Author Topic: Searching PCB Manufacturer for hobbyist  (Read 46840 times)

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Offline terrieaTopic starter

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Searching PCB Manufacturer for hobbyist
« on: September 21, 2010, 03:25:29 am »
Hi folks,

I want to etch a PCB for a project, but I have no intention to inverst in all the equipment and spend time on drilling holes etc... I heard there are places that etches and drills PCBs for a reasonable price all over internet.
I did a quick search but I'm not even sure to use the correct terms. Beside a few places like pcbexpress.com and custompcb.com, most results I find are professionals only PCB manufacturer that does not seem to make low quantity.
I realy search for something simple, as cheap as possible for very very low quantity (just one is enought). The solutions I find on pcbexpress and custompcb seems even too fancy for me (two layers boards minimum). minimum price is around 95$ for two pieces (pcbexpress) or 75$ for 4 pieces (with one week to process for custompcb). Are these standard prices?

I'm not even sure to search the right thing, I'm a bit lost. Does any of you have any advice, places to recommend, places to avoid?
I guess it's better to find a manufacturer as close as possible from where I leave (for shipping costs) anyone know a good address in Canada (Quebec)?

Thanks
 

Offline joelby

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Re: Searching PCB Manufacturer for hobbyist
« Reply #1 on: September 21, 2010, 03:50:37 am »
For small boards, low quantities and slower turnaround, you could try http://batchpcb.com .
 

Offline GeoffS

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Re: Searching PCB Manufacturer for hobbyist
« Reply #2 on: September 21, 2010, 04:32:15 am »
Most PCB manufacturers are set up for bulk production and (may) have an initial setup charge.
This is OK if you're getting hundreds of boards but can make getting a few boards made up, a bit expensive.
It's also going to depend on how many layers, number of holes, copper weight, etc.

I've used PCBcart with some success. Good turnaround (less than 2 weeks) and reasonable prices.
 

Online EEVblog

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Re: Searching PCB Manufacturer for hobbyist
« Reply #3 on: September 21, 2010, 06:45:57 am »
I use and recommend pcbcart.com

Dave.
 

Offline Zero999

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Re: Searching PCB Manufacturer for hobbyist
« Reply #4 on: September 21, 2010, 08:42:57 am »
I've always made simple PCBs myself. The investment is minimal and if you use all SMT devices, there are no holes to drill, other than for mounting.

All you need is some etching crystals or fluid, a plastic tray, a laser printer (if you don't have this, use an injet and photocopy it), a polishing block, a clothes iron and some copper clad board. I clean the copper clad board with a polishing block, print the design on to clay coated magazine paper (it doesn't matter if there's print on it, it will still work, plain copier paper will also work), iron it onto the board, soak it in water and etch it.

Where I used to work, I got my boards made externally but I didn't select the manufacturer so I can't help you there.

 

Offline TopherTheME

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Re: Searching PCB Manufacturer for hobbyist
« Reply #5 on: September 21, 2010, 02:18:27 pm »
Sparkfun's www.batchpcb.com is always good if time isn't an issue.

I've used Sierra Circuits with good success for projects at school that required some PTFE based boards
http://www.protoexpress.com/content/webpcb_faq.jsp

I've recently put an order in to www.sunstone.com but I haven't received the boards yet. They're prices and turn around seem good but I'll give the final verdict when I get the boards.
Don't blame me. I'm the mechanical engineer.
 

Offline DavidDLC

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Re: Searching PCB Manufacturer for hobbyist
« Reply #6 on: September 21, 2010, 04:39:24 pm »
I just received my first pcbs from BatchPCB and the quality is pretty good, but as TopherTheME mentioned the time is an issue, they will deliver in about 3 to 4 weeks.

Price is cheap and if you have several designs you can take advantage of the handling charges.
 

Offline Jon Chandler

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Re: Searching PCB Manufacturer for hobbyist
« Reply #7 on: September 21, 2010, 05:51:13 pm »
PCBFabExpress will make boards up to 10 in.sq. for $15 each in a quantity of 5 with a 5 day turn.  This includes solder mask and silk screen.  I've used them a number of times with great results.  The 5 day turn usually seems to slip a few days....

ExpressPCB will make 3 boards of 2.5" x 3.8" for $51.  A limitation or a feature depending on your point of view is that you must use their layout software.

I've used both of these companies and have been happy with the results.


Jon
 

Offline sonicj

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Re: Searching PCB Manufacturer for hobbyist
« Reply #8 on: September 23, 2010, 05:51:11 pm »
10 - 100mm x 100mm x 1.6mm  = $28 iteadstudio PCB Prototyping

if they are using the same gear/plant as their housebrand boards then the quality is very good! their arduino clone makes the original look bad when placed side by side.
-sj
« Last Edit: September 23, 2010, 05:52:51 pm by sonicj »
 

Offline TopherTheME

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Re: Searching PCB Manufacturer for hobbyist
« Reply #9 on: September 23, 2010, 06:19:36 pm »
10 - 100mm x 100mm x 1.6mm  = $28 iteadstudio PCB Prototyping

if they are using the same gear/plant as their housebrand boards then the quality is very good! their arduino clone makes the original look bad when placed side by side.
-sj

This seems almost to good to be true. The site says they ship in 4-6 days as well. Have you (or anyone) ever used them before?
Don't blame me. I'm the mechanical engineer.
 

Offline sonicj

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Re: Searching PCB Manufacturer for hobbyist
« Reply #10 on: September 24, 2010, 01:27:47 am »
Quote
This seems almost to good to be true.
this is what i initially felt about some of their retail products. i saved a good chunk of loot on supplies through these guys. quality on the basic supplies (jumpers, headers, sockets, etc.) was better than expected.

Quote
The site says they ship in 4-6 days as well.
they were very quick answering my emails; same day (night) in both cases. i placed a retail order for roughly 35 items and my package shipped the following business day. a very reasonable $7 shipping on a $80 order.

Quote
Have you (or anyone) ever used them before?
i cannot speak for their pcb fabrication service as i have not tried it first hand.

i DID, however, order a few boards from their Open Source Bare Board selection. aside from a few silk screen flaws (top layer text) these boards are as good or better than any other small run/prototyping board i've come across.

im not sure if im reading this correctly, but it sounds like if you submit your design w/o copyright restrictions they give you some free...  ??? OpenPCB
i'll shoot them a email and ask about the details. cheers!
-sj
« Last Edit: September 24, 2010, 01:32:38 am by sonicj »
 

Offline TopherTheME

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Re: Searching PCB Manufacturer for hobbyist
« Reply #11 on: September 24, 2010, 04:16:27 am »
Looking more closely that the site, some of their boards don't seem to be very good, i.e. holes misaligned with pads.



I may try them out anyway just because $28 for that many PCBs of that size its pretty amazing even if they aren't top notch.
Don't blame me. I'm the mechanical engineer.
 

Offline thakidd

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Re: Searching PCB Manufacturer for hobbyist
« Reply #12 on: September 24, 2010, 04:51:16 am »
Thx for the info all. I was about to order a few boards!
 

Offline sonicj

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Re: Searching PCB Manufacturer for hobbyist
« Reply #13 on: September 24, 2010, 07:47:39 am »

Looking more closely that the site, some of their boards don't seem to be very good, i.e. holes misaligned with pads.

I may try them out anyway just because $28 for that many PCBs of that size its pretty amazing even if they aren't top notch.

my ssop example was much better than the one on the site, but not perfect. my iteaduino (arduino clone) is one of the best looking boards i've ever seen... edges are flawless, shiny pb free joints, screens look very precise. after looking over a variety of their boards, im led to think that this is a new facility or new equipment and they've been dialing it in on fly.

i'll try to snap some photos of their arduino shields, etc.
-sj
 

Offline allanw

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Re: Searching PCB Manufacturer for hobbyist
« Reply #14 on: September 24, 2010, 07:54:27 am »
$28? Dream come true for me. Time for some high power RGB led driver boards...

ps: their site reminds me a lot of seeedstudio which offers a very similar service: http://www.seeedstudio.com/depot/fusion-pcb-2-layer-10cm10cm-max-10pcs-p-396.html?cPath=64_12
« Last Edit: September 24, 2010, 07:56:11 am by allanw »
 

Offline sonicj

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Re: Searching PCB Manufacturer for hobbyist
« Reply #15 on: September 24, 2010, 08:06:08 am »
Time for some high power RGB led driver boards...
nice! i made a beefy RGB driver the other day. care to share some details?
-sj
 

Offline allanw

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Re: Searching PCB Manufacturer for hobbyist
« Reply #16 on: September 24, 2010, 08:14:34 am »
Well, originally I tried to design one based on selecting a DC DC converter first, off Digikey. I thought choosing a high frequency, above 1MHz, would be a good idea since it would minimize the component sizes. I thought about using one of Linear's three output IC's but then the controller chip would have to dissipate 6W+ which was not good.

I then tried out National's Webench tool and was amazed by it. It made a way more efficient design than I would have, since I basically have no experience in DC/DC converters. The frequency it chose was only around 400kHz.

I'm trying to make a very flexible board that can output up to 3x 24V at 350mA. I might have to spec it down to 12V if it's infeasible to do 24V.

I just need to find a good heatsink for the LED's I bought:

http://www.dealextreme.com/details.dx/sku.4530
http://www.dealextreme.com/details.dx/sku.44043
 

Offline sonicj

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Re: Searching PCB Manufacturer for hobbyist
« Reply #17 on: September 24, 2010, 08:36:44 am »
so no mixing? no dimming? this going in a flashlight?

that second emitter looks sweet!

this is the strip i bought from dx. http://www.dealextreme.com/details.dx/sku.14965
3 transistors driven by an arduino over bluetooth. completely pointless project for me, but was a good learning experience!
-sj
 

Offline allanw

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Re: Searching PCB Manufacturer for hobbyist
« Reply #18 on: September 24, 2010, 08:39:53 am »
Definitely going to have dimming, which is simple to do with most controllers provided you can generate the PWM signal. I'm thinking about attaching a cheap wifi modules to them and doing some interesting public art with them.

The strip looks really nice and cheap. I might actually pick up a few of those, it'd be really interesting to use them as Christmas lights...

Here's another thing I attempted to make a while ago:



The board's 8" x 0.75" and has 32 individually controlled RGB LED's (but only 20mA ones). They're 12-bit PWM controlled by 4 TLC5947's. The boards are extendable too. Was going to make a light saber or something with them but accidentally made the LED through-holes too small so I need to get new boards made...

Oh and to bring this back on topic, the last board I showed was from Sparkfun. They're pretty cheap for low quantities of board, but it still costs at least $30 and takes almost a month to get to you...
« Last Edit: September 24, 2010, 08:48:44 am by allanw »
 

Offline sonicj

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Re: Searching PCB Manufacturer for hobbyist
« Reply #19 on: September 24, 2010, 09:00:24 am »
woops! that sucks! looks nice otherwise!

the strips are definitely neat! cut-able, extend-able!

check this out: http://www.spinnakerbeachclub.com/ i designed & installed the leds in the bar in the middle on the front page. (by design, i mean selected pre-built components on a system level. not the actual circuits.) i think 20-something RGB tubes, all dmx control via computer. a shame they didn't have anyone competent enough to select some decent programs for the photo shoot.  most of the photos are in the middle of a transition or on some chasing sequence. :-[
-sj
« Last Edit: September 24, 2010, 09:11:33 am by sonicj »
 

Offline Zero999

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Re: Searching PCB Manufacturer for hobbyist
« Reply #20 on: September 24, 2010, 10:19:47 am »
The board's 8" x 0.75" and has 32 individually controlled RGB LED's (but only 20mA ones). They're 12-bit PWM controlled by 4 TLC5947's. The boards are extendable too. Was going to make a light saber or something with them but accidentally made the LED through-holes too small so I need to get new boards made...
I noticed you managed to get some of the LEDs on there.

Did you drill the holes larger or surface mount the leads?

I think you should use the boards anyway or is it too much hassle?
 

Offline sonicj

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Re: Searching PCB Manufacturer for hobbyist
« Reply #21 on: September 24, 2010, 10:35:18 am »
looks like the leds would edge mount ok...
-sj
 

Offline TopherTheME

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Re: Searching PCB Manufacturer for hobbyist
« Reply #22 on: September 30, 2010, 06:03:10 pm »
I've recently put an order in to www.sunstone.com but I haven't received the boards yet. They're prices and turn around seem good but I'll give the final verdict when I get the boards.


An update about my order from sunstone: I ordered the boards late at night on Friday Sept 24, so they basically got my order Monday morning on Sept 20th. My PCBs shipped out on Wednesday Sept 22nd! Due to UPS being very slow and the crappy mail service at my uni I didn't get the boards until today. Anyway, the boards look very professional and very well done. I ordered three 0.7 x 1.95in boards for about $37 shipped which is pretty dam good considering a lead time of two days + shipping time. When ever I need small boards done fast I think these guys will definitely be getting my business from now on. 


I also ordered some (large 10x6cm) PCBs from Iteadstudio. They sent me an email soon after I placed my order letting me know my boards word be finished in a couple days, so far so good. I'll post an update when I receive them.
Don't blame me. I'm the mechanical engineer.
 

Offline allanw

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Re: Searching PCB Manufacturer for hobbyist
« Reply #23 on: October 04, 2010, 06:29:35 pm »
Great. I've just placed a PCB order with them and also bought their clone logic analyzer since everything's 10% off now.

http://iteadstudio.com/store/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=2&products_id=221
 

Offline TopherTheME

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Re: Searching PCB Manufacturer for hobbyist
« Reply #24 on: October 18, 2010, 03:16:46 pm »
I got the boards from Itead this morning and they turned out pretty dam well. Some of the holes and pads are off by a little bit but not nearly enough to cause any problems. I got 11 (6 untested) 10x6cm boards for $28 + $3 shipping which is by far the best price I have ever seen. I think I'm going to start using Itead for all my future hobby projects instead of BatchPCB.

So in summary, thumbs up for Itead.  :)
Don't blame me. I'm the mechanical engineer.
 


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