Questions about PCB fab terms and cost

Hi everyone,

Out of frustration (my 3.2*2.7 board costs $37 on I looked around. Here's one site that has a calculator for quotes: I don't want to make 50 of my PCB but do have a lot of questions:

1) What is FR4 and what thickness is recommended? 2) What are the depanelization options v-scoring and tab-routed? 3) How come setup cost is pretty high compared with actual PCB area?


1 FR4 material of the PCB thickness no idea 1.6mm seams to be common
2 V scoring: they make a v shaped cut not whole the way through so you can easily break the individual boards. Tab routed I think they use a router to make slots but I’m not sure.
3 don’t know

I’ve heard on other forums they used this guy:

3) Typically board houses need to purchase the stencil for the silkscreen and etching steps. This is typically a fixed cost like $75.00 from their vendor. Once you have those stencils producing boards is easy/cheap.

How many boards do you need? There are many other companies that are cheaper (free stencils) and can get you single boards,etc... I've seen as cheap as $11 to $23 for a single board with free silkscreen and soldermask. Just keep googling...

Or, if you really want to save money, you could try DorkBotPDX's group ordering.

It's $5 / square inch for three boards with free shipping.

So basically, if you have a 1x1" board, you pay $5. You will receive 3 copies of the board and shipping is included in the $5. There are no setup fees.

Thanks a lot guys. I want a prototype at the moment just to test it out. In the future I want to make dozens or maybe hundreds if possible. It's a teaching equipment for physics labs. I've seen big teaching equipment companies sell similar equipment for $400. High schools can't afford (most can't) and lots of kids didn't even have physics until college. My setup is shooting at 10% of the big-name company cost with equal or superior accuracy, maybe in the form of a kit so a school teacher can assemble it in a few hours.

I have got to dig into eagle some more.

Patience is not one of my strong points at this time in life.

For prototypes those online quote places are fine but for production I would go with a typical circuit board house. In this link I give some of the circuit board vendors I use at work.

Thanks a lot mcgyvr. I will test my PCB with an online proto board place, then possibly get like 50 boards to get my idea noticed, maybe using one of the companies with online quote system. Definitely if my idea gets enough attention, I’ll go with those on your list to get 500 or more. Since you’re in the industry, I’d like to ask you where you get your components, like push buttons, caps, trimpots, power jacks, standoffs, screws etc. I know companies like Jameco, Allied electronics, Mouser. Don’t know if I should buy 1000 caps from them. Thanks again.

Something to keep in mind: Some of the "online quick quote" board houses, if you use their "free software" - you can get "locked in", in that the formats the software uses isn't easily (if at all!) exportable/importable into standard formats (Eagle/Gerber). Some of these places will take portable formats, but their software may or may not have a way to transfer to those portable formats. Check carefully, because the last thing you want to do is get locked in, then try to transfer to a less expensive board production place and find out you can't...


cr0sh, thanks. I am using Eagle. I've seen a fancy online ordering system ExpressPCB. Right, you're locked in with their file format, no good so I didn't go with it, only used its icon for my PCB folder icon.

FR4 is a flame resistance rating. The material is G10 fiberglass. “G10” tells you the amount of glass fibers compared with the amount of epoxy in the board.

So FR4 basically means standard flame resistant fiberglass PCB substrate.


Tab-routing and V-scoring are used when you have multiple boards on a single panel. Tab-routing is where you have little extension tabs sticking out the side of your board, and you put a row of very small holes (called mouse-bites) on the tabs so it can snap off easily. V-scoring uses the groove to snap off easily, rather than a row of holes.

Thanks Ar_Dude and kg4wsv. I googled all over the place and couldn't find good answers like you guys provided.