Author Topic: What are the best PCB manufacturing companies ?  (Read 12697 times)

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Offline diracshoreTopic starter

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What are the best PCB manufacturing companies ?
« on: April 24, 2012, 02:17:16 pm »
Hi all,

Can I get your recommendations for companies that would manufacture a through hole double sided pcb ? Looking for optimum quality / cost balance. I am expecting it will be a Chinese company. Let me know your experiences and if possible give me an idea of how much you paid and for what so I can figure out the going rate for my design.

Thanks !
 

Offline olsenn

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Re: What are the best PCB manufacturing companies ?
« Reply #1 on: April 24, 2012, 02:58:19 pm »
All companies are different in terms of pricing (some are based on board size, others by the number of boards...) but no matter which one you go to, it will depend greatly on what and how many you need. I can recommend BatchPCB for smaller prototype orders, and Gold Pheonix when you're ready to order in bulk. I'd take a quick look around though to see who offers the most appealing deal to you.

Most companies (inclusing the one(s) I've listed will do single or double sided boards with pads and vias; just make sure to check the manufacturing requirements for the company that you do chose; different places have different minimum trace widths etc.
 

Offline poorchava

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Re: What are the best PCB manufacturing companies ?
« Reply #2 on: May 04, 2012, 11:49:40 pm »
You may want to try itead studio's Open PCB / PCB Prototyping service or seeed studio's  Fusion PCB service. I believe that unless your design uses bulky components (transformers, relays, large caps) or is very layout sensitive ( some very perverted mixed signal design) you probably can't get a more cost effective solution.

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Offline miranday

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Re: What are the best PCB manufacturing companies ?
« Reply #3 on: May 09, 2012, 07:06:16 pm »
If you're looking to get the best possbile quote from a number of PCB Manufacturers and aren't too sure which ones to choose, this is a very helpful tool to use and get exactly what you want for free.

Use DFM Now! - www.dfmnow.com a free gerber viewer to run a DRC/DFM check and then selelct PCB Marketplace.
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The rest is up to you. It's a time saver - no more shopping around looking for the best price or service.
 

Offline LEECH666

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Re: What are the best PCB manufacturing companies ?
« Reply #4 on: May 12, 2012, 07:04:40 pm »
Iteadstudio and Seeedstudio are probably the cheapest services for low volume prototype boards.

Also have a read here in this similar topic:
https://www.eevblog.com/forum/beginners/searching-pcb-manufacturer-for-hobbyist/

Florian
 

Offline ampdoctor

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Re: What are the best PCB manufacturing companies ?
« Reply #5 on: May 20, 2012, 10:44:51 pm »
Anybody have any experience with Advanced Circuits? http://www.4pcb.com

They're not the cheapest but their prices aren't bad either.  Add to it that its all american mfg with american employees.  they seem to have their shit together over there but having never used them I thought I'd toss the name out and see what comes back.
 

Offline free_electron

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Re: What are the best PCB manufacturing companies ?
« Reply #6 on: May 20, 2012, 11:42:59 pm »
mixed feelings about Advanced circuits.
There is plenty of american factories , on american soil, that make pcb's.
I have use Sierra Proto Express , APCT , Gorilla Circuits , Bay Circuits , Triton ( now gone ) and some others.
Depends on what you are after.
Sierra has some really good deals for one-offs if you need high tech boards. they are too expensive for double sided stuff. Once you need 4 or 6 layers with 4 mil track and gap do they really get cost-effective.
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Offline ampdoctor

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Re: What are the best PCB manufacturing companies ?
« Reply #7 on: May 21, 2012, 12:18:26 am »
so what are some of the things that give you mixed feelings?  the one thing that gives me just a little bit of apprehension is that they're really big, so my concern is that little guy one-offs might get less than terrific support
 

Offline free_electron

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Re: What are the best PCB manufacturing companies ?
« Reply #8 on: May 21, 2012, 03:25:37 am »
Advanced circuits does business under various names on the net 4pcb.com, 33each.com , 66each.com and one or two others.
- Depending on which pathway you use to enter their site the price quoting is different.. that's pretty funky ... and a bit shady...
- they got 'odd restrictions' . like no slotted holes. or 'routed to overall size only'. that is just plain unusable. If you have something like a DC power jack on the board you are already screwed as you need 3 slotted holes... ( unless you are willing to live with 3 massive holes you need to fill with solder to connect the flat pins). and why not mill the exact contour. Not everyone designs rectangular boards.. My boards for hobby projects go in a case and i'd like to see them milled to exact contours , including notches and cutouts for the screw passthroughs.

Besides , slots and cutouts do not cost them anything extra. It's all cnc anyway and all pcb makers use either Ucamco ( ex Barco-Mania ) , Valor , or Genesis as front-end for production, and those software tools can all detect these things automatically .. provided it is done right... And that may be the only caveat... I guess they don't want to field the endless questions and problems coming from people that don't understand the process of defining these things the right way. Decent cad software creates automatically split NC-Drill for slotted holes. Same for board countouring.

They don't want arrays , no slots no this no that ... compared to Sierra where anything goes.

- they 'glue' you with cheap price ( which is not that 'cheap' ) and then raise the next runs up ...

I have asked them quotes a number of times for boards i make at work (4 layer , 3.5 mil track gap , 6mil finished drill ... they are 15 to 25 % more expensive than the same board run at local PCB shop here in SV , which is a VERY expensive area in terms of building and labour... (SV = silicon valley). and some of the plating they have to outsource.. simple things like lead-free HASL they don;t have in-house. Same for OSP ..
I'd actually have to give them another try... its been over a year.

- The '33$' deal is actually a 132$ + tax + shipping deal ... because you need to order minimum 4 boards ... lets do some maths . 60 square inches max .. A default panel in the PCB production worlds is 18x24 or 432 square inches , pull out the tooling coupons and you have 350..380 square inches of usable material left.  . Easy to fit 240 square inches.. so essentially you pay for running 1 panel... and they run that panel at a loss.. so it makes me wonder how many of these '33$' jobs they will accept from you ...

I also wonder if they would make me 4 boards of 2 inch by 30 inch for that price  :) -grin-  there's got to be other 'gotcha's in there because it doesn't line up. If it looks too good to be true ... you know ..

Now, that is the SAME for ALL these low cost board makers out there. They are all in a race to the bottom.

Here's how you find out what the true panel cost is : you run a number of quotes by increasnig the board size gradually and keeping the number of boards constant. at a certain point you will end up going over the single panel price and the price will jump up substantially. Go one step back and you know what the panel cost is.
And then you can start comparing. I order 4 boards of 2 inch by 2 inch and they are 33$ each. But if i order 4 boards of 6 x10 they are still 33$ each... so they spread panel costs between projects...

It takes a lot of skill to plan this one out and still run a break-even. they plan out what kind of 'mix' they will run on an average week and then come up with a price , but this is not maintainable in the long run.

It's all buyer-beware ... I do 15 to 30 board runs a year at work and 4 or 5 for hobby and learned that you have to be very vigilant when dealing with pcb makers.. i have gotten burned a number of times. ( starting at low prices and jacking them up run after run , ending up with boards that were actually subcontracted in the far east as opposed to made on-shore , nickel and diming left and right). I prefer to pay an honest prices. For work i establish panel prices at the beginning of every year. I know my board sizes and know how many will go on a panel. This makes my budgeting easy. I've used Sierra for 7 years now and never ever had a single problem. They are on time and have perfect quality. But, they are not the cheapest. and no , i don't use them for hobby. Too expensive. But then again , that is not their business.

No matter how you twist or turn it , the cheapest is a chartered service that combines multiple projects on a panel like iteadstudio and seeedstudio do. there simply is no beating that... even including shipping using UPS. But i don't know any US companies that do this. you could only survive that if your manual labor cost is zilch ...
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Offline poorchava

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Re: What are the best PCB manufacturing companies ?
« Reply #9 on: May 23, 2012, 10:29:02 pm »
I've used itead once, and now the second design is in production. First project turned out to be very good quality (ok, much worse when compared to what we use at work, but automotive sector is completly obsessed with quality and standards compliance and stuff). In Poland there are 2 companies that provide panel-sharing service, but the price for 10x 5x5cm 2 layer board is....4 times higher (and quality of chinese boards is much better). With such disproportion my patriotism and willingness to feed local economy goes to hell :). Services like Eurocircuits and BatchPBC are available in Poland and are often used by companies, but too expensive for small players (especially Eurocircuits is known for superior quality)
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Offline free_electron

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Re: What are the best PCB manufacturing companies ?
« Reply #10 on: May 23, 2012, 11:45:43 pm »
Eurocircuits has EXCELLENT quality , but you pay through the nose for it ...

Same for outfits like ACB. I ran a price comparison a couple of months ago for a fairly complex board ( laser via , depth controlled drilling , epoxy plugged via's with flat plating , 3.5 mil track anf 3.2 mil gap ). This was for runs of 1000 boards at a time , six runs per year.

The cost in europe was 4x the cost in the US ( silicon valley area). I was stumped ! How could europe be so expensive. More pricey than china, yes, but more than California ?

So i called them up and poked around a bit.. Turns out that these really technologies are very uncommon in europe to run proto's. Most PCB houses do not have the required equipment (LDI or even maskless imagers... Heck the total number of maskless imagers in the world is like 15 machines right now , 10 in the far east and 5 in silicon valley ) . Companies that do require these high end boards ( like the cellphone companies : the stuff i asked for is all common there ) get their proto's directly from china...

There is also little to no competition. In Belgium there are like 3 companies making bare PCB's. In france about 4 or 5 .. In SV , which is like 15 miles by 20 miles there's over 20..
and they all have those capabilities ( well , not all have maskless imaging but they have all the other technologies ) because they couldn't survive here without.

So that's apprently another factor : competition in your area. If you go to taiwan or hong-kong there's PCB fabs on every corner of the street ( as a manner of speaking )
The really large fabs are there. Companies like Tripod and TopSearch.
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