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Seeed Studio’s new PCB assembly prototype service

Posted on Thursday, July 25th, 2013 in kit biz, News, PCBs by DP

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Seeed Studio PCBA prototype service testing:

    Appreciated you use our fusion PCB service before. For greatly increase your efficiency for your product design from prototype stage, it bring a new service for your check.

We are going to launch a new service online at the end of July—PCB assembly prototype service. We could help quickly building prototypes for you to verify your designs. Combining with our OPL service, hope to greatly increase the efficiency for design reference and supply chain optimization. For now, the service is still in Alpha testing stage. We’ll highly appreciate if you could help in reviewing it. Please allow me to make a simple introduction of the service.

What is PCB assembly prototype service?
Seeed provides turn-key services for fully soldered and assembled prototypes for quantities 2 – 10. You just upload your Gerber files and select components from the Seeed OPL (open part library). Seeed will solder and assemble the PCB boards with the OPL components and ship within 3 days (excluding Chinese Holidays).

What is OPL service ?
OPL (Open Parts Library) is a collection of 100+ commonly used components. The Seeed OPL includes ICs, resistors, capacitors, inductors, diodes, transistors, crystal oscillators, connectors, fuses, and more.

Here is the URL again: www.seeedstudio.com/service/ looking forward to any feedback.

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23 Responses to “Seeed Studio’s new PCB assembly prototype service”

  1. ken says:

    Any way to buy some of the connectors on their open source parts list?
    Some I’ve never seen in Mouser/Digikey catalogs…

  2. Alan says:

    Even if they don’t stock a particular ADC / FPGA it’s gotta be great to have all your 0603 / 0402 SMD capacitors pre-loaded.
    Of course, if they offer bigger BGA chips as an optional extra, that would be nice too.

    Hell, I’ve got sample IC’s waiting for the board design to finish. If you let me send them to you, can you solder them on for me? How much would you charge?

  3. Drone says:

    This is a welcome attempt. Let’s not be too critical yet; at my post time this service from Seeed is still pre-release.

    To save you a few moments, here is the link to Seeed’s current list of components in their OPL:

    http://www.seeedstudio.com/wiki/Open_parts_library

    Rather sparse. But as Alan said in this thread, at-least it is nice to get the small parts pre-installed on the delivered proto-boards. Plus the turn-around looks pretty fast. But the Devil may be in the details – prices, and seemingly Eagle centric :-(

  4. octal says:

    The problem with this is that we must be using Eagle. I’m using Diptrace and I cannot see myself using something like Eagle. I hope we can still use their service if I port the parts I use to Diptrace using same references.

    • Eh? There’s no requirement to use Eagle. You upload Gerbers to them for the PCB. And for the parts you can either upload a CSV-file or enter the parts manually on a form in the site.

      Since they are hand soldering you *don’t* need to supply a file with the part names and centroids.

      So you can happily continue using Diptrace, Fritzing, MsPaint or whatever that tickles your fancy as long as you can generate standard Gerbers.

      • octal says:

        Hi Mats,
        I don’t think so. I think they expect users to use their part lib mainly because they are 100% confident about the parts patterns. The parts must be from their stock, so you must use THEIR lib parts.
        This is not a simple assembly service, they solder only the parts that comes from their library.

      • No way. A SOT-223 is a SOT-223, and a 0603 is a 0603, ana a SOIC28 is a SOIC28. There’s not enough variation in the footprints to prevent hand soldering. (And most likely not automated P&P either).

        Heck, I can solder 0603’s on a 0805 pad and vice versa without any problems. SOICs, DIPs and HC-49 crystals. Same thing. USB footprints can differ a little but not enough to cause major problems for hand soldering.

        As you said, this is a prototype hand soldered service. Not a setup for cranking out 100000 pieces with a maximum yield.

      • octal says:

        You missunderstood me Mats,
        I know it will be manualy worked out. What I mean is that they’ll do it ONLY for the parts they provide in their lib (for wich they already have stocks since they use them for their own products). I dont think that this service will be available for the parts you provide as a customer. This will not compete with their original assembly service that they do provid for qtt>100Units.

      • If you with “part lib” mean their *stock* then I misunderstood you. For me part lib means the footprint library for the pcb design software.

        The discussion started with someone (you) complaining about that Eagle must be used, and I said that that Seeed expects Gerbers so any software will do.

      • octal says:

        Mats,
        to make things clear (1) part lib means footprints. (2) You have to use THE PARTS that are in their lib, because they are proposing (as I understand) to solder to your pcb ONLY the parts that are in the gerber and that are in their parts STOCK. And the lib of parts provided by them in Eagle format is the catalog of the parts they are suggesting to solder on your PCB. So NOT using eagle mean that you have to reproduce absolutely the same parts in your CAD software (with all references and al.).

      • Eh? A Gerber file have no knowledge of PARTS. Only graphical representations of footprints and tracks and a list of holes to be drilled. These are the layers they are requiring: (Layer 2/3 is not used for 2-layer boards). Please tell me where the “references” would be. All of these files are photo-plotter files with geometric shapes except for the Drill file.

        1. Top Layer: pcbname.GTL
        2. Inner Layer: pcbname.GL2
        3. Inner Layer: pcbname.GL3
        4. Bottom Layer: pcbname.GBL
        5. Solder Mask Top: pcbname.GTS
        6. Solder Mask Bottom: pcbname.GBS
        7. Silk Top: pcbname.GTO
        8. Silk Bottom: pcbname.GBO
        9. Drill Drawing: pcbname.TXT
        10. Board Outline:pcbname.GML/GKO

        I agree on that we must use their PART STOCK because they won’t purchase anything else or accept a consignment from you.

        And yes, they have a Eagle library and also a 3D library that can be used. But that is *not* a requirement to use it. The footprints of the parts are enough similar between different fottprint libraries to be of no consequence. You can use the Eagle standard library for your parts, or the DP, the Adafruit, The Microbuilder or your own footprint/parts library. As I said earlier a TO220 looks the same in all libraries. Same with a 0603 resistor. Even if they can have minor tweaks it doesn’t matter.

        A the BOM file that you have to either upload or edit-in-place looks like this:
        OPL SKU,Qty.,Parts
        0010060P1,2,A1

        They will simply look for the “A1” label on the silk screen when they are hand soldering your pcb.

        Please don’t make things unnecessary complex and hard when it’s not.

  5. Ian says:

    I could be totally wrong but I thought they were using the TM220 and 240 for this.

    • Nope, no P&P. Not according to their web page anyways. There’s a radio button with only one choice on the “PCBA Qty & BOM” -tab.

      Fulfillment Method
      * Manual & Soldering (Tips: We are using manual solding method to fulfill your order)

      • Ian says:

        Well TM220 and 240 is almost the same once you fix all the misaligned parts ;)

        Just being flippant :)

  6. Sleepwalker3 says:

    Ssssh Ian! I’m blocking my ears and chanting, I don’t want to hear about TM220 or I’ll want one myself!
    :P

  7. Shawn says:

    Hi All,

    Buyer beware!

    I just got done trying out seeeds fusion prototyping service and I though I would share the experience with any one that’s considering using it.

    I sent them my PCB layout and BOM as requested and for the fusion service and paid to have them source the additional parts that weren’t available in the seeed library and even the extra $30 for the speedy delivery. After a few days I was contacted by one of there reps names linda bao. She claimed that a part that I spec’d and paid for was not available in china. When I contacted the manufacturer they assured me that it was in fact available in china. After several emails with linda I actual had to have the manufacturer contact her directly. Even then the manufacturer had to send samples to them directly form their the factory in china. Not so bad but still more time then I would have wanted to spend on it.

    Next Linda contacted me to tell me that one of my parts didn’t match the footprint. (Nice catch seeed!) They agreed to hold off assembly until I could make the changes to the PCB layout and also agreed to do the respin. On a side not when I asked how much it would cost they quoted me at $20.00 when I asked why it would cost $20 when it only cost $10 for the original boards they I was told the 10 pcbs for 10 dollars was a special promotion. In the end they agreed to do the respin for $10. I sent the updated layout files along with a new BOM directly to linda boa.

    A few weeks later received my boards in the mail. (it cost me an additional $30 in boarder fees) PCB’s themselves looked okay. They are not high quality but they were made to spec.

    The assembly on the other hand was terrible. Most of the solder joints had the bear minimum of solder and just the smallest trace of a solder filet. None of the CAPs were installed, a regulator was missing, and also a resistor.

    I went to the seedstudio website and reviewed the documents that I submitted and everything was correct. I contacted linda about the missing components issue to and was told they would review the issue and contact me in a few days. This is the response I received

    “We have checked there are no caps in original BOM that you have uploaded online. Please see attachment.”

    When I went back to the seeed website sure enough all of the caps had been removed from the original BOM that I submitted.

    This how they operate. So I would like to caution you before you decide to do business with these people. You’ve worked hard on your designs. Seeed has proven to me to be unethical. I will not trust them with any future prototypes.

    Happy hacking my fellow electronics nerds!

    • Ian says:

      I’m sorry you had a bad experience. I have only minimal experience with Seeed’s prototyping service so I can’t offer much feedback there. I do live in China, in the electronics market, and deal with this kind of stuff daily. Your experience sounds exactly like any other manufacturing project. Manufacturing is not easy, there is a ton of overhead, and there are always bumps in the road no matter how large or small the project.

      I have really mixed feelings about the prototype manufacturing stuff. It’s obviously something everyone is clambering for, I have a backlog of dozens of projects I’d love to have someone else stuff so I can start on the firmware fun… I just don’t see how it is sustainable to do sub-100 cheap prototype manufacturing though. Seeed is trying to do it by limiting to a set of stock parts, but that is never enough and most projects will need a part or two custom sourced. Your project for example – an employee had to write emails, make calls, probably got the run around from factory reps cause they don’t want an order for 3 or 10 pieces, etc. Sourcing is time consuming and what you described happens everytime we spin up a new project, no matter who is handling it. The factory’s reps often treat foreign and Chinese clients totally different, sure they’ll promise you it’s there and for sale, but when Seeed calls looking for 3 pieces they can’t be bothered. The “normal” thing I think everyone around here would do is have your contact at the factory send the samples to seeed instead of adding another weak point to your supply chain.

      Next there’s a hiccup with a board footprint. So a guy probably started stuffing a set of boards, noticed a part doesn’t fit, it gets reported up a management structure until someone English-speaking can talk to you about it. Then they have to warehouse your custom components while you re-spin your board and replacement PCBs are manufactured. When they come back someone has to sort them, find the parts, get it into a solder queue, etc. Add to that whatever overhead there is in emailing back and forth to bargain ten bucks off replacement PCBs for a tiny project that’s already eaten up a ton of man hours.

      You mention sending a new BOM directly by email, so it sounds like the partlist changed and someone had to deal with that. Not only deal with it, but outside whatever automated system they have. At dirtypcbs we have a HUGE rule now: nothing, nobody, no one gets to operate outside the automated system. One special request brings the whole damn house down. Anytime we do a favor outside the system, even at great expense to ourselves, everyone ends up unhappy and we have to issue refunds.

      Your experience with the missing caps is quite jarring. Seeed, like everyone, messes up occasionally – especially with these first-ever super cheap services nobody else offers. However in my years of experience with them, they always admit fault with products and refund or replace them without hesitation. Is it possible the caps went missing when you updated the BOM? Were you charged for the caps in your original purchase? I thought you upload the BOM with their part numbers and it calculates the price to assemble online, so if the caps were removed wouldn’t the price change and no longer match your paypal receipt? If I saw a discrepancy like that I’d at least file a paypal dispute to get it sorted.

      After a long wait you receive your 3 or 5 or 10 pieces of cheap hand-soldered PCBs that required a custom sourced part and a board re-spin. The whole experience has been irritating, but then you get hit with a $30 duty from your own country’s customs which just adds to the misery. You open the box and the boards are messed up. You have to recheck everything, contact Seeed, emails go back and forth. More man hours and customer dissatisfaction, and possibly a refund.

      Finally you land here to accuse Seeed of being unethical on this blog, a comment that will float on the internet for years. So Seeed takes a ding with other customers.

      All of that is a lot of crap for a tiny order. You don’t say how many boards or the price of the project, but I believe they generally do 3 pieces. PCBs are $10 + $0.10 per pin for placement, and then parts costs. So a board with say $10 of parts and 100 pins (arduino + ft232 + etc) is going for around $20? So maybe a $60-$100 total order? I don’t see how it is sustainable to devote so much time or resources into such a tiny order. Last time I looked at having prototype boards stuffed in the US (8 years ago) it was around $150 setup and then another $150 for the first board, I supply the PCBs and components.

      None of this is intended to defend or blame anyone. What you describe perfectly encompasses all the reasons I think “cheap” prototype hand assembly is unsustainable. We get requests for hand assembly all the time, and while it’s fun to game it out at BBQ, I don’t intend to touch it with a 10 foot pole. There are so many moving parts, so many opportunities for disappointment. What you describe seems like Seeed put a shitload of effort into a tiny order, and their customer is super disappointed with the result. That seems like a really hard way to run a business.

      • Raymond says:

        Sorry you had bad experience about the service.
        I’ve worked for Seeed for almost 3 years. I was the PM for Fusion PCB service and I just left the company early this month. I think I am “qualified” to offer some feedback here.

        BTW thank you Ian, for sharing so much about the suffering, back and forth communication during a prototyping order.

        Seeed used to only accept parts from OPL and since last year we were trying to take the parts from Digikey or Mouser.
        Sourcing parts is really complicated and time consuming. After you upload your BOM, first thing we need to do is match and provide you an instant quote so that you can checkout then we source it accordingly. For the beta version, the matching sucks, and even our own sourcing team can’t handle hundreds of different tiny requirement.
        To deal with that, we kinda outsource the BOM sourcing process. We used HQCHIP’s API for matching and sourcing parts. But after several week experiment, clearly they are not doing a good job. Matching is not precise because they are also using Digikey or Mouser’s API. Stock is wrong from time to time. It might shows in stock when you checkout be it actually is not available on Digikey. Or you purchase some part, like switch, fuse, it is forbidden to import to China according to the custom rule. We have to email you afterwards. Unfortunately, HQCHIP’s API is not able to sort it out during matching process.

        You mentioned the BOM has been changed. There might be a misunderstanding here, because none of us can modify it once it is confirmed and uploaded on the website. If it’s been paid and in the BOM list, a slight change we will miss it. There might be a chance that it is shows not available in the matching process and you went thru checkout straightly. My guess.

        Seeed always aim to help make the prototyping easier,never intend to ruin your business.
        I think the best way to solve it is to communicate with Seeed and figure it out, no reply on the 3 year’s old post.

        Peace out!

      • Ian says:

        Cool! Thanks Raymond! Good info. Come hang out at BBQ in 科学馆!

  8. Raymond says:

    Would love to! I am adding your wechat.

  9. shuyang zhou says:

    Hi Shawn,
    This is Shuyang from Seeed. Sorry for the bad experience with Seeed service.
    After we heard your feedback, we started the investigation for your order and would like to give you the feedback about what we are going to improve next.

    1. Improve our component sourcing system
    For the parts that are forbidden imported to China, we have contacted HQCHIP and want to find a way to identify such parts ahead.
    Also, we start sourcing new suppliers to see if anyone can help us source parts in small quantity locally.
    You may want to know why we purchase some parts from Digikey and Mouser instead of sourcing them inner China. Because of the size of the order, like your order in 2 pieces, it is so hard to find someone would like to sell part in this quantity. And to ensure incoming quality, Seeed has a whole set of standards to evaluate a supplier which takes quite some time to do so. It is not efficient if we apply evaluation to new suppliers just for a few pieces purchasing every time.

    2. Rules: no more offline order
    Basically, all the Fusion service order are placed online and our ERP system will automatically process the order. For your order, when we found out the footprint problem, normally in this case, we would inform you the problem and then ship you the boards and the non-soldered components. But Linda said she hopes to help you finish your order. I have checked with Linda about the different quotation. Quite frankly, offline order is more expensive. Because more man hours & management will be needed and we are using bulk production supplier for offline order instead of fast-prototyping supplier. When you asked about the $9.9, Linda then understood that you hope to use fast-prototyping supplier, then she placed a special fusion offline order for you and since you changed the BOM (adding the resistor) afterwards, we have been using a totally different procedure for your order.
    Fusion team is still not really good at handling special request. We get back to 2 questions: What is our mission as Seeed Fusion Team? Where we should focus on? I think Fusion service is a tool that enables normal people access to mature manufacturing capability with affordable cost. This field used to be dominated by a little number of players. We will focus on building this standard tool itself in the future.

    3. Before meeting 98% quality satisfaction, we will apply 100% visual inspection for each board.
    According to data from customer service, quality satisfaction in Fusion service is 93.9% in May 2016. We used to apply sampling check for these hundreds of orders, now, before we hit the goal, we will 100% check each board.

    4. For the missing cap, I think there is misunderstanding here. As Raymond said, none of us can modify it. I took the BOM you sent to Linda and tried it on our website.
    Here is the result, these 5 parts (REMOVED) are not able to be matched and impossible placed in the order, which includes the 3.3v regulator (REMOVED) you are talking about.
    5. However, to be frankly, there are still a lot of fields that we are not able to put our finger on, such as boarder fee. Boarder fee is charged by local custom. Each local custom will have a standard list showing custom fee for all kinds of trading goods. They use it to define how much they will charge you. Normally, the carrier company will pay for you first and then charge you when delivery.

    Shawn, sorry again for this bad experience with Seeed. Seeed dedicates a lot to lower the barrier for small scale manufacturing for normal players like makers. When we are talking about small scale, I mean 2 pieces – 50 pieces, I believe people who ever involves in hardware manufacturing business would understand how difficult it is to produce stuff in small quantity. It is losing money anyway traditionally, no matter in what size the order is, the whole process keep the same, engineers apply DFM on the order, buyers source each specific part in the BOM, PMC arrange the production plan, QC inspection, logistic, custom declaration, so it is always better to have big order in order to survive in this business.
    However, last year, Seeed decided to receive small production order. We come up some ideas to try to lower the cost and make it happen.
    First, we hope to provide instant quote. Secondly, It is not affordable for us to hire enough buyers to deal with hundreds of tiny orders. Thus, we work with HQCHIP to provide the instant quote from Digikey & Mouser through their API and HQCHIP also helps us to source the parts.
    It is a good beginning however with imperfect flaws. Some of the parts are always fail to be found even if they truly exist in Digikey; while some, like what Raymond said, are forbidden imported to China inner land. Such parts can not be detected through API while you are placing order.

    We still have a long way to go to meet the customer satisfaction and to be honest, we barely have margin with these prototyping orders. But this is something we think it is super important to do. Fusion PCBA is just a baby service now, still trying to find the balance among quality, cost and lead-time. However, we are proud that we have made the first step and will of course try to be better and better.

    Feel free to send your frustration to shuyang@seeed.cc anytime when you have problems.
    Sorry again and enjoy making!

    Thanks!
    Shuyang

    • Ian says:

      Thanks for the extra info Shuyang! Really interesting to see what approach you guys are taking. I’ve had some meetings with the HQCHIP and HQPCB people as well, but we’re so small they never call us back :)

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