37 Replies Latest reply on Jul 12, 2020 11:31 AM by dougw

    Recommend Manufacture for Prototype PCB

    colporteur

      I am looking for members suggestions on PCB manufactures to produce a 2 sided, 4"x5" printed circuit board?

       

      This is my first venture into PCB building in close to 25 years. The last time I worked on such a task it was done manually. Masking and etching using your own baths. Retirement afforded me the time to circle back and invest some time in exploring board design. I have a simple interface board I would like to have manufactured.  I'm thinking a small run initially to confirm my design. This is not a commercial product but rather something I am making for a model railroad layout.

       

      I am looking for preferably a Canadian manufacture but will investigate any recommendations if you have experience using the service.

       

      I recognize Element14 community has some links that promote some board manufactures. I am old school and look for recommendations from people with experience.

       

      I;m  trusting I might get a few recommendations to make a foray into getting a simple board manufactured.

       

      Any suggestions?

        • Re: Recommend Manufacture for Prototype PCB
          dougw

          I'm in Canada so I used to use APCircuits (Alberta Printed Circuits) for prototype PCBs, because they had reasonably low prices and delivery in 48 hours to my door,  but I think they folded up.

          I now use ITEAD (https://www.itead.cc/open-pcb/pcb-prototyping.html ) They charge less than $10 for 10 PCBs (< $1 per card) for small cards. I have used them a couple of dozen times over the last few years with no problems. Nothing I've found in Canada comes close to this price.

          You can see a green rectangular PCB example and a round white PCB example in this blog:

          Sudden Impact - Crown Tools and Heart Reactor - updates 1-39

           

          I found a place that seems to give away a trial PCB order for free, although I have never tried them:

          https://www.nextpcb.com/?campaignid=pcb-ca&adgroupid=89482426952&utm_source=google&utm_medium=cpc&utm_term=b&keyword=%2B…

          4 of 4 people found this helpful
          • Re: Recommend Manufacture for Prototype PCB
            BigG

            I've turned to the online PCB design platform easyeda.com for all my prototypes, which then seamlessly links to a Chinese PCB manufacturer jlcpcb.com once you generate your gerber files.

             

            I found JLCPCB services to be very good and both their promotional and normal prices are superb (really low cost). I cannot fault their quality but then again I'm no expert at what to look for. Online feedback I found from so called experts all seem happy too. Only criticism I could make was on choices they provide for delivery. For example, I selected "DHL" from their choice of options and it was delivered via someone else. A little annoying but then it still arrived very quickly and without damage.

             

            Otherwise, I've heard good stories from OSHpark.com (based in the US).

             

            Here is a useful comparison done back in 2018 of three providers: https://hackaday.io/project/159057-game-boards-for-rc2014/log/150971-pcb-manufacturers-compared

            3 of 3 people found this helpful
            • Re: Recommend Manufacture for Prototype PCB
              Fred27

              I used to make my own boards, but unless you enjoy the challenge it makes no sense any more.

               

              I've used a few Chinese board houses and found them all to be good. There are a couple that get a hard time on EEVBlog for doing a bit of spammy marketing - but other than that if you don't mind having your boards in the post for a few weeks they're great. Of course, right now there might be further coronavirus related delays so it might be worth the extra cost for a US-based board house.

              • Re: Recommend Manufacture for Prototype PCB
                dubbie

                Does anyone know a good UK based PCB prototyping service? I plan to make a PCB for one of my projects soon so need somewhere to get them made. I used to know a company called ragwort or ragworm or possibly something similar, or even possibly completely unrelated to that. They made orange coloured PCBs and seemed OK.

                 

                Dubbie

                • Re: Recommend Manufacture for Prototype PCB
                  colporteur

                  Just a follow-up note on the PCB board purchase from JLCPCB.

                   

                  The shipper attempted to deliver the package today. I was not at home so I completed the package delivery instructions on the website. They ignored the leave package advisory I completed and left me a door knocker notice.

                   

                  The manufacture invoiced me for ten PCB's and the shipping cost. The local shipper would not leave the package because their is an additional $23

                  Customs, Duties and Taxes. The recipient of an international shipment may be subject to import taxes, customs duties and fees, which are levied once a shipment reaches the recipient's country. Crap!

                   

                  The PCB's were $20. The shipping $30 and the Duties $23. I found the Customs, Duties and Taxes on JLCPCB's website after some digging. It is not hinted at in the ordering process. I hate discovering hidden costs.

                   

                  I will wait around tomorrow to see if the package arrives. Only get two door knocker notices and then it costs me another $10.

                  3 of 3 people found this helpful
                    • Re: Recommend Manufacture for Prototype PCB
                      andrewj

                      I don’t understand why couriers don’t make the country’s athletic squad: ours tap lightly on the door then sprint for it  in case you’re actually in and answer.  I bet it’s some form of in-game down the depot!

                       

                      Not quite the same as your situation...I am aware that at a certain value - not sure what, but fairly low - customs duty will be levied on anything imported (I’m in the UK by the way.)  The annoying aspect of this is that the courier company collects and adds on their own administration fee.

                       

                      None of this is JLC’s fault of course, just par for the course.  The penultimate order I had from them was for a 4-layer PCB.  It was £23 for the boards, £25 for shipping (I wanted them quick), £3 for currency fees, £18 for customs/courier fees.  Best part of £70 for something that turned out to have a problem with one of the footprint sizes.  Bum.

                       

                      Once fixed I had them re-done and shipped by slow mail so I could have a bit of a break.  Didn’t get charged customs then for some reason.

                       

                      I just can’t find anywhere in the UK or Europe that come anywhere near to JLCs prices otherwise I would shop more local. 

                      2 of 2 people found this helpful
                        • Re: Recommend Manufacture for Prototype PCB
                          dubbie

                          Andrew, it is disappointing that there isn't a UK company that is comparable with what you have paid. Still, I think I will give Ragworm a go. I have spoken with them some years ago as they came to my University for some reason. They seemed OK then but it has been some time so do not know what their price situation is, yet!

                           

                          Dubbie

                            • Re: Recommend Manufacture for Prototype PCB
                              andrewj

                              If you find one, let us know, I'd prefer to shop more local and I'm in the process of designing my next one.  I don't mind paying a bit more to use UK/European companies but when I looked the price differences were huge.  I hadn't come across Ragworm though and to be fair, once I'd checked a few local manufacturers which had similar high prices I stopped looking and went to JLC.

                                • Re: Recommend Manufacture for Prototype PCB
                                  shabaz

                                  It's as you say, it is not a slight difference in cost, it is usually a huge difference for any reasonable time-frame (say a few weeks max).

                                  Ragworm only seemed low-ish cost for very tiny boards last time I checked, whereas the popular Chinese manufacturers often charge a fixed value for a service regardless of size up to 5x5 or 10x10 cm, which is a decent size for a lot of hobby projects.

                                    • Re: Recommend Manufacture for Prototype PCB
                                      andrewj

                                      That's what I've found but it's been a while since I last looked.  I've just bought some SOIC and MSOP parts and at the sam time some IC adapters to do some breadboarding with them.  It was only when I stopped to think about it that it would have been about a third cheaper to have laid out a PCB, get it made in China and shipped to the UK, than buy those adapters.  It's crazy pricing when you think about it, especially as the quality is good.

                              • Re: Recommend Manufacture for Prototype PCB
                                dubbie

                                Sean,

                                 

                                A very unwelcome outcome. Seems an awful lot of additional charges. I think I'll try a UK firm to start, just to get some experience of what's what.

                                 

                                Dubbie

                                  • Re: Recommend Manufacture for Prototype PCB
                                    shabaz

                                    Hi Dubbie,

                                     

                                    The UK rules https://www.gov.uk/goods-sent-from-abroad/tax-and-duty  

                                    specify that there's a £15 limit for the value of the goods. If the PCBs cost less than that, then you won't (or shouldn't*) get charged anything, regardless of the shipping cost.

                                    However if the PCBs or any other goods totals more than £15, then you'll get charged VAT on that entire amount including shipping, and plus any handling fee that the mailing company or courier wants to charge (it's around £8-12 from memory).

                                    (Note: If the cost of goods (plus shipping as I understand - not sure) totals more than £135, then there will be additional charges (duty) dependent on what the good are. £135 is a limit unlikely to be hit with hobby PCB orders though).

                                     

                                    * Problem is, sometimes the delivery firm will mistakenly use the entire sum (goods cost plus shipping cost) and see if it exceeds £15. That's a mistake, they should be looking at just the goods cost, to see if it is above £15. This also occurs if the sender lumps the goods and shipping cost together on the declaration, in which case it's easy to exceed £15. It is possible to try to reduce that occurring, by typing in the notes "Please write value $10 on shipment" (i.e. whatever the value of the goods alone is) so that there is a higher chance the sender will do that. Otherwise, they may incorrectly write the value including shipping, which is not the basis for the £15 threshold determination but is incorrectly used by the courier firms sometimes.

                                     

                                    You can see the detail highlighted below. VAT is payable if the red threshold is exceeded, which does not include shipping. It's a goods cost alone. The blue highlighted detail shows that once VAT is deemed to be payable, then the VAT is charged on the entire amount (including shipping).

                                     

                                    As an example of typical cost, I ordered 10 boards ( Creating your own Handheld Electronic Games – Pocket Nim ) and the total including shipping (DHL) was under $26 USD. It arrived in six days from time of ordering.

                                     

                                    The PCB cost in low volume from the traditional manufacturers in the UK are so high, even when charges are added, it's often still cheaper to go for the Chinese suppliers. I have rarely been charged tax on hobby PCBs, the few times it has been my fault (accidentally adding too many PCBs to my order, or selecting features (like colour) that increased the cost more than I thought) and I think just once that the delivery firm used the wrong value in the determination.

                                     

                                    5 of 5 people found this helpful
                                    • Re: Recommend Manufacture for Prototype PCB
                                      colporteur

                                      It was my first foray into PCB design and manufacturing. I'm half way through the day waiting for the courier to deliver the package. I have to get to the store to pick up my wife's birthday cake or it will cost me a lot more than just additional shipping.

                                      1 of 1 people found this helpful
                                    • Re: Recommend Manufacture for Prototype PCB
                                      BigG

                                      Yes, delivery is not always as they say.

                                       

                                      Now that you know the full cost to deliver to ready product, I would be very intrigued to learn how the total cost would compare if you used the US company https://oshpark.com/ as they would be my next choice.

                                        • Re: Recommend Manufacture for Prototype PCB
                                          andrewj

                                          With those 4-layer boards, at £23 plus shipping, OSHPark wanted about $120.  OSHPark price includes shipping, but if you go with snail-mail the cost is under £30; with courier it's under £50.  Even adding on customs in my case it's a no-brainer.  With a 2-layer board at up to 10cmx10cm, JLC will manufacturer and slow-ship for about £10-£12.

                                           

                                          It's so cheap, and writing it down like this, is making me think there may be some ethical issues in relation to the workforce to consider here.

                                          2 of 2 people found this helpful
                                            • Re: Recommend Manufacture for Prototype PCB
                                              BigG

                                              Thanks for the feedback. From what I've gathered JLCPCB is probably the most automated setup out there hence achieving the speed, quality and cost benefits. From what I know, OSHPark use ENIG-RoHS finish for all their boards. If you select this option on JLCPCB it pushes the price up significantly. So on a par I had worked out that OSHPark's pcb pricing is in the same ballpark. It then comes down to delivery time and cost which could swing it either way.

                                              2 of 2 people found this helpful
                                                • Re: Recommend Manufacture for Prototype PCB
                                                  shabaz

                                                  The ENIG is good for SMD for hobby boards, but thankfully isn't needed too often, so often I'll just go for HASL. But ENIG does look way better. I'd be surprised if OSHPark customers need ENIG often, but I probably don't understand their business (they may have business customers for prototypes too). Maybe they reduce costs a lot by offering just that service. For production, ENIG is rare (OSP is preferred as I understand, but all have their benefits and disadvantages).

                                                  The automation is impressive : ) Amazing what they manage. I too think that's the big difference (or hope that's the big difference).

                                                  1 of 1 people found this helpful
                                              • Re: Recommend Manufacture for Prototype PCB
                                                fmilburn

                                                I use OSHPark for small boards. They charge $5 per square inch for 3 boards including shipping and a fair number of what I do is less than 3 square inches in which case I almost always use them. My experience is the OSHPark quality is better than prototype boards from China I have used. The pads and solder mask tolerance and resolution is better. Chinese prototyping boards are entirely useable but I find it easier to hand solder tiny pins on OSHPark boards with less bridging. I also like ENIG although it isn’t necessary for what I do most of the time. Improved tolerances and ENIG are cost adders on Chinese boards.  I haven’t had customs / duties problems in the US on boards from China.  At least not yet.

                                              • Re: Recommend Manufacture for Prototype PCB
                                                shabaz

                                                Hi Sean,

                                                Sorry to hear that : (

                                                Maybe there's some procedures that other people who have used this PCB service in Canada may be aware of, to reduce the charges (e.g. deliberately specify a courier to not hit some threshold or something, or max goods value, i.e. reducing number of PCBs or lower cost PCB settings).

                                                1 of 1 people found this helpful
                                                  • Re: Recommend Manufacture for Prototype PCB
                                                    colporteur

                                                    The project has been a discovery activity. I did it in baby steps not knowing what I didn't know. The final costs might have discouraged me from starting the project. I need three of the boards so it will save me on the wire wrapping perf board work.

                                                     

                                                    I have another small board I have contemplated moving from a perf board to a formal PCB. Now that I have some idea I might try another vendor. I'm still waiting for the delivery to find out if costs is the only thing to disappoint me:)

                                                      • Re: Recommend Manufacture for Prototype PCB
                                                        shabaz

                                                        The quality is superb from all of the popular board suppliers, so hopefully you'll still be pleasantly surprised. The one Doug mentions (iTead) is really good too.

                                                        I have used iTead, Elecrow, PCBWay and JLC PCB, at least several times for each one, with no particular favorite currently. I've used OSHPark once, that's great too, but costs more (for UK orders - I don't know about Canada) so I tend to go for the others.

                                                        2 of 2 people found this helpful
                                                    • Re: Recommend Manufacture for Prototype PCB
                                                      dougw

                                                      Wow. I don't think I've ever been nailed with extra charges from iTead. I wonder what they are doing differently.

                                                    • Re: Recommend Manufacture for Prototype PCB
                                                      colporteur

                                                      I just found this PCB free ebook resource on E14. Retirement affords me the time to learn while doing. I will have to take a few cycles to have a read of this ebook.

                                                       

                                                      https://www.element14.com/community/community/publications/ebooks?ICID=rpimain-piday2020-doc#?ICID=ebooks-downloadDesign…

                                                      • Re: Recommend Manufacture for Prototype PCB
                                                        colporteur

                                                        The E14 community will hopefully get a chuckle out of my misstep.

                                                         

                                                        After getting hit with additional tariffs on a recent purchase of PCB's I figured I would avoid the tax collector by having the good shipped to a drop box across the boarder. I combined an order for two different PCB as to maximize the shipping cost. In the past going across the boarder to pick up the goods usually resulted in no tax.

                                                         

                                                        Unfortunately, Corvid19 is placing restrictions on casual boarder traffic. Yes I have cheaper boards, I just can't get them. I'm not sure if I really saved $20 in the end:)

                                                         

                                                        Cough into arm folks and keep the rest of us healthy.

                                                        1 of 1 people found this helpful
                                                          • Re: Recommend Manufacture for Prototype PCB
                                                            dubbie

                                                            Sean,

                                                             

                                                            Souns  like supermarket queues. No matter which one you are in the others always move faster, until you move to a faster one when it immediately slows down.

                                                             

                                                            Dubbie

                                                              • Re: Recommend Manufacture for Prototype PCB
                                                                colporteur

                                                                I pride myself on being analytical. Sometimes the analysis results in paralysis. In this exercise I chose to ignore the outside world and only focus on what I needed to do. I haven't received notice the PCB's have been shipped. Boarder closures were announced today:) The community is being encouraged to self isolate so I am unable to attend the work site to work on the project.

                                                                 

                                                                Frustrating as it appears I'm garnering a laugh out of my optimism, to think I can function in a world facing chaos and it won't impact me.

                                                            • Re: Recommend Manufacture for Prototype PCB
                                                              kingcrediepcb

                                                              Hi Sean,

                                                               

                                                              This is Linda KingCredie Technology Limited, I think we are a suitable PCB manufacturer for you. Could you have a try?

                                                              My Wechat: yyao868

                                                              • Re: Recommend Manufacture for Prototype PCB
                                                                BigG

                                                                I've started to notice that quite a few makers are availing of partial PCBA (PCB manufacture plus assembly) services.

                                                                 

                                                                I say "partial" because this just involves the solder/assembly of all the common SMD components and then you do the rest.

                                                                 

                                                                I'm wondering if any members have tried out this option, and if so with whom, as it makes sense to me for prototypes etc.

                                                                1 of 1 people found this helpful
                                                                  • Re: Recommend Manufacture for Prototype PCB
                                                                    shabaz

                                                                    Hi Colin,

                                                                     

                                                                    I think it can make sense, if it's low-cost (which I understand it is), but for me it involves too much change to the way I currently work (I prefer to use the libraries of PCB footprints that I currently have, plus I have all typical resistor and some capacitors at hand, and I don't mind the time to solder them in - usually just a fraction of an hour).

                                                                    It could also be convenient for those who wish to use SMD ICs but not wish to self-solder them, however you're restricted to what the manufacturer can obtain, and merely delays having to learn to self-solder the parts.

                                                                    On the other hand, using the manufacturer for hobby PCBs teaches a bit (but not much) of PCB production guidelines, since a machine will be placing the parts, and that influences your output CAD/CAM and any other content you supply to the manufacturer.

                                                                    In summary I think there are advantages, especially for newcomers, but currently it doesn't suit my one-off PCB requirements.

                                                                    1 of 1 people found this helpful
                                                                    • Re: Recommend Manufacture for Prototype PCB
                                                                      dougw

                                                                      That might be handy if I ever have to use a BGA - I still find them to be scary for manual soldering.