Cheap PCB services (review).

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Just got my first order in from Seeedstudio's new reduced price pcb service.

10 boards, $13.42 USD, about three & 1/2 weeks from sending in the gerbers. No complications, straight forward process, and the quality is fine. Service is dirt cheap if your boards are small (under 5x5cm). Have to rethink my in house PCB prototyping when I can afford the time.


high res

BTW, this board was mostly to test the service, but I also needed some throw away ISP programmers. Running Dean's AVRISPMKII LUFA code.


high res

No specific endorsement here, just sharing my experience.

-carl

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Here is another cheap PCB service:

http://iteadstudio.com/store/ind...

$9.90 for 10 off 5cm x 5cm boards.

David Jones (EEVblog) had problems with a board they made for him:

http://www.eevblog.com/2011/03/1...

Leon Heller G1HSM

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leon_heller wrote:
Here is another cheap PCB service:

http://iteadstudio.com/store/ind...

$9.90 for 10 off 5cm x 5cm boards.

David Jones (EEVblog) had problems with a board they made for him:

http://www.eevblog.com/2011/03/1...

Seeedstudio is also 9.90 (plus shipping, hence the 13.42 total). They may even be the same service. Rumors are that itead ships a little faster. I might try them next.

The itead and the seeedstudio services seem comparable, and I don't think I'd push either very close to the published manufacturing limits (as Dave discovered).

I have noticed on my last PCB orders from Chinese suppliers (up to three different ones at this point) that they all seem to have a pretty cavalier attitude about changing your gerbers to match their manufacturing line.

Not been an issue for me to date, but I have noticed it.

They are what they are, cheap services. But never before have I been tempted away from my tried and true inhouse toner transfer method.

Now, if they could just make the services or shipping faster while keeping down the costs.

-carl

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Itead claims 6/6 mil tracks, but I wouldn't go below 8/8 mil with them. They can also do 0.3 mm drills, but I wouldn't go below a 0.6 mm dia. pad.

Like you, I'll continue with my home photo-etch process. I can make a board in under 30 minutes, not including drilling, and can manage 8/8 mil tracks if necessary.

Leon Heller G1HSM

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leon_heller wrote:
Itead claims 6/6 mil tracks, but I wouldn't go below 8/8 mil with them. They can also do 0.3 mm drills, but I wouldn't go below a 0.6 mm dia. pad.

Like you, I'll continue with my home photo-etch process. I can make a board in under 30 minutes, not including drilling, and can manage 8/8 mil tracks if necessary.

Yep, 8 8 rules are exactly what I've been sticking to with these services.

I'm real comfortable with 10 mil traces at home, and have gone down to 8 on occasion. It's an amazing ability to be able to think of, design, and then etch a board in hour or so.

It's just the platethroughs that have me flummoxed. Don't plan on dealing with that particular can of worms as long as I can get those boards made on the cheap.

-carl

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I find the soldermask on itead boards a little thin, it is too easy to get an exposed copper line when fiddling too much with smd components (compared to pcbcart).

Anyways before people flame itead too much for that spacing "mixup", read their take on it also http://iteadstudio.com/iforum/vi...
By mistake I routed the last board with 6mil spacing and it works just fine.

I recieve the boads in 1½-2weeks from the day I send the gerbers, with DHL shipment that is.
Without its closer to 3weeks.

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I have used Iteadstudio before without problems, most of the spacing in my design was 7 mil, there were half a dozen pads with 6 mil spacing.

I think I have also used seeedstudio too once or twice, my spacing for most projects is usually 6/7 mil min spacing with 6/8 mil min trace, I did not have any problems with seeedstudio that I recall. If there was a problem I would have definitely remembered.

From what I recall, both itead and seeed produced pcbs of the same quality; average quality. More than enough for proto work, good enough for consumer electronics.

The problem with seeed and itead is that they limit the max pcb size.

IMHO Dorkpcb is the king of cheap PCB places, you only get 3 PCBS, pricing is about the same as seeed and itead, no size limitation and the quality is superior.

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Has anyone tried PCBCart? They were recommended to us by a manufacturing company. You can get a quote straight away online. Good quality 4 layer pcb with 8mil (4mil minimum) spacing and 4mil holes, tested, 12 day lead time = about $45 for a 1shot board with $160 setup. However, if you order 100 of the same configuration the cost goes down to $3 per board with the same setup cost. I'd suggest having a play with their quote generator if you're interested.

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Quote:

BTW, this board was mostly to test the service, but I also needed some throw away ISP programmers. Running Dean's AVRISPMKII LUFA code.

An excellent test subject - but hopefully you won't want to throw them away after you've tried them!

Just ordered my final year project PCB through iteadstudio's PCB service 5 minutes ago, will update here when they arrive with the results.

- Dean :twisted:

Make Atmel Studio better with my free extensions. Open source and feedback welcome!

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Cameron707 wrote:
Has anyone tried PCBCart?

I have used them a few times, and is the quality I compare itead to.
Their soldermask is a lot better, and no nasty process id printed on the board like the cheaper solutions do.

The setup fee is a once-per-design, if you later decide to reorder you only pay for boards and shipping.

Only problem I have had was a batch returned with a bit poor silkscreen, but they offered a complete rerun free of charge (since it was a prototype run I didnt take them up on it).

Now I use itead for prototype and pcbcart when design is finalized.

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abcminiuser wrote:

An excellent test subject - but hopefully you won't want to throw them away after you've tried them!
- Dean :twisted:

LOL, 'throw away' in the sense that I can just give them to people to update the firmware on projects I've done for them and then don't have to worry about ever getting it back.

< 5 bucks in parts. Could have been cheaper, but I LIKE blinky LEDs.

-carl

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As far as I know iTead and Seeed are using the same PCB manufacturer. I think it was Seeed who made a remark in a forum or blog comment.

At least for me the quality is good enough, I don't do enough PCB's to justify the hassle to maintain the skill and equipment to homebrew PCBs, I used lots of protoboards instead in the past.

Markus

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MORA99 wrote:
Cameron707 wrote:
Has anyone tried PCBCart?

I have used them a few times, and is the quality I compare itead to.
Their soldermask is a lot better, and no nasty process id printed on the board like the cheaper solutions do.

The setup fee is a once-per-design, if you later decide to reorder you only pay for boards and shipping.

Only problem I have had was a batch returned with a bit poor silkscreen, but they offered a complete rerun free of charge (since it was a prototype run I didnt take them up on it).

Now I use itead for prototype and pcbcart when design is finalized.

That sounds like a decent idea. That itead page that was linked only listed 2 layer boards. Is that all they can do? I'm sure they COULD do more but perhaps those limitations are the source of the low price.

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I have used PCB cart for about 3 years now. Never a problem yet.Ranging from high volume s/sided panelised 50/panel to DS PTH prototypes and full production DS PTH.

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Got my 3rd order from itead last week.
Took a bit longer than normal, but still got the parcel within 2weeks with DHL.

Sadly, I got a taste of what you are paying for.
The parcel was shipped to me personally, instead of to the company meaning a 5day wait and having to pay customs clearance, oh well.

I ordered 2 projects, both with the 10pcs 10x10cm (and none of them filled the complete area).
One is a pretty dense board with 40 or so SMD components, the other is a simple temperature controller with a few PTH components.
I had ordered 100% optional e-test on the SMD one, since I would like to use all 10, if there was no mistakes.

So I grap the first one and start solder... it didnt work... debugged for a few hours, and then tried the other project.

oops... the 100% etest was used (or rather wasted) on the simple board.
I did solder up another SMD board, one that was marked tested, and it works.

1 out of the 10 SMD boards has a bad copper etch, it would probaly work, but IMO it is not good enough to ship.

I have informed itead about this, but didnt get any response, I would have expected at least free e-test on my next order, considering they didnt use it on the correct board, which was mentioned in the gerber mail.

Maybe they are just busy, maybe they are not that shocked :)

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What design rules did you use?

Leon Heller G1HSM

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leon_heller wrote:
What design rules did you use?

8/8 for signals, 12/8 for power
12mil isolation on pour

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I'd have thought that would be OK. They must have a very sloppy process.

I use PCB-Pool, but they are a lot more expensive. They've made a mistake a couple of times (things like solder mask over pads) but supplied replacements in a few days. They didn't charge us on one occasion where I used to work, on a £200 order that they had to do again. I've never had a quality problem with them.

Leon Heller G1HSM

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I didnt build the one with poor pour, since it was not a tested one, so I dont know if the missing pour is fatal, probaly not, just looks bad.

I dont usually use the non tested boards on more complex projects, and would rather receive 5 tested boards than 5 to throw in the bin across the globe.

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Got my boards from Iteadstudio in today! I used up all the available area for my board (I only actually need one) so I only got the 5 I expected.

Boards look absolutely perfect, and it's nice to see proper soldermask, silk screen, plated through hole vias and drilled holes, instead of the bare copper we get through the University's in-house fab.

Very, very highly recommended, especially for the price (I wouldn't recommend doing it at home given the mess and time required). Shipping time was around a week and a half from emailing off the Altium files to getting them at my door.

Only problems I've found so far is one tiny mis-route, and a bunch of "what the hell was I thinking" areas.

- Dean :twisted:

Attachment(s): 

Make Atmel Studio better with my free extensions. Open source and feedback welcome!

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abcminiuser wrote:
I used up all the available area for my board (I only actually need one) so I only got the 5 I expected.

You always get the 5/10pcs you order, even if the board size is not fully used.

If you send a 1*5cm board and order 10pcs 5x5cm, you get 10pcs.
They DO allow panellized boards, but they wont cut it for you, so with 1*5cm you could get 10*5 boards, but would have to cut the set of 5 boards manually.

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Dean,

Now there is no excuse; we expect to see an assembled, fully debugged assembly for tomorrow night's get together.

Cheers,

Ross

Ross McKenzie, Melbourne Australia

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Well *&^*(&^. That's $50 and two weeks down the drain - it seems I messed up the designators on the main controller, so the boards I got made will just catch fire if I solder it up. Guess I'm doing revision 2 tomorrow.

- Dean :twisted:

Make Atmel Studio better with my free extensions. Open source and feedback welcome!

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Patch hardware analogous to as one does for software.
Cut traces, white or green wire (or magnet wire), and solder + glue + epoxy.
Assumes one didn't forget a major part like a big IC; else, mini-prototyping time to attach missing part.
Solder mask removal - Scrape It by Dr. Howard Johnson.
Rarely does a design withstand first contact ;-)
Usually prototyping is quicker assuming a bench test for the first test is adequate;
but there are exceptions to that for: 1. it must fit with some form and function, or, 2. overnight PCB spins are available.

"Dare to be naïve." - Buckminster Fuller

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Can't patch this one - the designators are all messed up, so I'd be cutting every one of the main microcontroller tracks. Just re-routed today, but this time I'll review it a little more thoroughly before sending it off. Lesson learned!

- Dean :twisted:

Make Atmel Studio better with my free extensions. Open source and feedback welcome!

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Was the error in the schematic?

Leon Heller G1HSM

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Yes, I made the schematic parts at the very start, shortly after getting back from Norway. In my stupor, I managed to go the CS route and name the pins 0-51, rather than 1-52. Doh!

- Dean :twisted:

Make Atmel Studio better with my free extensions. Open source and feedback welcome!

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I've just done something stupid as well - I somehow got a SOIC footprint wrong on a tiny little quad SPI chip breakout board. I had 20 made by PCB-Pool and they arrived this morning. I can just about get the chip onto the pads, so I should be able to sell the boards. I could have sworn that I double-checked the footprint. I should have waited until I actually had the chips so that I could check them against a printout.

I've just checked the footprint against the data sheet. Winbond makes the chips in two different SOIC-8 packages (150 mil and 208 mil) and only the 208 mil is available from Digi-Key. I used the footprint for the other, smaller, package. :(

I think I've only made a similar mistake once before, and that was many years ago with a SOIC 2313 AVR. I had three of them on a prototype PCB with a PIC, and I had to bend the leads underneath like PLCC chips to get them on the pads.

Leon Heller G1HSM

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Which PCB service do you recommend for four layer prototype board with sizes up to 5 x 5 cm ?

Thanks,
George.

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Try PCB-Pool. Their boards are very good quality.

Leon Heller G1HSM

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Thank you Leon, but they are quite expensive. Anyway, I am looking for something in North America.

George.

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http://dorkbotpdx.org/wiki/pcb_order is a pool out of Portland Oregon. Don't know if its timely enough for you.

"Dare to be naïve." - Buckminster Fuller

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Hi Folks -

Does iteadstudio cut boards to non-rectangular outlines? Can't find anything on their site.

Thanks
Jim

 

Until Black Lives Matter, we do not have "All Lives Matter"!

 

 

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Wow, fast e-mail response from iteadstudio. They say that non-rectangular board outlines are OK.

Jim

 

Until Black Lives Matter, we do not have "All Lives Matter"!

 

 

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gchapman wrote:
http://dorkbotpdx.org/wiki/pcb_order is a pool out of Portland Oregon. Don't know if its timely enough for you.

I have ordered boards from them. They were very affordable and the quality was excellent. Gold looks good on a purple board.

"I may make you feel but I can't make you think" - Jethro Tull - Thick As A Brick

"void transmigratus(void) {transmigratus();} // recursio infinitus" - larryvc

"It's much more practical to rely on the processing powers of the real debugger, i.e. the one between the keyboard and chair." - JW wek3

"When you arise in the morning think of what a privilege it is to be alive: to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love." -  Marcus Aurelius

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ElecFreaks PCB service is cheap and awesome. $9.9 for 10 and choose your own color!

http://www.elecfreaks.com/store/pcb-service-c-39.html

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ElecFreaks please do not spam threads, particularly old ones.

 

Your company has had enough publicity in the trading post for quite a while.

John Samperi

Ampertronics Pty. Ltd.

https://www.ampertronics.com.au

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