Prototyping your PCBs in Europe or in China?

in PCB Review by DP | 19 comments

To use European or Chinese based PCB prototyping services is the question Electronics Lab tries to answer. They order the same PCBs from an European and a Chinese PCB manufacturer, and compare the quality and price differences. Based on their review the quality is the same, while the Chinese board is more than 5 times cheaper.

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Comments

  1. GORE says:

    Sorry, this comparison is bullshit. Why is a belgian company representative for all european PCB manufacturers? 85EUR for 2 PCBs is expensive even for european standards. Try some of the other services…

  2. Somebody had to say it and I’m glad they did :-)

    Same here, I ordered from TinyOSShop which seem to have the same backend as SeeedStudio and Itead Studio, only lower price (lower margin?) and way better customer support (i.e. they can actually spell English correctly).

    I paid 25EUR for 10x 10x10cm double-sided, 1.6mm, HASL, double-silkscreened PCBs all-inclusive (i.e. including registered and signed-for shipping with tracking all the way to Dublin, Ireland).

    EuroCircuits should be great for companies (their technical expertise looks/sounds amazing), but as a DIY-er I can’t really support their pricing scheme.

  3. even in my company we’re using seeedstudio!

    I’ll have a look at TinyOSShop…

  4. Nick Johnson says:

    One Chinese fab isn’t representative of all Chinese fabs, either. From what I’ve seen, Itead’s average quality is pretty poor.

  5. Asm says:

    Well, I’ve ordered 7 different boards from Itead and Seeed (same deal, really). Never had any issues with any of them beyond the irrelevant (slight silkscreen misalignment, color differences in a single batch, etc); I’m also usually right on the edge of the specs (6/6 mil track/space, 0.3mm holes/0.6mm pad (diameter, not annular ring!) vias, etc).

    Only thing that bothered me recently was that the blue boards I ordered from Itead had a rather tacky blue color which screamed “cheap chinese crap”. But if “pretty soldermask” is worth several times the price, well.

  6. asdf says:

    The only reason I would consider having my boards made in Europe is if I needed to prototype something fast. Most places I looked have asked 3-4 times as much as Seeed for just one or two boards without silkscreen, sometimes without soldermask and usually with a lot of restrictions on the design. Turnaround time is the only advantage as far as I can see.

  7. Bertho says:

    I’ve had boards from both Eurocircuits and iTead. The boards from EC are more expensive, but qualitatively much better; especially the drill accuracy and width/clearance conformance. However, the quality may depend significantly on what type of service you want from EC (they can deliver many types).
    Also, I order normally as a company and not a private person and EC has a “hobbyist” service where they fit the job into whatever is free. Hence, quality may vary depending batch. One major advantage is that when I order with the 7 days service, then that is an assurance they keep. That is partly why I want to pay more.

    ITead has acceptable boards for most purposes, but I would not want to use it when I need quality assurances (at least not without proper agreement). All prototypes for quick-and-dirty tryouts, especially when I can gather several designs in one order, are very nice to have from iTead at a very good price. That said, from 12 board designs ordered from iTead, 3 had to be re-made due to production and handling errors. That is a sad statistic.

  8. arhi says:

    don’t forget that prc fabs have different quality too. for e.g. DP is not making DP pcb’s in the same fab el cheapo pcb’s are made for seed’s fusion and iteads pcb proto services but in a much better (and more expensive) factory that’s also in prc…. so if you want quality you can get it it will just cost more. what i noticed with both itead and seeed is lack of repeatability, once the pcb’s will be superb quality, second time they will be visibly bad.. extra 10$ makes sure they work but you see they are far from being “good” (eaten traces, wrong clearings, inprecise holes..)

    as for the “I need proto fast” I find that having a home pcb fab for quick tests is more then easy to setup … if you don’t want to go optical (and it is the best way) toner transfer works and with help of blue foil and some similar add on-s it can be even better .. I can make a two sided board A4 size in under 15 minutes!! takes longer to drill holes then anything else .. yes, hole plating is not there but you need a test pcb fast – get a bunch of wires and solder vias yourself … it’s faster then any fab you can find in europe, and cheaper :)

    • Ian says:

      That was my thought too. There’s great, and bad, fabs everywhere. And sometimes a good shop just does a crappy job on some boards.

  9. Roeland Kindt says:

    Wow they used a Belgian company.. yea we are expensive overall our wages are atleast 5-6% higher than average in European Union (EU not Europe as a continent).

    I know Czech Republic (Tsjechie) is pretty cheap for fully assembled pcb’s.

    • CopperMaze says:

      Can we know the company name ? I’ve a bunch of board to produce…

    • Jiri says:

      “I know Czech Republic (Tsjechie)….”

      For your information, here in Prague, we have a company called Pragoboard and they support prototyping boards very well in special “pool offer”. 10 x 10 cm double sided PCB with service print, soldermask and vias costs ~20 € without tax (20%). The biggest benefit is manufacturing in 5 working days, which is enough for us as a company. Quality is OK and we are supporting our local business :-)

      For my hobby projects, I am using iTead service from time to time and I was always satisfied, especially with a price. For the price of one pcb 10×10 from Czech, I have 10 pcbs from China shipping included, but delivery times vary and now I am waiting for PCBs more than month :-(( , probably because of china shi*load of crap from ebay / dealextreme which are usually waste of money. God bless consumer society (irony+joke) :-/

  10. Dan Krich says:

    You could also try Agile Circuit with good quality and service, not lowest cost, but assembly one stop service.

  11. Ted Hundy says:

    I have been purchasing PCBs for the past 30 years. Over this time we have given China and other overseas companies many opportunities to manufacture our circuits. The quality simply is not consistent and the language barrier almost always messes up deadlines and design requirements.

    My Answer is buy American. We have been using Omega Circuits and Engineering for the past 20 years. I can tell you the price is a little higher than overseas, but the quality is top notch. The communication with Americans saves time and money and circuit design are never misunderstood. They have even helped me in designing new circuit layouts as well as consulted prototype builds. Save your time, go with the pros.

    http://www.omegacircuits.com

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