recommendation for PCB fab?:

    That is still pretty quick if you selected the cheap shipping option !

    Yup, it was this board here: https://www.openhardware.io/view/472/Ebyte-nRF52832-Prototyping-Board

    Shipped using the cheapest shipping option.


  • Hardware Contributor

    @Nca78

    Elecrow is a good fab imho and yes they are very generous - I received too my boards today and instead of 5pcs I received 11pcs !!!. And this is not the first time they deliver more than requested. The price - 5$ for boards and 3.5$ shipping(standard mail) - 8.5$ in total. And yes they are the cheapest and pretty good quality pcbs - I'm very pleased about their services so far. They beat all the Chinese fabs including shipping so far(and the quality is pretty good - at least for what I need my pcbs for it's well beyond my expectations).


  • Hero Member

    At the moment I'm getting a PCB fabricated by pcbway (my fist time using them). They give tracking info which (allegedly) shows exactly where your PCB is in the manufacturing process. For example, here's the status of my board at this very moment:

    MI (Manufacture Instruction)	 	 11/13/2017 10:04:37 AM
    Cut Lamination	 	 11/13/2017 11:41:12 AM
    Drill	 	 11/13/2017 11:44:05 AM
    Plated Through Hole	 	 
    Circuit	 	 
    Etching	 	 
    AOI	 	 
    Solder Mask	 	 
    Silkscreen	 	 
    Surface Treatment	 	 
    Double Drilling	 	 
    Routing	 	 
    Testing	 	 
    Package	 	 
    Delivery Ready	
    

    i.e. the first drilling is finished, and the next step for it is the thru-hole plating. They update the status once every 5 minutes.

    The other interesting thing is that they have a chat window, so you can chat with them anytime about your order. I asked them a question at about 4am China time, and within about a minute or two I got an answer.



  • I designed and fabricated my light switch boards at EasyEDA. the board quality was excellent, and they were fast.


  • Hero Member

    In case anyone is interested, here's a record of how much time each step in the fabrication took:

    MI (Manufacture Instruction)	 	 11/13/2017 10:04:37 AM
    Cut Lamination	 	 11/13/2017 11:41:12 AM
    Drill	 	 11/13/2017 11:44:05 AM
    Plated Through Hole	 	 11/13/2017 3:12:32 PM
    Circuit	 	 11/13/2017 4:07:36 PM
    Etching	 	 11/13/2017 6:03:07 PM
    AOI	 	 11/13/2017 7:33:56 PM
    Solder Mask	 	 11/13/2017 7:34:02 PM
    Silkscreen	 	 11/13/2017 9:20:59 PM
    Surface Treatment	 	 11/13/2017 10:36:35 PM
    Double Drilling	 	 11/14/2017 12:48:23 AM
    Routing	 	 11/14/2017 4:23:57 AM
    Testing	 	 11/14/2017 4:50:50 AM
    Package	 	 11/14/2017 7:56:46 AM
    

    I had thought that maybe they could fabricate and ship on the same day, but apparently fabrication takes too long for that.


  • Hero Member

    I've started a second order through PCBway, and it appears that they start fabrication on a batch each day around 10 or 11am China time. If you get your order in and it passes their review before then, then most likely they'll start fabricating it that day. Otherwise, it appears that the order rolls over to the next day.

    One nice feature is that you can keep adding new items to the order even after fabrication has started on some of them. In this case, the shipping cost on all the items is combined and the shipping deadline for the entire order is governed by the last item ordered.


  • Hero Member

    FWIW, I received this micro-USB test board from PCBway today:
    0_1511409150412_slotted.jpg
    As you can plainly see, it appears they had no difficulty fabricating the plated slots. In fact, they didn't even flag it as a possible issue.


  • Hardware Contributor

    It seems there's a fast + good (enough) + cheap options now, AllPCB asks 5$ for 10 boards up to 100*100mm, it's limited to 1.6mm, green or white color (take the green, quality of the white silkscreen is not good, not fitting between pads of an atmega328 for example).
    Doesn't sound like a great offer now, but there are some insane things :

    • the "top speed" option is included meaning your board are done in 2-3days after order
    • there is free shipping with HK Post
    • there is free shipping ... with DHL ๐Ÿ˜ฎ

    Result is boards received 6 days after placing orders, very impressive !
    And good point I order 10 but for the biggest bord (98*98mm) I received 12, and for the smallest I received... 34 while with another small board I received around 20.

    So if you want to test your boards quickly and don't mind the 1.6mm thickness in green color, this is the perfect offer. Every option that you will select (color, thickness, panelization,...) will make the price increase quickly, but it's a good way to test functionality of your board quickly then order fancy colors/thickness etc from another fab when your board is completely designed.


  • Hero Member

    @Nca78 Great post! Thank you. I ordered a PCB from them to see if they can handle plated slots. So far it appears they can: it passed their review without comment, and it's now in fabrication.

    Just curious: is there any particular reason to think 1.6mm isn't thick enough for the final board rather than just a test board? I mean, maybe for BGA, but I don't think anyone here is using that.


  • Hardware Contributor

    Warning: do NOT make boards with white solder mask at AllPCB, keep the green color as it's the only cheap color available.
    I had all sorts of problems with boards made in white, I probably have a design problem with that board but the solder mask that peels away too easily (and pads following closely !) make it hard to solder a QFN component correctly.

    No problem with green color until now.


  • Hero Member

    @nca78 It was great while it lasted. They just raised their rates from $5 to $20, including the DHL shipping. ๐Ÿ˜ญ

    I could place my order on Monday and receive it on Friday, all for $5. Knew it wouldn't last though. Like you say, their pricing was "insane." In a way, I suppose it still is.

    [Edit: Correction, the old deal is still good. ๐Ÿ™‚ It's for 5 pieces now instead of 10. Get it while it lasts!]


  • Hardware Contributor

    @neverdie Limited 50mm x 50mm at 5$, 100x100 15$. So, for small pcb price is same. For bigger, price is insane bytheway including DHL ship. From China to Italy, 3 days. Fantastic!


  • Hardware Contributor

    @sineverba said in Recommendation for PCB fab?:

    @neverdie Limited 50mm x 50mm at 5$, 100x100 15$. So, for small pcb price is same. For bigger, price is insane bytheway including DHL ship. From China to Italy, 3 days. Fantastic!

    Looks like a strategy for them. Start with extremely low price, then add restrictions in a progressive way, and people will accept to pay more and more because "it's still cheap" for the DHL version. But right now there is no "cheap" option, and if you order 3 PCBs bigger than 5*5cm you're at the same price than other manufacturers, even including the DHL shipping.
    And if you're not in a hurry it's way cheaper to select HK Post with Elecrow from the first PCB.


  • Hero Member

    Argh. AllPCB raised their prices again. Looks like the $5 deal is totally gone now. Now it's $12-14 for 5 small PCB's.


  • Hardware Contributor

    @neverdie Yes ๐Ÿ˜ž Fortunately shipment is very, very fast and free (for the moment) ๐Ÿ˜ž


  • Hero Member

    @sineverba That's true. From that point of view, it's still not bad. Before long that will probably change too.

    I knew this was coming, which is why I got a CNC PCB etcher. Hopefully I can push some of the early design cycles onto it, which will let me spend bigger $$$ on fast turnaround services toward the end. Waiting 4-7 days to receive an order from AllPCB isn't bad. It's the 3-4 week waits that really kill momentum.


  • Hardware Contributor

    @neverdie i did not understand..... allpcb ship to me in 1 or 2 day, and shipment take 3 day. I order monday, i receive friday (on italy).... they did augment also the time fabrication?

    Do you have a machine to print pcb??? ๐Ÿ˜„ where are you from??? ๐Ÿ˜„


  • Hero Member

    @sineverba said in Recommendation for PCB fab?:

    allpcb ship to me in 1 or 2 day, and shipment take 3 day. I order monday, i receive friday (on italy).

    Yes, it's the same for me.

    @sineverba said in Recommendation for PCB fab?:

    Do you have a machine to print pcb??? where are you from???

    https://forum.mysensors.org/topic/8735/cnc-pcb-milling/437



  • I use EasyEDA which since I ordered before has 5 boards for $2 US for the first board and $5 for additional ones, but they charge shipping. Fast shipping with DHL for me is $18. Slow shipping is just under $10.


  • Hardware Contributor

    Received another order from AllPCB this morning, I made the order on Friday afternoon. Still really impressive. And as with the previous order no custom tax meaning also no fee from DHL.
    Now I need to hurry up designing small PCBs before they stop this offer, I would be surprised if it survived the lunar new year...

    @dbemowsk said in Recommendation for PCB fab?:

    I use EasyEDA which since I ordered before has 5 boards for $2 US for the first board and $5 for additional ones, but they charge shipping. Fast shipping with DHL for me is $18. Slow shipping is just under $10.

    In the end the 2$/5 boards is pretty deceptive IMHO, it seems whatever option you choose on EasyEDA you end up paying more than most other suppliers.


  • Hero Member

    @dbemowsk said in Recommendation for PCB fab?:

    I use EasyEDA which since I ordered before has 5 boards for $2 US for the first board and $5 for additional ones, but they charge shipping. Fast shipping with DHL for me is $18. Slow shipping is just under $10.

    It looks as though EasyEDA may have a tool to help with panelizing. Does EasyEDA charge extra for panelizing? So far, only dirtypcb's was mentioned as a source that doesn't charge extra for panelized boards.


  • Hero Member

    I uploaded a 29mmx29mm pcb to easyeda, and it appeared to allow me to panelize that at 3x3 per 100mmx100mm panel at no extra charge. So, that would be 45 pieces for the regular price. I don't know how that compares to dirtypcb's, but it is very easy to do: you simply check the box next to "Panel by EasyEDA" under advanced options and then select the number of rows and columns that you want per board. Not sure if it would work for circular cut PCB's that are panelized or whether it just v-grooves some rectangles for you to break them apart yourself.

    Also, DHL express would be $18.41 to my location, and $9.9 for airmail, which they seem to discourage. $2 total for the boards. i.e. you get a more precise (lower) shipping cost when you enter your address than you do on the general quote page.

    Not sure if you can panelize more than one type of pcb, or whether it needs to all be one type. Hopefully? I don't ever seem to need 45 of any one thing.

    [Edit: revisited it, and it looks like I could get 10 panels (90 pieces) for the same price. ]

    [Edit2: And I did the same with a smaller board, where it let me do a 4x4 per panel. So, that's 160 PCB's for the regular price, which seems great, if I actually needed 160 PCB's.]


  • Hardware Contributor

    Argh I missed your previous message @NeverDie, went to AllPCB hoping to still enjoy a 5$ PCB but the lower you can get to is 11$ but for that you need a very small PCB, a 49*49mm like I planned to make is 14$, and you have to pay for every little change you make. Want 10 boards ? +1$. Want another colour than green or white ? +9$

    So, bye bye AllPCB it was a great offer, but I'll switch back to the other companies...


  • Hero Member

    @nca78 Pricing doesn't seem so bad if you need a lot of something. For instance, to order just 5 of a PCB that's 46mmx67mm, it would cost me $15. But to get 20 of the same PCB it would cost me $20. i.e. the incremental costs are quite low.


  • Mod

    Has anyone tried smart-prototyping?


  • Hardware Contributor

    @gohan said in Recommendation for PCB fab?:

    Has anyone tried smart-prototyping?

    No, never heard about them before. But their cheap shipping options are at 5$ for me so I might give it a try for boards I can wait for.


  • Hardware Contributor

    AllPCB it's great with DHL shipping. At least for now. It's true that the boards final price includes shipping too but it's still cheaper via DHL. Even if I have to pay VAT it's ok (19%). For the very short time to my door which is 3-4 days that's just WOW compared with 3-4 weeks via regular shipping.

    @gohan I tried smart-prototyping in the past and they are pretty ok I can say but not the best compared to PCBWay for example. For cheap services and pretty decent quality I will still opt for Elecrow for example. And for pretty decent quality and very fast shipping - AllPCB - at least for now and if their prices won't go higher in the future.

    Oh and AllPCB finishes the boards in 2 days for that price. Compared to EU factories it's still the cheapest - you can't beat China when it comes to that. Here in EU for the same price that AllPCB does I get ONLY 3 boards...wtf..so yeah you get the idea.


  • Hero Member

    OSHPARK seems to have improved a lot lately. They now have a "super swift" option for fabbing your board in 5 days. I got lucky because they gave me a free upgrade to that for some of the boards I submitted yesterday because they had extra space on their production run.

    So, we'll see. In the past OSHPARK's silk screening wasn't very good at small font sizes as compared to, say, allpcb.com. Also, even OSHPARK's superswift isn't as fast as allpcb.com, but for small board prototypes the OSHPARK prices are much lower.



  • JLCPCB made good and cheap pcbs



  • @diogoc said in Recommendation for PCB fab?:

    JLCPCB made good and cheap pcbs

    I second that. Especially if you can combine a few PCBs in one order it is very interesting.


  • Hardware Contributor

    And you can also combine JLPCB boards with components order on LCSC so you don't have any endless wait from AliExpress.


  • Hero Member

    @diogoc said in Recommendation for PCB fab?:

    JLCPCB made good and cheap pcbs

    Well, the PCB prices are great, but maybe it depends on where you live? What's your shipping cost? For me in the USA it has DHL, UPS, and registered air as the options. The costs to me would be $20, $28, or $12 respectively.

    For contrast, I can get 3 of my solar harvester boards for $1.46, including shipping, from OSHPARK. Admittedly, though, that board is (deliberately) tiny, and OSHPARK becomes a lot less cost effective with larger board sizes. So, it's good to know what the alternatives are.


  • Hardware Contributor

    @neverdie said in Recommendation for PCB fab?:

    For contrast, I can get 3 of my solar harvester boards for $1.46, including shipping, from OSHPARK. Admittedly, though, that board is (deliberately) tiny, and OSHPARK becomes a lot less cost effective with larger board sizes.

    Yes that's for bigger boards, for smaller ones OSH Park and PCBs.io are cheaper because of the free shipping and low quantity. JLCPCB also have the cheapest stencils around, I paid 7$ for a metal stencil last time.


  • Hero Member

    I just now placed an order through allpcb for their current deal, which is 5 pcbs (up to 50mmx50mm) for $10, with free DHL shipping. That's less that what I'd have to pay OSHPARK for 3 pcb's with OSHPARK'S expedited swift service. According to allpcb's promise, I should receive the pcb's on Thursday of next week--though in the past they usually managed to beat their promise and deliver it sooner.

    If JLPCB allows you to combine shipping on different PCB orders (?), then that would probably beat ALLPCB on total price, assuming you have multiple different pcbs you want to order at the same time.


  • Hardware Contributor

    @neverdie said in Recommendation for PCB fab?:

    If JLPCB allows you to combine shipping on different PCB orders (?), then that would probably beat ALLPCB on total price, assuming you have multiple different pcbs you want to order at the same time.

    They allow it, but only the first PCB is 2$, from the 2nd one it's 5$ so you either need many PCBs, big sized ones, or stencil (7$ instead of 20) to match that.

    Thank you for tip about the allpcb offer, didn't have much to complain about last time I used them, so at this price I'll probably use them again if they maintain the offer for long enough.


  • Hero Member

    Anyone try this? Sounds like a promising alternative:
    https://hackaday.com/2018/09/18/get-your-pcbs-made-at-the-mall/


  • Hardware Contributor

    @neverdie said in Recommendation for PCB fab?:

    Anyone try this? Sounds like a promising alternative:
    https://hackaday.com/2018/09/18/get-your-pcbs-made-at-the-mall/

    Good idea but it's not really solving much, it's keeping the most annoying parts: using chemicals (can't do it in an appartment building), making the vias by hand.


 

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