How to: Mail PCBs the cheap way

in Free PCBs, how-to, kit biz, PCBs by Ian | 7 comments

Over the past two years we’ve mailed close to 1000 free PCBs all over the world.  We find that a sturdy envelope and a stamp is the cheapest, and somewhat successful, way to mail PCBs.

A new wiki page shows the tricks we use to mail PCBs. The how-to is reproduced here for you blog viewing pleasure.

Materials

PCB – The thing you want to mail.

Masking tape – Masking tape isn’t super sticky. It’s easy to remove later, and doesn’t leave a bunch of gunk on the PCB.

Sturdy envelope – It’s a trade off between envelope quality and weight (=stamps). We use envelopes made of thick paper, the thickest we can find. Don’t cheap out, crappy envelopes will always tear in automated mail sorting equipment.

Address label – The goal is to create a reinforced pocket for the PCB. The address label from our label printer is a key part of our technique. These labels are super strong and tear-proof, they do a great job protecting the envelope from the corners of the PCB.

Stamps – Most small PCBs will mail with a single stamp. PCBs bigger than 3x3inches may need two stamps.

Technique

Step 1. Tape the back of the PCB

Put a piece of masking tape on the back of the PCB.

  • Make it 1-2inches longer than the PCB, but not so long you can’t get it in the envelope.
  • We always tape the back of the PCB so the solder surface stays clean.
  • In the future we’ll try Darren’s suggestion and put tape on the top and bottom edge of the PCB. That might help automated mailing equipment ramp up and over the sharp corners.

Step 2. Tape the PCB to the inner front of the envelope

Slip the PCB in the envelope and tape it against the front bottom of the envelope. The PCB should sit behind the label – we want to make a reinforced pouch between the masking tape and the label.

  • A loose PCB will almost always tear an envelope and fall out.
  • The tape reinforces the envelope, and holds the PCB in place if (when) the envelope tears.

Step 3. Make a pocket with the mailing label

We put a the sturdy label from our label printer on the front of the envelope against the PCB. The outline of the PCB is visible under the right side of the label.

The PCB is sandwiched between tape on one side, and paper and the label on the other. This seems to give the best chance that the envelope will make it.

Step 4. Put on a stamp

Or two, if it’s a heavy PCB (bigger than 3x3inches).

This entry was posted in Free PCBs, how-to, kit biz, PCBs and tagged , , .

Comments

  1. 0xFFFF says:

    Haha, sweet wat of doing it. I want to receive one of those sometime! :P

  2. 0xFFFF says:

    Meeeh typo “wat”=”way” ._.”

  3. DrF says:

    With Royal Mail able to lose, destroy and mutilate anything I have to put the pcb in a cut down envelope sealed with packing tape and my address on if somehow it escapes, then fill a jiffy bubble wrap padded envelope with shredded paper and pad it out and around the 1st envelope inside the jiffy one, then seal that with more packing tape.

    PS: They still manage to destroy or lose the things…

  4. Chuckt says:

    I get a lot of cracked jewel cases in the mail through the post office.

  5. ricros says:

    Looks like it depends much of the post office, I received mine today, it came as is in the pictures, the envelope was intact, no problems

    Thanks Ian

  6. JBeale says:

    I wouldn’t have guessed this would work, but it has- both the PCBs I got here in CA arrived fine; just one corner rubbed through the envelope on one side, in one case; the second envelope arrived completely intact.

  7. bdsmith says:

    If you find that masking tape leaves a residue when peeled off, you might want to try blue painter’s tape. (find it in the hardware store, next to the masking tape) Similar to masking tape but peels off easier without leaving a residue.

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