I use BatchPCB for prototypes, they are by no means the quickest (Around a month or two for a board depending on how busy they are), but the boards are good quality.
I am interested in finding any alternatives for similar a similar price, my thanks for any other information posted here!
The honest answer is that cheap and low volume basically do not go together when it comes to PCB fabrication.
Some fab houses will panelize your board along with other customer boards to reduce cost to you and them. They often require fairly strict rules about how many layers the board can be and what features your layout utilizes, such as drill and trace sizes. Even under this scenario it is essentially not possible that you will ever get to $2.00 a board. Advanced Circuits http://www.4pcb.com/ offers a barebones PCB service and PCB Express is often very price competetive for low volume "prototype PCBs" but even with them the lowest cost I have ever incurred was $10 per board for a simple 2-layer board that was only 2" square.
Your only other real alternative is to travel to China and find someone to make them for you there.
The only way to get a low cost PCB (<$2.00 apeace) and I am assuming that the PCB is 2" square is to either make them your self. Overseas is really not an option since they like to make PCB's in volume, large volume. Assembly is another issue, since it will probably cost you (at this volume) more than $2.00 per board, even if you supply the parts. It is really to low of a volume for automation.
If you are looking for the best value for prototype PCB's, I have found and use on a regular basis is 4pcb.com When you run their $33 (2 layer upto 60 sq-in) or $66 (4 layer upto 30 sq-in), you get a good deal. Even though you purchase 4 and get 5, I usually build a couple of prototypes and use one for reference. The boards are high quality prototype boards and you get them made in 5 days and with the online DFM, I think that it is a good deal. The Barebones I have not done since I can make my own barebones PCB's and like to have the silkscreen and legends for easier assembly.
If you price it out, you may add the option of scoring the PCB's and producing a "step and repeat" on the pcbs, you would have a quantity 150 of 2 in-sq boards at approx est. cost of $200.00. WIth this you wold have a PCB that would cost $1.33 each and you would have them in 5+ days. Not your 1 to 10 quantity, but a pcb that was < $2.00.
Electronic Design Engineer
Here on the right hand side of the pond, we have firms like PCB-Pool which pool your board with others.
You just provide the board files (they'll take raw eagle .brd files) and tell them the dimensions, they give you a fixed price baed on turnaround speed.
For 8 days turnaround you pay a x1 price multiplier going up to about 3.5x for 1 day turnaround. However they are NOT cheap (despite the fact they include a free laser stencil).
They also quote prices in their advertising based on 1dm2 (1 deci meter squared, ie 10cm x 10cm) but on their site they talk in terms of eurocard sizes (10cm x 16cm). You add extra costs for silkscreen and solder mask (more if your board has surface mount since the soldermask is different both sides). PLUS being in ireland they have 21% VAT instead of the usual 17.5% in the UK (rising to 20% come january).
I too would like to find a low-cost beta service where I can get boards (with soldermask and laser stencil) at a price which makes prototyping worthwhile. Many of my clients have a hairy fit when I quote them for building one-off prototypes. I don't care too much about silkscreen at prototype time.
There are others like EuroCircuits and Spirit (both UK) but you need to do a lot of donkey work to get a quote out of them, and they like to send salesmen to chat to you too.
What we'd like (maybe it's impossible!) is for a low cost, fast turnaround service for prototype boards which is easy to use and reliable.
Surely the low-cost would equate to higher-utilisation and therefore costs would be met, but this being europe most price-setters seem to think if they are not making enough profit then the only solution is to put prices UP whereas in reality sometimes offering better value for money would result in more sales and therefore more profit then simple price hiking.
[RANT MODE = OFF]
For comparison with US prices, in Europe, a 10cm x 10cm (4" x 4") board in SINGLE quantity, with soldermask and silkscreen, including VAT and Delivery in 9 days (8 day turnaround plus shipping) will cost €103.18 - that's approximately £90 or $140USD. For ONE small board!!!! Crikey. What would you pay in the US for the same thing?
I have used a company called Olimex many times before and had great results for small batch 1 and 2 sided boards. They are based in Bulgaria but ship worldwide (I am based in the UK) and turnaround is normally 3-5 days plus shipping time (which depends on the method chosen). Prices include tooling, and the standard board specification is reasonable. They do offer additional board variants for a small extra cost.
For higher density / 4 layer / larger profile boards I have also used PCBtrain, which is a UK based company. This service offers more options on board specification, but also includes tooling so there are no additional costs. There is an online quote facility to get instant prices on your board spec. This company also quotes for small-batch surface mount assembly, although I have never used this service before.
They have a setup similar to BatchPCB(they're more expensive), however they have a much faster turnarounds as fast as 1 day. Cabe, I'm afraid no boardhouse will make fully assembled boards for less then 2.00 in 1-10 quantity, I've done a lot of research, if you can find someone please let me know so that I can use them.
I've been burned with poor quality boards from China, so unless you're going to do production runs, there are no gains by going to China to have your boards made.
DorkbotPDX is a newer batch service managed and manufactured in the US:
It's just $5 per square inch (for three 2-layer boards). Thus 2 sq inch would be just $10 total for all 3 boards. Silk screen & solder mask included. Shipping is free in the US.
EAGLE .brd is accepted directly and a .dru file is provided for the DRC check. I'm using EAGLE and have never had a PCB manufactured before so that is a big help.
I just missed the June 28th batch, so I'm submitting for the July 11th batch. The turn around is 9 days from the submission deadline.
I'll post some pics of how the boards comes out.
I'm from Switzerland and I regularly use pcbcart.com (based in China).
5 pcs. of a 2 layer 50mm x 50mm board with silkscreen legend on both sides cost about 80$ (8$ / pcs. + 1 time tooling costs of 40$). You can reorder boards another time with no additional tooling costs, even if you made some changes to the silkscreen!
10 pcs. of the same specifications cost about 95$ (5.5$ / pcs. same tooling costs).
Standard lead time are 8 days upon received payment and board files (protel, Altium, Eagle and gerber files are accepted and some others). It doesn't matter if there's a weekend in between. They take 8 days, not business days!
Shipment costs are between 20$ ad 30$ depending on the delivery method you choose.
The quality is very good and if they screw up, they deliver more boards than ordered with no extra cost.
I found out when chatting with Laen who runs DorkbotPDX PCB (http://dorkbotpdx.org/wiki/pcb_order) that they are manufactured by Amitron Corp in Elk Grove Village (right outside of Chicago).
Also, I got barebones done by Sunstone in Oregon (http://www.sunstone.com). Final total for two 1"x2" 2-layer boards was $41 and arrived on time 2 weeks after ordered.
I recently discovered Iteadstudio.com They have standard sizes and services, but they offer good quality and they claim to go down to 6mils line width and spacing. I tried them on 8 mils and they did a good job.
Price example: 10cm x 10cm dual layer, 2xsoldermask 2xsilkscreen 28,00$ (and now on offer for 24,90$) plus shipping.
I have also tried Olimex mentioned above, average quality but acceptable nonetheless. My choice for the options that iteadstudio doesn't cover.
For double layer PCBs with a size of, or smaller than 10cm x 10cm I can definitely recommend Seeedstudio.
Their PCB service, Fusion PCB, is identical to the iTeadStudio, but Seeedstudio seems to be more professionel and faster, and there is no price difference. Besides of that Seeedstudio also have free international shipping on orders over $50.
The price of 10pcs double layer 5cm x 5cm is $9.90. The price of 10pcs double layer 10cm x 10cm is $24.90.
The service includes E-Test on 50% (5pcs), and the standard soldermask color is green, but it can be changed to anything else for $10 for all 10 items.
I have used Seeedstudio for most of my PCB projects when the PCB size is less than or equal to 10cm x 10cm. You can buy bigger PCBs thru their service, but the price is not that competitive anymore when the sizes exceeds 10cm x 10cm.
Many engineers I know all want to fabricate PCBs for the custom, prototype, or one of a kind projects, but they often can not afford to have them printed at the volume many board houses require.
What are some cheap PCB printing services out there?
Personally, I am looking for board houses that will print 1 - 10 boards for less than 2 dollars a piece. Component placement services a plus!
Any help would be appreciated.