How to mail PCBs

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Contents

Overview

We estimate we've mailed close to 1000 PCBs (June 2011) all over the world. That started growing even faster with 3 free PCB giveaways every week, and a new PCB for everyone who builds a board.

We find that a sturdy envelope and a stamp is the cheapest, and somewhat successful, way to mail PCBs. This page shows the tricks we use to mail PCBs.

Materials

Pcb-mail-step1.jpg

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

Tape the back of the PCB

Pcb-mail-step2.jpg

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.

Tape the PCB to the inner front of the envelope

Pcb-mail-step3.jpg

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.

Make a pocket with the mailing label

Pcb-mail-step4.jpg

We put a the sturdy label from our label printer on the front of the envelope against the PCB. 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.

Put on a stamp

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