Author Topic: My terrible experience with Multi-CB (a German PCB manufacturer)  (Read 3275 times)

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Offline rfnmTopic starter

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I don’t have time to spend ranting, as if I had a free second this should go on finding a suitable PCB vendor after this experience. However, I feel an obligation to share what happened to me and how I was treated, as a sort of customer beware.

To make a long story as short as possible, I’m developing a new product (see username), and decided to trust multi-cb for the manufacturing of the boards, given the good prices and an overall positive previous experience.

My choice however lead to the first product bringup being delayed by about three weeks over the promised delivery date, and after the boards came online, me discovering I had soldered unique components on a board with a power plane internally shorted to ground. Overall, I wasted about a month, all because I trusted my pcb manufacturer.

The longer version of the story begins this February, when I agree on a stackup with multi-cb to design my board around it.

Here is a timeline of events:

24/01/23: They approve the board stackup I will be using. I ask for more details (copper roughness, Er, etc.), to plug into a field solver so that no changes will be necessary during the pre-production phase, but they confirm that they will want to adjust the traces themselves, even after asking multiple times.
17/04/23: I send over two boards for quotation, one of which they saw previously. They only give me quotes for the older board and I assume they need a little more time to quote the second one.
18/04/23: I send an email asking for the status of the unquoted board. No answer (ignore count: 1x).
19/04/23: I send an email answering some engineering question, and I also enquire as per the status of the other board. I get ignored (2x).
24/04/23: I call them, enquiring about those delays. The person answering the call I believe is a support agent, as they have access to the emails. I give them my email address to try and find the RFQs that got ignored, but they seem to be amused by being unable to find anything among the many emails that we exchanged. Unable to get a compassionate human being on the phone, I send another email about the same topic and I finally get an answer! A quotation shortly follows and I place the order as soon as possible.

26/04/23: At this point everything has been delayed by a week, which is a lot of time in time-critical projects. I point this out, and I get an email saying "The order was received today at 07.55 and today is the first working day I will make sure of that", which reassures me a bit.

Expected shipping date is now 12/05/23. I'm disappointed by the delays caused by them ignoring my RFQs, but at this point I'm also ok with sharing some of the blame (I could have pushed them harder but was on a business trip with little time to spare). However, what follows is truly infuriating.

05/05/23: 10 days into production and 7 days from the promised shipment date, their engineers are asking questions. I'm surprised, but I figured that they might have already started manufacturing some layers as the questions are limited in scope. I answer the questions within a 15-minutes window.
08/05/23: I get even more questions, this time they are asking me to re-confirm the stackup as they had unilaterally increased the prepreg thickness of the middle layer without consulting me. I'm still believing that thanks to some tight integration between design and manufacturing, they can pull off the delivery date, but I decide to enquire about it.
09/05/23: They answer that they will start production today.

I'm absolutely destroyed by that answer. What do you mean, "START" production today? Your email from 26/04/23 says, and I quote "today is the first working day I will make sure of that".

How can you START production on the 9/05/23 if the email from two weeks prior said "today is the first working day"?

I ask them to call me to explain the situation. They ignore me (3x).

11/05/23: They send over an automated email notifying me of the delay, with a new shipping date estimated at 22/05/23. I reply by asking for a phone call, and they ignore me (4x).
22/05/23: This is their revised shipping date (+10 days from when originally scheduled). I get nothing. No shipping notification, no delay confirmation, and no phone call.

I ask yet again, for the third time, for them to call me to explain the situation. They keep ignoring my request (5x).

25/05/23: I finally receive the boards. I’m happy with the apparent quality of the work under a microscope, so I send an email thanking them for it.

At this point I’ve missed the originally scheduled assembly date with my contractor, so I had to reschedule and add even more delays.

12/06/23: Boards back from the assembly house, bringup time!
22/06/23: I discover the shorted power plane (I had focused on a different area of the board until then), so I send multi-cb an email expressing my disbelief. They ignore me (6x).
23/06/23: I spend the morning scrapping away at the pcb layer by layer until I find the shorted one, and discover that they had connected a ground via passing through the power plane to it. My design files don’t have this connection. I send them another email, which they also ignore (6x).
26/06/23: I point out that they have been ignoring my emails, and I get a first email back the following day, saying that they are investigating.
29/06/23: They offer to return the boards for a refund (the boards I had assembled following their 100% electrical test). I ask if they are joking.
30/6/23: They confirm that the error is on their side, and they issue me a credit note for 50% of the order value.

In conclusion, I wasted around a month on this, first with the manufacturer saying they will “send the boards for manufacturing today” (but actually taking two weeks to process files on a stackup we had agreed on), and then around a week to learn the obscure art of scrapping PCB layers to find shorts to give to the local CNC shop to drill out.

The cherry on top for of course being that even after all this multi-cb wasn’t bothered enough to offer me a full refund, which must be their policy.

They don’t care about you, and I believe I brought you proof.
« Last Edit: July 07, 2023, 09:47:18 pm by rfnm »
 
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Offline ebastler

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Re: My terrible experience with Multi-CB (a German PCB manufacturer)
« Reply #1 on: July 08, 2023, 11:14:16 am »
Sorry to read about the manufacturing problems. What drove you to select Multi-CB in the first place? They seem to operate somewhere halfway between the high-volume/highly automated/limited flexibility places like JLCPCB, and the old-style "offline" PCB houses which cater to commercial customers. Do they have unique (claimed) strengths?

Regarding your product -- assuming it is https://rfnm.io/, that looks pretty cool. But since it also looks like it won't be cheap, I am a bit vexed by the fact that you don't tell your potential customers who's behind it. Is there a company (based where?) or is this a hobby project? Any prior projects in the field? Thanks!
 

Offline cedivad

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Re: My terrible experience with Multi-CB (a German PCB manufacturer)
« Reply #2 on: July 08, 2023, 11:50:42 am »
Hey Ebastler, you are correct, there is a veil of anonymity behind the RFNM project (not by choice, it's not exactly being hidden who's behind it, but the only thing online at the moment is a landing page!).

RFNM Srl, based in Italy, will be the company selling preorders for the product next month, and I'm behind that company (Davide Cavion). I've just registered this account to say hello! I've worked on some other projects in the past, you can check out an interview with myself here [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KxqS-Uy76QI].

Undoubtedly, cost and Multi-CB being what was assumed as a trusted player based out of Europe were the driving factors. Unfortunately regardless of how inexpensive you want your product to be, saving $10 in PCB manufacturing cost or $5k in prototypes is simply not worth it. It's hard lesson, learned the hard way.

Multi-CB being a "highly automated facility" that doesn't care about their customers and will happily ignore them honestly wasn't a factor taken into consideration, because it came to surface completely unexpectedly.

Sure, they have some good prices on their standardized process, but we did pay I think 2-3x what their standard PCB with similar specs would have costed, the reasoning being that they are a high tech player in Europe, and they do have the manufacturing capabilities to produce quality PCBs... Which are pointless, if they place shorts on power planes and spend the rest of the time ignoring you.
« Last Edit: July 08, 2023, 12:02:40 pm by cedivad »
 
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Offline sd

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Re: My terrible experience with Multi-CB (a German PCB manufacturer)
« Reply #3 on: July 08, 2023, 04:26:36 pm »
I stopped ordering PCBs from Europe after several issues:
-shorted PCBs from Eurocircuits
-placed several orders for some advanced PCBs at a big fab in Italy. They gave me a lead time, let's say 3 weeks. In some cases I asked it they can manufacure them faster, and got 2 weeks lead time, of course I paid a few k extra for this service. The PCBs never arrived in 2 weeks, not even 3 weeks. When the final PCBs arrived I think I checked the UL code and the PCBs were actually manufactured by a different company in Asia. They just e-mailed them my gerbers, imported the PCBs, removed them the box, placed them in a box with their logo and shipped it to me via courier.

I can recommend pcbstartech.com (not from Europe). Their capabilities are really nice, they always send a 20 page report, even the cut PCB samples, potted in epoxy and sanded for via inspection and whatever. And if I pay extra and they say 1 week manufacturing time, the PCBs are actually shipped in 1 week.

Jlcpcb also has some quite good specs these days, but you can't make your own exotic stackup.
 

Offline nctnico

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Re: My terrible experience with Multi-CB (a German PCB manufacturer)
« Reply #4 on: July 08, 2023, 05:06:58 pm »
About shorted PCBs: make sure to select electrical testing otherwise you are on your own. AFAIK Eurocircuits uses some kind of AOI system with the same effect.
There are small lies, big lies and then there is what is on the screen of your oscilloscope.
 

Offline KE5FX

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Re: My terrible experience with Multi-CB (a German PCB manufacturer)
« Reply #5 on: July 08, 2023, 09:27:43 pm »
Sounds like he did just that, but no electrical testing was actually performed.
 

Online m98

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Re: My terrible experience with Multi-CB (a German PCB manufacturer)
« Reply #6 on: July 08, 2023, 09:34:49 pm »
Strange, never had any such issues with them. They're our lab's go-to prototype PCB manufacturer. Maybe they get careless with smaller customers?
 
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Offline cedivad

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Re: My terrible experience with Multi-CB (a German PCB manufacturer)
« Reply #7 on: July 08, 2023, 10:31:21 pm »
Here is a picture of the full panel showing the other small company we are working on this project with. (NXP have been amazing to work with and will be the first to receive this design for their internal use).

So yeah, even them being careless towards a second rate customer (completely unacceptable on its own) wouldn't explain it.
 

Online Siwastaja

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Re: My terrible experience with Multi-CB (a German PCB manufacturer)
« Reply #8 on: July 09, 2023, 03:10:14 pm »
Sounds like he did just that, but no electrical testing was actually performed.

Or it was performed, but the "what should connect to where" references were generated after the point where the wrong connection appeared. Electrical testing caters for physical manufacturing mishaps like dust particles, but it seems it's a software issue here, somewhere between the gerbers and photoplotter.
 

Offline tom66

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Re: My terrible experience with Multi-CB (a German PCB manufacturer)
« Reply #9 on: July 09, 2023, 03:22:38 pm »
Re European PCBs. I've had no issue with Eurocircuits with their standard PCBs and their UK technical support contact is awesome.  But equally the Chinese manufacturers are very good now, quality is excellent, we only order from UK/Europe if we need something quick or it is a very esoteric stackup (that sometimes the Chinese fabs don't support or want long lead times on.)

 

Offline dietert1

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Re: My terrible experience with Multi-CB (a German PCB manufacturer)
« Reply #10 on: July 09, 2023, 03:52:56 pm »
When we started to make small electronics modules for medical equipment (something like hybrids) in 2005 we selected a service provider in a nearby town and delegated to them production of the hardware. They did not get the firmware, though. They could not test the boards, but relied on AOI.
No PCB related issues, except a design problem of placing components at less than 1 mm from the rim, where they would sometimes fail from mechanical stress during handling.
I remember going there like 10 times or so until they would be comfortable with the task. The module only had like 100 parts and only 4 layers, but we needed several revisions until it all worked out. Five years later there was a 2x shrink using BGA and LLC parts. Test run of 100 modules, no revision. Meanwhile we made and sold about 20 000 of those modules. Production faults are rare, like one in 300 modules has a part missing or misplaced. Image shows an example.

Regards, Dieter
« Last Edit: July 09, 2023, 03:56:52 pm by dietert1 »
 

Offline tszaboo

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Re: My terrible experience with Multi-CB (a German PCB manufacturer)
« Reply #11 on: July 09, 2023, 08:42:56 pm »
Re European PCBs. I've had no issue with Eurocircuits with their standard PCBs and their UK technical support contact is awesome.  But equally the Chinese manufacturers are very good now, quality is excellent, we only order from UK/Europe if we need something quick or it is a very esoteric stackup (that sometimes the Chinese fabs don't support or want long lead times on.)
Some companies ago I was ordering everything from them, company policy. They had some issues rarely, but honestly, all of them was cleared up by support. I don't expect 100% good custom products all the time, it's impossible. It's how you handle the issues is what matter.

Sorry to read about the manufacturing problems. What drove you to select Multi-CB in the first place? They seem to operate somewhere halfway between the high-volume/highly automated/limited flexibility places like JLCPCB, and the old-style "offline" PCB houses which cater to commercial customers. Do they have unique (claimed) strengths?

Regarding your product -- assuming it is https://rfnm.io/, that looks pretty cool. But since it also looks like it won't be cheap, I am a bit vexed by the fact that you don't tell your potential customers who's behind it. Is there a company (based where?) or is this a hobby project? Any prior projects in the field? Thanks!
They give instant prices, better than other EU companies with similar model. I had a few boards from them, no complains.
 
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Offline nimish

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Re: My terrible experience with Multi-CB (a German PCB manufacturer)
« Reply #12 on: July 09, 2023, 09:05:57 pm »
Here is a picture of the full panel showing the other small company we are working on this project with. (NXP have been amazing to work with and will be the first to receive this design for their internal use).

So yeah, even them being careless towards a second rate customer (completely unacceptable on its own) wouldn't explain it.

Might be worth getting NXP to weigh in on manufacturing partners...anyone who ignores them is an idiot.
 

Offline peter-h

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Re: My terrible experience with Multi-CB (a German PCB manufacturer)
« Reply #13 on: July 12, 2023, 07:29:26 am »
I stopped using any PCB firm in UK or Europe about 25 years ago. Too many QA issues.

Sadly, the chinese do this best. They have extreme communication issues, all sorts of other problems, but they make the best boards.

The BBT machine programming is normally done by importing the gerber data into a connectivity analyser program. This of course breaks if you are doing funky stuff like merging signals into a plane and hoping the PCB firm will read the instructions (some like JLCPCB explicitly state they will not read any text on a layer!). A more idiot-proof way is to put in the signals and copper-pour around them. So you may want to send them an old panel to BBT against but the firms tend to either pretend they don't understand, or they will lie that they actually did it.

But for normal boards china is the best.

Germany isn't what it is cracked up to be, these days.
Z80 Z180 Z280 Z8 S8 8031 8051 H8/300 H8/500 80x86 90S1200 32F417
 

Offline nigelwright7557

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Re: My terrible experience with Multi-CB (a German PCB manufacturer)
« Reply #14 on: July 12, 2023, 07:51:05 am »
I use JLCPCB and they rarely go wrong.
Over the last few years they have done about 300 different designs for me.

They once got in touch saying a pcb had been damaged and that they would credit me for that one.
I didnt expect for one minute they would send the duff one in with the good ones.
Sadly it got sent to a customer.

The only other time they messed up was partly my fault.
I had a pcb with some plated holes and none plated holes and the pcb's were sent back all plated.
So in the bin they went as they would short out on a heat sink.
I forgot to add a note about the none plated holes.
Although there were two distinct files, plated and none plated.
 

Offline VK3DRB

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Re: My terrible experience with Multi-CB (a German PCB manufacturer)
« Reply #15 on: July 13, 2023, 06:42:59 am »
I use JLCPCB and they rarely go wrong.
Over the last few years they have done about 300 different designs for me.

They once got in touch saying a pcb had been damaged and that they would credit me for that one.
I didnt expect for one minute they would send the duff one in with the good ones.
Sadly it got sent to a customer.

The only other time they messed up was partly my fault.
I had a pcb with some plated holes and none plated holes and the pcb's were sent back all plated.
So in the bin they went as they would short out on a heat sink.
I forgot to add a note about the none plated holes.
Although there were two distinct files, plated and none plated.

Rarely go wrong... unless you want to do assembly using chip they don't stock. They won't do it. In that way, PCBway is better because they will procure parts; but they do make a few mistakes, don't read the documentation, soldering is 7/10, and they are a little dim. But you get what you pay for.

Best company for quality PCB's I know of is Speedy in Taiwan, but relatively expensive. I once designed a tiny RF switching/DC feed board board for 1.6 GHz for a cost-sensitive satellite communications device, about 30mm x 20mm, using FR-4, double sided with single sided components. Insertion loss requirement had to be VERY low - something like 0.1dB. With impedance control, it cost me $800 for 10 samples of raw board! I was quoted $150 for the same board in the PRC, but I could not risk it. I tested the boards with a VNA, and the results seemed too good to be true. The boards were sent in approvals testing and they passed first shot. Speedy is not too speedy though because they provide excellent feedback prior to fabrication. They use state-of-the-art equipment and their communications in English is good.

I guess we get what we pay for.
 
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Offline ebastler

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Re: My terrible experience with Multi-CB (a German PCB manufacturer)
« Reply #16 on: July 13, 2023, 01:10:53 pm »
Rarely go wrong... unless you want to do assembly using chip they don't stock. They won't do it.

How does that qualify as "going wrong"?!  JLCPCB also won't sell you pet food or used cars. And they do not claim to do so. Where's the problem?  :-//
 
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Offline Zeyneb

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Re: My terrible experience with Multi-CB (a German PCB manufacturer)
« Reply #17 on: July 13, 2023, 03:31:13 pm »
Rarely go wrong... unless you want to do assembly using chip they don't stock. They won't do it.

How does that qualify as "going wrong"?!  JLCPCB also won't sell you pet food or used cars. And they do not claim to do so. Where's the problem?  :-//

Maybe "going wrong" isn't exactly the right term. At least VK3DRB did point out an important drawback of JLCPCB which is a valuable contribution.
goto considered awesome!
 

Online tooki

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Re: My terrible experience with Multi-CB (a German PCB manufacturer)
« Reply #18 on: July 16, 2023, 03:55:33 pm »
I use JLCPCB and they rarely go wrong.


Rarely go wrong... unless you want to do assembly using chip they don't stock. They won't do it.
Yeah they will. They now have the ability to procure parts for you. I think the only thing they don’t support is you sending components to them yourself.
 

Offline VK3DRB

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Re: My terrible experience with Multi-CB (a German PCB manufacturer)
« Reply #19 on: July 20, 2023, 02:14:42 am »
I use JLCPCB and they rarely go wrong.


Rarely go wrong... unless you want to do assembly using chip they don't stock. They won't do it.
Yeah they will. They now have the ability to procure parts for you. I think the only thing they don’t support is you sending components to them yourself.

That's news to me. It must have been a recent change. Thanks!

Rarely goes wrong, compared to PCBWay who don't read the documentation. Their silk screen top overlay is mediocre, with 0.6mm/0.12mm text being about their limitation. Not complaining though because these services are low cost and great for prototypes.
 
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Online tooki

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Re: My terrible experience with Multi-CB (a German PCB manufacturer)
« Reply #20 on: July 20, 2023, 03:16:06 am »
I use JLCPCB and they rarely go wrong.


Rarely go wrong... unless you want to do assembly using chip they don't stock. They won't do it.
Yeah they will. They now have the ability to procure parts for you. I think the only thing they don’t support is you sending components to them yourself.

That's news to me. It must have been a recent change. Thanks!
Recent-ish. I just checked, and it looks like the “global parts sourcing” program was launched almost exactly one year ago:


I haven’t tried it yet.

I actually submitted my very first PCB assembly job (to Beta-Layout in Germany) a couple of weeks ago, but somehow it got delayed and now I’ve finished that job, so I may not actually get to see the boards before the customer gets them! 😂 (Though in September I start a new position at a different department just down the hall, so I’ll poke my head in at some point.)
« Last Edit: July 20, 2023, 03:20:15 am by tooki »
 

Offline SiliconWizard

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Re: My terrible experience with Multi-CB (a German PCB manufacturer)
« Reply #21 on: July 20, 2023, 04:50:44 am »
Their global sourcing option works fine. It just tends to add a lot of time to your order.
 
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