Ordering pcb's vs making them yourself

I understand how to photo-etch, carve using cnc engraver and was trained on the old-school style of rubbing-off the stickers (which is probably unheard of now). So what I do for my projects is use these proto-boards with the pre-drilled holes and route & weave wire connections based on a eagle drawing I make, or somethings just wing it (since designing in Eagle feels like a video game and I generally take forever trying different placements).

So today I read about ordering pcb's, I think the one place charged like $10 for 10 boards and no setup fee, but I didn't click into it to discover all the surprise fee's. So I was wondering if anyone can tell me generally speaking, if I order a small board about size of a playing card maybe - what the costs involve, how long does it take, and any other input. I am trying to weigh the budget of buying something nice and solid vs wrestling with all this myself. If $10 for 10 boards is true, + a reasonable shipping cost then it's just not worth it for me, except when I factor in mistakes or errors on my behalf.

There are lots of PCB manufacturers and some if not all will give you a price once you have entered the relevant details of your PCB (size/layers/material/thickness etc) before your committed to buying. I have only ever used Seeed Studio and have been very happy with them but others on here will maybe disagree or recommend better.

If you mainly make one-sided boards or 2-sided boards, then it is certainly handy to have a good cnc machine to make your own pcb. I'm in the middle of setting up a 3040Z-dq machine. This is based on ball-screw mechanisms. Sure, it'll take a while to iron out any teething issues, and learn how to measure the profile a circuit board in order to compensate for uneven surface. But, hopefully it all comes out well in the end. I have no idea whether it will be applicable to surface mount pcb..... but will certainly be aiming for some surface mount capabilities. I know that patience and effort is needed to make our own pcb. I have plenty of patience at least hehehe.

DocStein99: So today I read about ordering pcb's, I think the one place charged like $10 for 10 boards and no setup fee, but I didn't click into it to discover all the surprise fee's. So I was wondering if anyone can tell me generally speaking, if I order a small board about size of a playing card maybe - what the costs involve, how long does it take, and any other input. I am trying to weigh the budget of buying something nice and solid vs wrestling with all this myself. If $10 for 10 boards is true, + a reasonable shipping cost then it's just not worth it for me, except when I factor in mistakes or errors on my behalf.

Every manufacturer is different - you have to do your research, but for hobby use the one's specializing in hobby boards are usually better as they understand you are not someone that designs PCBs for a living and understands all the technical stuff.

For instance there's a company in the UK I use that charge by the square cm a flat rate - not the cheapest for large boards, but great value for small boards (it includes postage...)

The various aggregation services tend to be similar - overall area is the basic criterion for pricing, but the turn-around times can be rather longer as they have to gather more orders to fill up a panel.

If your PCB manufacturer is in China the cost is low, but the turnaround time is greater and you have less chance of fixing an issue easily if something goes wrong.

I would second Seeedstudio. They recently increased their 9,90US$ for 10 Boards to 70mmx70mm, which is about your playing card (more in one direction, less in the other). Also, since this month, different color soldermask is included. The only other "surprise fee" is shipping. The 80x50mm² boards for EEVBlog's µCurrent, which I ordered yesterday cost 11US$ shipping and 14,90US$ for the boards (since they are larger that 70x70mm^2). Smaller boards might be cheaper. There are others with 50mmx50mm boards that ship for less. In times of a slightly better exchange rate, I got 10 of those boards for about 13€.

Production and shipping to Germany took 3 weeks last time. They seem to pool the transport to Germany now, since I got a DHL package from a Germany-based logistics company.

If I have the time, I would always prefer it to going through the trouble of etching. I am also much more fond of those boards than of the ones produced in my institute from CNC, even though they even do plated holes and soldermask.

My favourite is OSH Park. Extremely high-quality boards suitable for SMD soldering the finest pitch components. Soldering on these is magic. Just place the components approximately overlapping their pads and the surface tension of molten solder will magically drag them into their correct places.

You can't do this on a homemade board as you don't have a soldermask. (I've never heard of anyone doing soldermask at home.)

Pricing is cheap for small boards (Eagle hobby version sized) and even their rush-job price is reasonable. 4-layer boards take longer so I've only ever done one 4-layer job with them.

Anybody have a source for >2 layer boards at reasonable price?

preferably capable of microvias......

regards

Allan

Define reasonable. https://www.itead.cc/open-pcb/pcb-prototyping/4layer-pcb-5cm-x-5cm-max.html

PCB Capability: http://support.iteadstudio.com/support/solutions/articles/1000156313-normal-condition-of-pcb-capabilities

Is a 12mil via considered micro? I use those regularly with 10 mil and 8 mil wide traces from iteadstudio.

no - standard small vias are 8 thou, laser punched microvias about 2. 4 thou tracks are common.

At 30 + GHz etching to <<1 thou is essential.

( sorry I’m a Brit - I gather in the usa thou == mil. in UK mil == millimetre)

datacomms / mobile phone background. Microvias are in pasted /plated pads for bga’s.

regards Allan

i try to answer this question, but after i press "post" i can not find my comments, does anybody tell me the reason?

Good value for money: http://www.smart-prototyping.com/PCB-Prototyping.html and http://www.pcbway.com

For high quality production with incredible capabilities: http://www.ourpcb.com. They do 4mil trace and spacing and 0.1mm TH and great quality silkscreen.

Don't waste time doing at home... Only if you like mess or like to understand how the process works.

angelina111: i try to answer this question, but after i press "post" i can not find my comments, does anybody tell me the reason?

Maybe someone else had posted a reply while you was typing and then you have to hit reply twice, I have been had this happen to me a couple of times.

Also sometimes when I add attachments to posts the server times out and I loose the post. I think this might be because of the file extension of the attachment but cannot be bothered to test this.

Ok. So the BIG factor with ordering pcb's (for the absolute lowest cost) is waiting 3-4 weeks to get the boards back. That is a long time to wait to advance my projects. I will use this for projects I will produce as kits, or sale at that stage of development.

I would assemble a desktop cnc engraver, except I can't peel the copper up with any level of pleasure. I just don't have the dexterity.

Photo etching relies on the clarity of the laser printer, which I'm cursed. If it's not the toner, it's the fuser roller, or something else. I know it works flawless for some people, except I seem to be cursed with faulty laser printers.

If you need it fast, there are plenty of US sites that will turn boards over night in one day, two day, but they do charge a lot more vs China. China made boards with DHL shipping arrive pretty quick, like 2 weeks. The boards get made and turned over for shipping in about 4 days, the rest is clearing customs and shipping. I have used iteadstudio for 5+ years now with not one bad board, and nice clear stencil marking. Many examples can be seen on my website. $9. 90 for 10 of 5cm x 5cm, $14.90 for ten of 5cm x 10cm, $19.90 for ten of 10cm x 10cm, double sided, green solder mask, HASL finish, 100% tested. Website will give you pricing including a shipping quote. No hidden fees. http://www.crossroadsfencing.com/BobuinoRev17/ Example showing thruhole, SMD, 10 mil wide traces, 12mil vias on signals, larger on power traces: |500x440

10 x 10 boards is about the size I need, for now. I need at least 6cm width to make a shield to clear the width of Arduino Mega.

For a $20 order I can't go wrong being delivered by the next week. The shipping is $7.90, so now the budget is close to $30.....

iteadstudio? I think they make those fancy Nextion displays I'm using.

For a $20 order I can’t go wrong being delivered by the next week.

huh? I don’t think anyone said that the $20 places would get it to you in a week. The best number I saw was Crossroads claiming 2 weeks using DHL (which is NOT the $7.90 shipping option!)

There are a couple of key points:

  1. The $10-$20 places really do pretty good boards for that price. No hidden charges.

  2. The $10-$20 does not include postage (which should be obvious, and typical even of expensive places.)

  3. They’re mostly in China, and shipping from China is (or can be) pretty slow. Or expensive for faster shipping services.

  4. You get 5 to 10 boards. Which is swell if they work, but depressing if they don’t work (and revising your design with 4 week turnaround time is annoying.)

  5. “playing card sized” is relatively large. The “cheap” size is usually 50x50mm, which is smaller than an Uno-sized board.

  6. for your $10-20, you get very little hand-holding of the sort you’d get from a “full service” manufacturer. Send in incorrect gerbers with a layer “mirrored”, and you’ll probably get back exactly what you specified.

  7. OSHPARK is another service that will send you 3 boards for $5/in2, including postage, which is truly excellent for small boards, but gets pretty expensive compared to other services as the boards get larger (2.5x3.5in “playing card” would be about $45.) But their online order-entry and preview functions are really wonderful… (also somewhat faster than China.)

westfw:
6) for your $10-20, you get very little hand-holding of the sort you’d get from a “full service” manufacturer. Send in incorrect gerbers with a layer “mirrored”, and you’ll probably get back exactly what you specified.

Seed studio has a web based gerber viewer in the ordering process. I think there is not much that can go wrong with that. - I hope, at least. My boards from KiCAD always came out fine, but now I submitted stuff from an OH project I didn’t do myself. Looked fine in the viewer, though.

Refreshing this topic.. ::)

I need a decent pcb manufacturer and just got a quote from these guys: https://www.ti-electronic.com/pcbassembly/

They are pretty cheap which is more than appealing to me, but i want to make sure they are also fast and reliable. I dont want to invest into garbage pcbs even though their prices are great. They seems like a pretty small company so i'm hoping for some kind of validation from someone.

Has anyone already ordered from these guys?

Thanks in advance,

Robert

Based in Hungary, using modern equipment, I'd not be overly concerned.