Cheap PCB Design Process-PCB Manufacturers Reviews

2,339

16

About: An amateur engineer, currently studying engineering, commissioning their own creation,Worked at the PCB Factory, PCB circuit des

Making a cheap PCB is easier than you think. Here is short summary of how to create your layout and a list of some PCB manufacturers that you can choose from to get your circuit board manufactured.

What you need to create a PCB:

  1. An idea for an electronic circuit
  2. A schematic diagram
  3. A PCB design
  4. Gerber files from your design

Next, choose one of these cheap PCB manufacturers:
Cheap PCB Manufacturers

3PCB

Customer1:

I just sent a run of \"torture boards\" to all the cheap board houses. 3PCB was the only one who didn\'t give me incredible amounts of grief; just a simple \"are you sure you want to make this board that flagrantly violates all our rules\" -> \"yes\" -> \"ok boards are on their way\", hooray.

The torture boards reveal a lot of interesting things. First off, their copper plating/etching is WAY WAY WAY better than they advertise. I probably shouldn\'t post exactly how much because they don\'t want people relying on it and technically they don\'t have to keep using such a high quality process for prototype boards, but I\'ve confirmed that the actual lithographic resolution is substantially better than TWICE what they\'re advertising. Wow!

In fact, these boards are way above spec in every way except the soldermask registration (which is merely average) and silkscreen (which is digital-print, totally okay). On the stuff that matters -- the copper+drills -- they\'re giving you a much better board than they claim. I can mount 300um WLCSP (yes, that\'s 0.3mm ball-center-to-ball-center) on these boards no problem and I\'d known how good they would be I would\'ve tried for 200um!

The other board I sent them is an actual design, not a torture-board. It\'s still in fab but already I\'ve had a very positive experience; every other house I sent it to complained and raised all sorts of erroneous objections, and many of the PCB houses tried to jack up the price once they saw that my board had expensive components (even though it was 100% compliant with their design rules). 3PCB only raised one objection, which was actually a genuine mistake on my board (albeit a tiny one); and then accepted it on the second submission. I\'ll update this review when it comes back, but so far 3PCB is by far my favorite budget-prototype board house and I\'ll be using them for everything that doesn\'t need next-day turnaround.

I sent out another board; this time with the exact same four-layer GERBER package to five different board houses: 3PCB, smart-prototyping, shenzen2u, seeed studio, and pcbway. Once again the 3PCB boards were totally outstanding quality, arrived in 11 days, electrically perfect. Very happy as usual.

Customer2:

3PCB produced a panel 10cm x 10cm 2 layer - plate through holes - white silk top screen - green solder-mask - 1.6mm board.

The quality was superb and the delivery was 9 days to Australia. Total cost about $30.00 AUD RECOMMENDED

OSH Park

Customer1: I've used OSH Park several times. Mixed results. They are good for smaller, low power stuff if you're ok with long turnaround times.

Cons:

Their production and USPS shipping combo is super slow, around 6 weeks to Canada. Even won a free "express service" and it took 5 weeks to get the boards in.

Copper electroplating is very thin, no good for higher currents, vias have high impedance. Hole sizes wrong on a couple orders, rounded down=too small and I was offered free re-do. Isopropyl alcohol cleaning the PCB attacks the solder mask. Dark purple mask is hard to see traces. Larger boards quickly get very expensive.

Pros:

Very low cost, PCB quality is good (aside from above issues), painless submittal process, customer service responsive.

Customer2:

Everyone is so frigging exited about OSH Park that I told myself: Hey why not order my pcb from these guys…

In a nutshell SFE fanboys have overrated their service a LOT.

Their turn around time is ridiculous we’re talking weeks even months here, and they don’t even care to say how much you have to wait, you have to figure that out yourself.

Their customer support is as crude as their website is and the online orders aren’t really up to date, some days they ship other they dont what is going on ?

I frankly don’t understand what is sooooo cool about them, their price is not the best out there, and they OUTSOURCE to china !!!

Other vendors like pcbcart will charge you the tooling service but I did my math and considering the options they offer it’s a good deal.

I’m quite disappointed with batchpcb but Im even more angry at people for overeating their service and making all us believe they are as cool as SFE, this is far from been the truth.

I would not consider batchpcb again for my pcb’s next time Im going to order straight from china.

PCBWay

Customer1:

First off, I am really impressed with PCBWay\'s speed, I submitted my GERBER files Friday night(US time -- Saturday afternoon in Schenzen).Within 1 hour my GERBER files were approved and sent off for manufacturing. Several hours later production actually started. You can track the status of each step of manufacturing on their website. The data seems real. Total, it took under 48 hours for my board to be manufactured. About 49 hours after order time, my boards were handed off to DHL. Tuesday morning, I had the boards in my hand.

So basically placed my order Friday night / Saturday morning and had the boards Tuesday noon - that\'s under 4 days - very impressed with this.

I\'ve done several \'standard\' 2layer / 10cm / 10cm orders with various Chinese manufacturers & PCBWay has been the fastest by far. YMMV on more than 2 layers where the production quality really matters.

Pricing is similar with other manufacturers - with DHL shipping & other fees they add + coupon that you get it does end up being $10 more expensive then the cheapest option available from a Chinese manufacturer - but well worth it if you care about time.

Quality is very good for the price. Vias are centered well. The design i submitted used their minimum design guidelines & it turned out great - so if you stick to their guidelines you should get good quality functional boards. Silk screen is standard quality for what I\'ve seen from Chinese manufacturers - I used the minimum 6 mil width / 32 mil height and the text does get a bit blotchy at that resolution.

Customer2:

I ordered on a Friday
afternoon about 3pm and had my boards Tuesday morning with their standard service. The quality was outstanding and the free blue solder mask made for a nice touch.

I made some errors in my first board design but the low cost made it painless. I\'ve just sent my second order to them with all my mistakes corrected so I\'m looking forward to a repeat performance. PCBWay also allow you to get free prototype boards with your order which is a very nice touch.

Maker Studio

Customer1:

3 stars = It's ok.

I had no issues with ordering via the website. It was comparable or better than some other sites that I have used. The (free) options are a nice touch - color and thickness of the board.

My first order was short by one board, which has never happened to me with any other vendor. To the contrary, Sitopway used to send me extra. As others have noted, expect a batch number to be printed on your board. Mine were located inconspicuously.

Quality appears to be good, but I did not test the limits. My smallest trace is 10 mil. I used lots of 4-point font in the silk screen, and it is all crisp.

I would probably use this service again for prototyping. It's ok.

Customer2:

Yes, they are cheap, but they are slow, their website and checkout process is unfinished and they did a lousy job. Silk screen was shifted quite a lot, milling was done with either a dull drill or a hacksaw and they put their serial number over my logo. They may be OK for prototyping but I wouldn't use them for small production runs

Seeed Studio

Customer1:

I've used Seeedstudio Fusion service a few times. They are especially good if you need several of the same board as they send 10 copies, sometimes a couple of extras. The only downside is that it takes 2-3 weeks to get the boards.

Customer2:

I have used Seeed Studio Fusion PCB twice now. This last order I was told it shipped on 3/8 when in fact it still has not shipped and it is now almost a week later. I have tried contacting them on three different occasions with the exact same message and got three totally different explanations. Unbelievable. I understand things happen and I am not really in a huge hurry. But if you tell your customer that the item shipped, then it should have shipped. Further, if there is a problem, you should be able to provide consistent answers. Finally, it should not take 4 days to answer an email inquiry. I would not recommend using this service. I will not use them again.

Olimex

Based in Bulgaria. They offer OK, prices, but their price list is a bit hard to understand. I used to order from them a couple of years back and was happy with their service.

I've never used these guys, they're in Bulgaria so things take a while to get to/from them if you don't live in Europe. They're dirt cheap, though. I've heard some good things about the quality.

iTeadStudio

I have never tried their service, but their prices are as low as Seeed Studio and they also offer 4-layer boards. 2-layer 10cm*10cm max -10pcs for ~$40

BatchPCB (SparkFun Prototyping)

I have not tried them, but their prices seem fair and you can upload you Eagle design directly without having to convert to Gerber files. And they claim to make good quality board.

They have a 'prototypers' service, $10 + $2.50 per sq in. They use Gold Phoenix as their downstream provider, its probably good for most small projects but be aware that it may take 3 weeks to get your PCBs (they are low priority and made in China)

Sunstone.

Customer1:

Every order I've placed gets put on hold for something. This time it was supposedly missing drill files, except the drill files were there. Mistake on their part or just a way to collect expedite fees without actually expediting. Won't use again.

Customer2:

Make no mistake, Sunstone boards are expensive.

On the other hand, if you absolutely have to have your boards in 48 hours, this is pretty much your only reliable option. The good news is that they are very, very reliable.

Their no-soldermask two-sided boards ship in less than 24 hours, and are a godsend for chip designers. Nothing is worse than waiting four months for your chip to come back from the foundry, only to find out you swapped two traces on the PCB (since it\'s a custom chip the pinout isn\'t in any of the standard libraries, so your PCB layout tool won\'t catch this).

Warning: for Sunstone\'s quick-turnaround service all holes are always plated; you can\'t get unplated holes.

Quality seems to be decent, although I haven\'t ordered high-end boards (ENIG or 4+ layer) from Sunstone. I use them mainly for prototyping.

2PCB

A Chinese PCB and Assembly service. I have not tried them, but I hear they can offer really good prices. You can get an online instant quote if you want to check their prices.

Compare Different Manufacturers

A really good resource for finding a cheap PCB manufacturer is pcb.ui3g.com.
Here collected a lot of information on the Printed Circuit Industries Service, Product and Resource Guide.

When you have selected your manufacturer, go ahead and follow their instructions on how to send them your design files¸ then sit back and wait for your fresh circuit board to arrive in the mail ,Of course, there is a better online orders=)

Don’t know how to design a cheap PCB?

It’s extremely useful to learn how to design circuit boards on your own. I waited too long before learning it, but when I finally did – a whole new world opened up for me. Suddenly I was able to build projects with RFID technology, large microcontroller boards, quadcopters, see-through-wall sensors and much more. To help you learn this, I have designed an eCourse for you that will teach you the exact steps to build your own circuit boards.

to be continued

Coming soon, my new online course that shows you how to build gadgets like a music synthesizer or the Internet of Things.or you can check out : pcb.ui3g.com

Supplies:

Share

    Recommendations

    • Classroom Science Contest

      Classroom Science Contest
    • Colors of the Rainbow Contest

      Colors of the Rainbow Contest
    • Party Challenge

      Party Challenge

    7 Discussions

    0
    None
    jennise

    3 years ago

    3pcb is so cheap and good quality,thanks so much for your share

    0
    None
    spacev

    3 years ago

    seems pcbway is famouse now,saw them here and there,i used their service twice,to be honest,their price and quality is good,especially for 2layers prototype,but for 8layers,they need to work hard

    0
    None
    pcbfab

    3 years ago

    thanks to share, some of which are relatively good plant

    0
    None
    Janmin

    3 years ago on Introduction

    PCBWay, used to be dorkbotpdx . It started as hobbyist looking to pool
    their boards together into a panel to get them made cheaper and became
    so popular it split off into its own service. Probably the cheapest
    place I have found.
    2 layer cost is $5 a square inch and you get 3
    boards, so 2inch x 2inch = 4 square inches, total $20 for 3 boards,
    takes 12 days.
    4 layer cost is $10 a square inch, 3 boards, takes 14 days.

    They have a lot of boards that are already open source that others have allowed to be shared as well.

    http://t.co/mgfvzpqa2a

    0
    None
    Janmin

    3 years ago on Introduction

    I was wondering if you could post an article on how to make a PCB by yourself at low cost.

    1 reply