What PCB house do you use?

in manufacturing, PCBs by Ian | 42 comments

octal started a writes:

I wanted to know what PCB house do you use to make your PCB, your opinion about them and (very important) the time it takes to get your PCBs?

I’m going to send first batch to Seeedstudio (for their proto service) but want to know if you got better and quicker results in other places.

What companies have you tried?

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Comments

  1. This is an awesome question. I’ve heard of many different PCB houses, but never first hand experience with them.

  2. Victor says:

    I can not thank already mentioned Laen PCB group order enough. It is the difference between you trying to produce acceptable quality PCB at home and for comparable sum to make it at excellent quality PCB factory.

    I am not sure my passion for electronics, recently emerged, would lasted that long without an ability to realize my dreams so fast and so nice.

    The service is ideal for prototyping, it costs $5 per square inch for 3 copies of your board, takes 2 weeks from Monday (the day of group order deadline), so you looking at average 2.5 weeks from your idea to boards in hands. I overlay several projects so I design one, solder another, and write code for the third, all without breaking the bank.

    It encourages you to use smaller boards, i.e. SMT, so many of my first designs are SMT redesigns of already existing projects.

    The service is represented by one person – Laen, so it is very humane, allows you to change submitted design up to the latest moment, and if slightest problem (or unusual request) happens, accommodates it with grace.

    The more people know about it and use it, the better – power of group buy exercised by nerds at work.

    I dream of such a group order for parts; my problem with it is I usually need peculiar parts – almost all of them surface mount, some chips – no leads.

  3. krishna chaitanya says:

    I work at a Power electronics and embedded systems company in Hyderabad, India.
    We have here a pcb fab house (name is Cosmic engg) that we use for both single sided and double sided boards.

    They can do 9/9 for track to track and track to pad boards with amazing quality..

    Here is the what seals the deal..
    Irrespective of the size of the board
    We pay a one time charge of about 15$ for a set of films with which they fabricate the boards.

    And the sweetest part of the deal is that they charge about a cent per sq cm for double sided boards irrespective of the size of the boards.

    They also do panelizing and also generate gerbers for creating stencils.
    Of course BBT costs a bit extra but for numbers below 50.
    Once your MOQ for the boards is 50 BBT is free.

  4. Krishna chaitanya says:

    PS: forgot to add…
    It takes three weeks for the boards in normal delivery time..
    For a delivery time of 8 working days the price goes up to 3 cents per sq cm.

    • Victor says:

      Do they have an URL? And how much is US shipping? Can you pay with Paypal?

      • krishi says:

        Well AFAIK and from what i googled about them after you asked they dont have a website.

        I do not know about the US shipping and payment for the boards.

        But i ll be glad to ask them and post the information here .
        As a matter of fact as i write this post i am preparing to go there for a 500 no lot i have to pick up.

        Give me a couple of hours i should be able to post the information you want.

        1.The person to get in contact with
        2.Payment terms
        3.Shipping charges.
        4. What files and how to give them for the manufacture.

        I hope that should suffice.

      • krishna chaitanya says:

        sorry for the delay

        was kinda tied up with a deadline this week
        I spoke to the owner of the pcb fab house.

        He said he had no interest in doing orders outside of india.
        That for the volume orders the packaging and posting would become quite cumbersome for him.

        However if it is not a professional design, u could mail the gerbers to me and i ll get them fabricated and post them to you.

  5. Drone says:

    I use my house.

  6. I use ITead, who farms out the work to the same factory as Seeed, but their markup is slightly smaller.

    Delivery time is 2-3 weeks including fabrication and shipping for ten 10×10 cm boards at a cost of $28 + $3 shipping.

    For a more complete review and advice see:
    https://github.com/dren-dk/HAL900/wiki/Quirks-of-PCB-manufacturing-at-ITead

  7. ambroise says:

    OLIMEX

  8. Plum33 says:

    http://http://www.eurocircuits.com/
    Very good quality 6/6(standard prototype service), but more expensive.

  9. Dude, OLIMEX, really?!

    Those guys lose on quality, specs, service and/or price no matter what PCB house you compare them to.

    The worst bits are the crazy limitations in specs (10 mil on both copper and silkscreen) I’ve had to modify a qfp-32 footprint to get it to meet those specs, never again, I tell you!

    I’ve done a comparison between OLIMEX and Gold Phoenix here:
    http://dren.dk/goldenphoenix.html

    Bottom line is that Gold Phoenix does really high quality, high-spec boards around the same price and turnaround as Olimex does basic-quality, low-spec boards.

    Gold phoenix makes really nice boards, much higher than Seeed/ITead, but they are somewhat more expensive and less hacker friendly.

  10. Rohit says:

    I’ve used Seeedstudio for 10cm*10cm boards. Very good quality boards; my design had 10/10 specs, but I believe Seeed can do a little better. My boards came in 2.5 weeks from the day of order to Gurgaon, India. Quality of the silkscreen, soldermask and registration were great.

    I’ve just placed an order with ITead – they’re a bit cheaper than Seeed. I’ve kept my specs 10/10 keeping in mind the same advice linked out above. Lets see how ITead compares with Seeed.

    @Krishna: please let me know details about the Hyderabad fab. I need to order 100 double sided PCBs; 5cm*5cm, silkscreen and soldermask on both sides.

  11. rsdio says:

    I have ordered boards from:

    Sunstone Circuits, OR
    Prototron Circuits, WA
    Circuit Services, WA
    Advanced Circuits (4PCB), online

    All of them provide quality service. Sunstone has some nice deals (PM me via the forum and I can get you a discount). Prototron is so good that many of the online shops use their physical services. Circuit Services is very professional, and probably out of the price range of hobbyists. I’ve done 4-layer boards with both Circuit Services and Advance Circuits, but you can clearly see a quality difference when you select the cheapest bargains from 4PCB.

    I’ve also worked with boards from a cut-rate Chinese fab that one of my clients selected. I cannot comment on the quality, because my client kept changing the fab without telling me!

    I have never used any of the budget PCB houses that cater to hobbyists, so I cannot comment on how the quality compares to full professional services.

    • rsdio says:

      Since people are mentioning prices, I should point out that Sunstone Circuits has a ValueProto service for as little as $28 shipped. It’s limited to 2-layer, 7-mil, etc. As I mentioned above, contact me via PM and I can get you a discount on your first order (if I can find the offer email and it’s still valid – ValueProto might not qualify).

  12. Michel Stempin says:

    +1 for Laen at http://dorkbotpdx.org/wiki/pcb_order

    Even from Europe, you get your boards in 2-3 weeks with $5 shipping cost. Very good quality, see review above. And Laen is a great guy!

    I tried Olimex: long delays, below average quality.

    I also tried Eurocircuit: very good, very fast, very expensive!

  13. Brett says:

    ITEAD Studio is one other place to consider. Haven’t personally used them, but for 10x boards with size constraints you can get not bad value !

    http://iteadstudio.com/store/index.php?main_page=index&cPath=19_20&zenid=22i3rkm786f71osnqp4l1cm381

  14. Chris says:

    I’ve used http://batchpcb.com once and the boards came out fine. However they screwed up the number I ordered; I had 3 designs and ordered 4 of one and one of each of the others but got 3, 2 and 2. Didn’t really matter in the end, just kind of odd.

    • rsdio says:

      I’m surprised that you got fewer than ordered. That’s not typical of the places I use, but anyone can make a mistake (especially me).

      I often get more boards than I ordered when going with the pro fabs. But that’s because they always dedicate an entire panel to one design, and they replicate the board many times. They don’t really try to squeeze the maximum on there, but they will make more than you request, if possible. I noticed that they were just hanging on to the extras, so I asked for them. On subsequent orders, I tried to arrange for a full panel by ordering, e.g., 16 of my boards. But then they ended up making 2 full panels to make sure they wouldn’t come up short, and I tried to explain that I really only needed a couple of boards, not really all 16. After that confusion, I now only order the minimum I need, and just remember to ask them to hand over the extras when I pick them up – yes, I’m local to at least two PCB fab houses, so I’m very lucky – and they never charge extra for the extra boards. They’re probably happy that they don’t have to store them.

  15. Mat says:

    For prototype bits (next day delivery…so 2 days till I get board) I use http://www.pcbtrain.co.uk who are based in Newbury in the UK. Comes to about £50 for a 10cm by 10cm board including delivery but cheapest ive found for speedy stuff.

  16. James Hudson says:

    I have used PCB Pool several times. Prices are reasonable and delivery is right on time. FedX delivers to the states in two days from EU for $25. I always get more boards than I order and a free SMT stencil is a great perk for protos. I have used Advanced circuits also and they have good quality. But for small quantity I cannot pay any less than about $500. Seems they divide $500 by the number of boards needed and that is the price per board.

    • rsdio says:

      Have you tried Advanced Circuits’ $33 2-layer or $66 4-layer? You can get out the door for a total of $132 (2-layer) or $264 (4-layer). That’s a lot less than $500, and they claim it is Standard Spec or Full Spec. However, you can clearly see a quality difference between these and boards from professional houses. Fortunately, my 4-layer 108 MHz C5506 USB design worked fine on the ‘cheap’ boards, so the visible lack of quality did not affect functionality. Advanced Circuits has a lot of price points, and I believe they outsource most of them, at least some are outsourced.

  17. I was actually doing a little research on this myself. For what it’s worth, the folks at Adafruit have a short guide which you might find useful. That’s available here: http://www.ladyada.net/library/pcb/manufacturers.html

    Hope that helps.

  18. J. Peterson says:

    I’ve used http://www.batchpcb.com for a few orders where turn-around time wasn’t a big deal. They’ve screwed up a couple orders (e.g., missing vias, which were either promptly refunded or replaced). But they did slice my boards into the desired pieces without even asking, which is nice.

    If I’m in a hurry, I use http://www.pcbfabexpress.com where I can get a board turned around in a few days and pick it up on my way home from work (I’m in Silicon Valley). Their quality is excellent.

  19. MichaelZ says:

    I have been using Itead over Seeed just because of the price difference. Both have good quality. I only know of one problem with their subcontractor and they fixed it. Use their DRC and you have no problems. Both are close to Taiwan so delivery is fast for me.

  20. ericwertz says:

    Seeed a few times so far. Came out great and on time. Will probably try Itead for something soon.

  21. Franky says:

    BatchPCB, orders are quite slow but very cheap and good quality.

  22. Joao Inacio says:

    Just stumbled into this, and must say it’s VERY interesting.

    I have a small problem though – when shopping from outside the EU (Portugal), i may end up having to pay idiotic import duties, taxes and other fees, plus the carrier’s own clearance rate, plus 23% VAT … o.O

    USPS Shipping would be the only viable option for small packages and values, but i’m not sure if they are reliable at all for international shipping (even stated by so BatchPCB)

    SO – Would love to hear about decent alternatives in the EU for small prototype orders

    • Markus says:

      Joao, I suppose you mean shopping from *inside* the EU.

      However, in Switzerland we have the same problem, if the value of the merchandise exceeds CHF65 (ca Eur50), including shipping, then we have to pay import duty, VAT and an additional handling fee. For smaller orders this often represents 50% or more of the value of the merchandise. If the value of your package is lower than that, then all fees are waived.

      I’ve been ordering several items from dealextreme and itead, as shipping is free or low cost I was able to stay below the maximum amount and avoid the customs/VAT trap.

      • Joao Inacio says:

        Actually, shipping from inside the EU is usually much better (the limit i believe 80Eur and there is much less to pay – VAT and small fees),

        As an example if i order about 30Eur from the US via carrier, i will probably end up paying between 80 and 100Eur total!

        I’ve ordered many small packages from china and have never payed anything either (neither VAT/customs or even shipping), but it’s always been “regular mail” (not carrier).

        I will probably try iTead PCBs sometime (being extra careful with DRC)

  23. Dr. Ram says:

    (With Ian’s permission, I seek to post this here.)

    As a DIYer I have struggled for many years trying to find a place that will allow me to fabricate ONE prototype PCB without charging me for 3, 5 or 10. It’s usually the case that I want to order, assemble, edit, order again, etc., so 1-at-a-time is what I wanted rather than order multiple and hope all goes fine. Could not find any service affordable but for the smallest boards. Finally I’ve bitten the bullet decided to launch my own PCB batching thing as an experimental service to the DIY community. (Focused purely on solving the 1-offs problem; I’m not in the PCBs business, so don’t ask about 10s or 100s!). Here’s the economics I am able to promise: 2-sided boards, both sides silkscreen, both sides soldermask, gold finished, 100% flyprobe tested. Price: $1.50 per square inch, no setup, no minimum. Order only one board if you need to. Worldwide shipping for $7, free remanufacture if there’s a defect. Boards are made by a European major’s Bangalore-based plant.
    All specs are up at my website http://www.audesine.com. Comments and questions welcome.

  24. Dr. Ram says:

    Yes to both – I will mail within India for INR 100, and you can pay in INR. Payment instructions will be sent with the invoice.

  25. Cenk says:

    I’ve recently ordered/received assembled cards from http://www.bittele.com and I can higly recommend them.
    The order was for 120 cards of the same type, about 50x20mm, 59 smd, 2 bga’s each.
    The result is very good, soo far I’ve done a basic test on 43 of them and no issues yet.

  26. manu says:

    For Europe China fabs are good but it takes too much for my needs and often the boards get stuck in customs.
    One new fab I discovered is pcbya, the price for one only prototype, which is what I want usually, is really great.
    They do multilayer also, but i havn’t tried.
    The price is online here
    Greets

  27. lare says:

    ABOUT PCBYA:
    Today, arrived a couple of PCBs from pcbya. My subjective assessment ahead .
    Holes matching – good.
    Silksreen – good.
    Immersion Silver platting – very poor, translucent and rough. This will affect the solder joints quality and durability.
    Soldermask, tends penetrate to Immersion Silver platting, This reduces designed area of the pads.
    P.s.:
    I hope this helps for those who are considering the pcb manufacturer’s choice.

  28. Amy says:

    PCB International. The company is now under new management. I found the service/ price/ quality much better than before!

  29. John says:

    I think if you need cheap prices and don’t care about lead time, OSH is the answer. That’s more like for kickstarter projects. For the company I work, we’ve tried different houses many mentioned above. Sunstone, Sierra, Advanced Circuits, Pentalogix, among many others. The ones we’re sticking with because of quality, lead time and customer service are: (depending on the project specs we quote on both sites and go for the better deal)
    http://www.pcbunlimited.com/
    http://www.4pcb.com/

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