Get your PCBs made

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Under construction: PCB making guide

Contents

Overview

There are many inexpensive PCB services around. Seeed Studio (our preferred) and ITead Studio make two-sided PCBs with the works starting at $1 per 5x5cm PCB. Both use the same prototyping PCB factory in Shenzhen China. Turnaround is fast, shipping starts at $3.

Others like DorkBotBox, BatchPCB, etc. pool up multiple orders and send them to the fab. Laen at DorkBotPBX offers purple PCBs that have been quite popular.

We wanted to write a tutorial on how to get your PCB manufactured using these cheap services from source Eagle files.

Design rule check

First step of the process is to make sure your design is within the specifications of the PCB service you will be using. To help you with this, the associated PCB service provides Design Rule Check files for Eagle. Grab a design rule file from your prefered PCB maker:

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To run a DRC, you simply open your PCB layout in Eagle, and go to Tools > DRC... A DRC window will open from which you can load the manufacturers .dru file you previously downloaded. From this window you can also make adjustment to the various design specifications like minimum trace width (Sizes > Minimum Width), and trace clearance (Clearance). It is usually a good idea to increase these two settings a few mils if your board doesn't require absolute minimum the board house can produce. Once you've set it up just click (Check).

image

The DRC will scan your board and log all the errors on your board that go outside the scope of the specifications. By clicking on varius log entries the portion of the board where they occur will be zoomed in, and the error in question highlighted. You go through them one by one. Once you've fixed all the errors you simply re-run the DRC again and check if everything is alright.

Generate gerbers

Once you are sure your board is electrically sound, and that it falls within the manufacturing specifications of your PCB service you need to generate files that the manufacturer can use for production. These files are called Gerbers. To generate them PCB manufacturers provide a .CAM file.

Grab the CAM file for your preferred PCB maker:

  • Seeed Studio
  • ITead Studio
  • DorkBotPBX
  • BatchPCB

image

To actualy build gerbers from your board you have to start the CAM processor, by going to File > CAM Processor. A CAM Processor window will pop-up. Go to File > Open > Job... and point to the previously downloaded .cam file. Once it is loaded, just click on the process job button. And the gerber files will be saved in the same directory your source Eagle files are.

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The generated files are representations of various layers the manufacturer requires for building PCBs. The files you need to manufacture your boards are:

Gerber Files
Extension Layer
GTLTop Copper
GTOTop Silkscreen
GTSTop Soldermask
GBLBottom Copper
GBOBottom Silkscreen
GBSBottom Soldermask
TXTRouting and Drill

Preview gerbers

Check the files before sending them to the PCB house. To view them you'll need a Gerber viewer. Here are some free ones:

  • example
  • example

image

We use ViewPlot, and here is how to set it up to view your files. After installing it, start it up. Then go to File > Load Files, select the 7 above mentioned files, and click "Open". A window with a list of the files will pop-up, click "OK". Another pop up screen will show up, here you need to select the "Leading zero suppression" radio button, and select "2 4", and then click OK. You should get a similar image to the one below. From there you can scroll through the layers in the lower left corner drop down menu.

image

Zip up the files

Put it in an archive. We include a readme.txt with....

For Seeed Studio and Itead order the PCB online and email the files. BatchPCB has a web interface, DorkBotPCX has XXXXX.

Get your boards

In our experience, services take about this long:

  • Seeed Studio
  • ITead Studio
  • DorkBotPBX
  • BatchPCB

How to inspect the board, what to look for.