Author Topic: PCB Manufacturer Recommendations  (Read 8659 times)

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Offline KungFuJosh

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PCB Manufacturer Recommendations
« on: December 05, 2020, 03:13:56 am »
I'll start by apologizing, I know this topic is done to death. ;)


Anyway, I would like to hear about recommendations / experiences regarding PCB manufacturers. I've been getting quotes, and reading tons of posts on the subject, and it's all over the place.

My requirements are 3.2mm final thickness, ENIG , 2oz or higher Cu, good quality silkscreen, etc... The circuit is a guitar tube amplifier, 308mm x 96mm, normally built on 3.2mm FR4 with turrets. This PCB version isn't trying to stray toooo far from that.


Here's some of the manufacturers I'm curious about, though I'm happy to hear about others as well (notes are mostly based on reading posts on eevblog):

Bittele (7pcb.com) - (Canada based, boards made in China.) They seem nice in email, and their price is okay (not great) a little high.

WellPCB - Good pricing, but concerned about QC.

hitechpcb.com / hitechcircuits.com - Best prices for the highest specs so far, but I have no idea if they're any good.



PCBGOGO - maybe copyright issues? Are they good? ...Expensive, overly aggressive sales people. No thanks.

PCBcart.com

5PCB.com - overpriced, no reviews.

PCBWay - maybe not great pad adhesion? Solder mask alignment issues? I have mixed feelings from emailing with them. Their prices are not great for what people seem to say about them.

JLCPCB - only goes to 2mm thickness. 2mm is fine for small stuff, so I might try them with something different if people think they're good?

ALLPCB - bad silk resolution? Slow? Incorrect thicknesses? Solder mask edge issues?

Elecrow - not thick enough.

ITEAD - not thick enough.

OSHPark - they seem nice, but 1.6mm thickness is a big no for me.

U&I Quickturn - double the price of other equally spec'd quotes.


Thanks,
Josh








« Last Edit: December 12, 2020, 08:59:35 pm by KungFuJosh »
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Offline rea5245

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Re: PCB Manufacturer Recommendations
« Reply #1 on: December 05, 2020, 03:21:19 am »
My site, PCBShopper.com, contains Amazon-like customer reviews of most of those manufacturers.

- Bob
 
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Offline KungFuJosh

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Re: PCB Manufacturer Recommendations
« Reply #2 on: December 05, 2020, 03:23:54 am »
My site, PCBShopper.com, contains Amazon-like customer reviews of most of those manufacturers.

- Bob


Thanks. I saw a reference to it in another post, but I couldn't find a link.

EDIT: Please update your tool for higher thickness. 3.2mm is what I'm looking for. I'm prooooobably not the only one? ;)
« Last Edit: December 05, 2020, 03:54:11 am by KungFuJosh »
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Offline forrestc

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Re: PCB Manufacturer Recommendations
« Reply #3 on: December 05, 2020, 03:30:33 am »
I've used various providers over the years.   It seemed like they all had various issues which eventually made me unhappy enough to switch...

A while back (like as in probably a couple years at this point), I found jlcpcb through the pcbshopper.com website.  (Thanks Bob aka rea5245).    They have proven to be consistent and good enough for my lowish-volume production that I don't plan on switching anywhere else unless I can find something not-in-china but is still somewhat reasonable in price and quality.

For the record, I'm still doing HASL, but will be trying their ENIG very soon.   I do have some products which are 2 mil copper that they have done well.

But as you said they only go up to 2mm.   I don't think I've ever ordered anything but 1.6.

« Last Edit: December 05, 2020, 03:33:03 am by forrestc »
 
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Offline exmadscientist

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Re: PCB Manufacturer Recommendations
« Reply #4 on: December 05, 2020, 05:34:38 am »
U&I Quickturn, who we found through PCBShopper, can do that spec from their standard order form. They're not the cheapest, but they are well suited to quick-turn (how surprising!) medium-spec jobs, where by "medium-spec" I mean the jobs that JLCPCB won't touch, but you still don't have to have a back-and-forth with the fab house before they'll even agree to price it. And the quality is excellent.
 
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Offline retiredfeline

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Re: PCB Manufacturer Recommendations
« Reply #5 on: December 05, 2020, 05:48:47 am »
Just wondering why you think you need 2 oz copper. For adhesion? How much current will be in your traces? High voltages for tubes sure, but surely not as high current as lower voltage circuits?
 

Offline forrestc

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Re: PCB Manufacturer Recommendations
« Reply #6 on: December 05, 2020, 06:13:52 am »
It's been a while since I've done any power amplifier design (like around 30 years)...  So the following might be out in left field:

Even a 25W audio amplifier would need over 3A@8 Ohms.   Plus if you think about it, if the output impedance is 8 ohms, which means that trace resistance is going to be fairly critical since even with an ohm or so you'd be losing 1/9 of your output voltage just to trace resistance.   4 Ohms is common as well which even makes it worse.

On the other hand, there is the possibility of an output transformer which would change the above equations depending on the turn ratio.



 
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Offline KungFuJosh

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Re: PCB Manufacturer Recommendations
« Reply #7 on: December 05, 2020, 01:29:08 pm »
Just wondering why you think you need 2 oz copper. For adhesion? How much current will be in your traces? High voltages for tubes sure, but surely not as high current as lower voltage circuits?

There's plenty of current in a guitar amp circuit, but my desire for 2oz or higher is mostly for adhesion, durability, and overkill. I am aware that if the manufacturer sucks it won't help much.

It's been a while since I've done any power amplifier design (like around 30 years)...  So the following might be out in left field:

Even a 25W audio amplifier would need over 3A@8 Ohms.   Plus if you think about it, if the output impedance is 8 ohms, which means that trace resistance is going to be fairly critical since even with an ohm or so you'd be losing 1/9 of your output voltage just to trace resistance.   4 Ohms is common as well which even makes it worse.

On the other hand, there is the possibility of an output transformer which would change the above equations depending on the turn ratio.

The tube sockets and output transformer connections are all off board. This circuit has a 4/8/16 ohm switch, 16 ohm being ideal as it uses the full coil.

Thanks,
Josh
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Offline KungFuJosh

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Re: PCB Manufacturer Recommendations
« Reply #8 on: December 06, 2020, 01:15:38 am »
Assuming use of currently available coupons, 4 of the 5 remaining brands all range from $430 to $500 shipped for 30 boards with the same specs.

Bittele (7pcb.com) $480, PCBcart.com $443, PCBGOGO $428, 5PCB.com $494.



I would love to hear some opinions/experiences regarding those companies specifically.

Thanks,
Josh
« Last Edit: December 07, 2020, 02:07:53 pm by KungFuJosh »
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Offline KungFuJosh

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Re: PCB Manufacturer Recommendations
« Reply #9 on: December 07, 2020, 01:43:10 am »
I just heard back from hitechpcb.com (aka hitechcircuits.com), and they quoted $288 with shipping for 30 with the same specs. Does anybody have experience with them?

Thanks,
Josh
« Last Edit: December 07, 2020, 02:19:50 am by KungFuJosh »
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Offline forrestc

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Re: PCB Manufacturer Recommendations
« Reply #10 on: December 07, 2020, 12:19:18 pm »
One note for you:

A thicker board isn't necessarily more reliable.   I was looking for an article on this, but here's a brief quote from an electronic design article I did find:

Quote
Thicker boards are less flexible, creating greater stresses in solder joints as the temperature changes.

My possibly faulty recollection is that part of the reason for the "standard" thickness of board is it's a good balance between flexible enough to bend a bit to alleviate temperature change stresses but ridgid enough not to cause failures due to the flex of the board due to other effects.   There's a whole design for reliability article somewhere which goes over some of this.

I figured you needed this as there were heavy things on the board.  If the tubes and transformer is off the board, then maybe a standard board will not only work, but be more reliable, depending on the stresses.

Likewise, 2oz copper is not necessarily better than 1oz in every case. 
 

Offline KungFuJosh

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Re: PCB Manufacturer Recommendations
« Reply #11 on: December 07, 2020, 01:40:16 pm »
One note for you:

A thicker board isn't necessarily more reliable.   I was looking for an article on this, but here's a brief quote from an electronic design article I did find:

Quote
Thicker boards are less flexible, creating greater stresses in solder joints as the temperature changes.

My possibly faulty recollection is that part of the reason for the "standard" thickness of board is it's a good balance between flexible enough to bend a bit to alleviate temperature change stresses but ridgid enough not to cause failures due to the flex of the board due to other effects.   There's a whole design for reliability article somewhere which goes over some of this.

I figured you needed this as there were heavy things on the board.  If the tubes and transformer is off the board, then maybe a standard board will not only work, but be more reliable, depending on the stresses.

Likewise, 2oz copper is not necessarily better than 1oz in every case.

This is for a guitar amp, and will be mounted in a strong metal chassis. There will also be Keystone 1509-4 turrets, which use 3.2mm boards. Yes, I could get shorter turret bases, but then the thickness of the board doesn't instill confidence. 2mm would be the minimum, but with novices manhandling these, I don't trust anything thinner than 3mm. If it was just me using them, I'd probably be fine with the 2mm.
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Offline wraper

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Re: PCB Manufacturer Recommendations
« Reply #12 on: December 07, 2020, 02:35:30 pm »
PCBGOGO = 3PCB = PCBway.
 
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Online asmi

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Re: PCB Manufacturer Recommendations
« Reply #13 on: December 07, 2020, 02:49:26 pm »
My favorite fab is WellPCB. They are not the cheapest, but the quality of their boards is above and beyond of anyone else, which is why I absolutely don't mind paying a bit extra. They offer affordable 6+ layer boards with custom stackup and controlled impedance, 3/3 mil traces and down to 0.15 mm via holes. Nobody else is even close to their price-to-quality ratio.
Not sure what are you going on about thick boards and heavy copper. But I never required anything heavier than 35 um copper, as narrow traces and small vias are much more important for me than current carrying capacity.
« Last Edit: December 07, 2020, 02:52:01 pm by asmi »
 

Offline KungFuJosh

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Re: PCB Manufacturer Recommendations
« Reply #14 on: December 08, 2020, 01:19:22 am »
My favorite fab is WellPCB. They are not the cheapest, but the quality of their boards is above and beyond of anyone else, which is why I absolutely don't mind paying a bit extra. They offer affordable 6+ layer boards with custom stackup and controlled impedance, 3/3 mil traces and down to 0.15 mm via holes. Nobody else is even close to their price-to-quality ratio.
Not sure what are you going on about thick boards and heavy copper. But I never required anything heavier than 35 um copper, as narrow traces and small vias are much more important for me than current carrying capacity.

Oddly enough, since I can't get 2oz Cu to work, they're actually the cheapest. On a smaller PCB I designed, they're about the same as JLC but I can get the (I assume) slightly thicker ENIG from wellpcb. Interesting!

I added a couple mounting holes in the middle of the bigger board, so I'm not as concerned if I go down to 2.4 or 2.0mm.
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Offline tonyh88

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Re: PCB Manufacturer Recommendations
« Reply #15 on: December 08, 2020, 02:40:46 am »
PCBWAY---- are not the cheapest and communication is a bit hard but they have a lot of options and quality is very good. Made several 4 layer 2oz board without an issue. Offer full assembly

Bitelle----- are very friendly and can offer custom stackup with controlled impedance. Calculations done with Polar's instrument for trace geometry provided without extra charge. Offer full assembly

Advanced circuits--- again not cheap but good quality made in the US. offer full assembly

JLCPCB---- good quality, never had an issue. Very fast. Made some huge boards (250mmX250mm) with hundreds of components without an issue. Offer partial assembly


Just my 2 cents but 2mm is thick enough for most design. standard is 1.6mm
 
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Online asmi

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Re: PCB Manufacturer Recommendations
« Reply #16 on: December 08, 2020, 03:12:30 am »
Oddly enough, since I can't get 2oz Cu to work, they're actually the cheapest. On a smaller PCB I designed, they're about the same as JLC but I can get the (I assume) slightly thicker ENIG from wellpcb. Interesting!
Sorry, but it's not even close. JLCPCB's soldermask burns off when you touch it with a soldering iron, while the one used by WellPCB is the toughest one I've ever seen. I had to scrape off a bit of it to bodge some wires in, and it turns out to be much harder than I expected.
 
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Offline KungFuJosh

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Re: PCB Manufacturer Recommendations
« Reply #17 on: December 08, 2020, 07:51:31 am »
Oddly enough, since I can't get 2oz Cu to work, they're actually the cheapest. On a smaller PCB I designed, they're about the same as JLC but I can get the (I assume) slightly thicker ENIG from wellpcb. Interesting!
Sorry, but it's not even close. JLCPCB's soldermask burns off when you touch it with a soldering iron, while the one used by WellPCB is the toughest one I've ever seen. I had to scrape off a bit of it to bodge some wires in, and it turns out to be much harder than I expected.

How does wellpcb compare to ourpcb.com for you? I only see ourpcb on your blog.
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Offline 48X24X48X

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Re: PCB Manufacturer Recommendations
« Reply #18 on: December 08, 2020, 07:58:50 am »
Wish they had stencil service. Asked for it for some time but still not offered. Their boards are made by Uniwell Circuits which is one of the best in China.
 

Offline KungFuJosh

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Re: PCB Manufacturer Recommendations
« Reply #19 on: December 08, 2020, 08:13:09 am »
Wish they had stencil service. Asked for it for some time but still not offered. Their boards are made by Uniwell Circuits which is one of the best in China.

Which company are you referring to?
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Online asmi

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Re: PCB Manufacturer Recommendations
« Reply #20 on: December 08, 2020, 02:30:17 pm »
How does wellpcb compare to ourpcb.com for you? I only see ourpcb on your blog.
WellPCB and OurPCB are two frontends of the same company.

Online asmi

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Re: PCB Manufacturer Recommendations
« Reply #21 on: December 08, 2020, 02:31:25 pm »
Which company are you referring to?
WellPCB/OurPCB. Last time I asked, they quoted me some ridiculous prices for stencils, so now I just order them at JLCPCB, trying to time the order such that it arrives at the same time as PCBs.
I still don't understand why are you so focused on thicker boards, while the industry trend is going the opposite way - towards thinner boards and thinner copper foils. Most my 6 layer boards are 1.2 mm thick as opposed to "conventional" 1.6 mm, because that just works out better for the stackup I need for my projects. If you going 8 layers and above, then - yea, it's not very realistic to squeeze so many layers in a 1.2 mm thin board. Still, for 1.6 mm thickness you can go up to 10 layers with no problems, and depending on your stackup and materials of choice, even 12 layers might be possible. Same goes for the copper thickness - it's not uncommon to see 12 um or even 9 um thick copper layers in super-fine detail high-end PCBs. Deficit of current carrying capacity for such thin layers is compensated for by having multiple power planes.

WellPCB/OurPCB is the only fab I know of that offers custom stackup option at no extra charge! Which is why they are great for hi-speed boards with weird-ass requirements for stackups. They also do full impedance calculations and send you a report, as well as final production Gerders for approval before they send it off to production. And they include PCB coupon/microsection with PCBs as well as full report (including impedance tests). Great service for great price!
« Last Edit: December 08, 2020, 02:49:00 pm by asmi »
 

Offline KungFuJosh

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Re: PCB Manufacturer Recommendations
« Reply #22 on: December 08, 2020, 02:51:30 pm »
WellPCB/OurPCB. Last time I asked, they quoted me some ridiculous prices for stencils, so now I just order them at JLCPCB, trying to time the order such that it arrives at the same time as PCBs.
I still don't understand why are you so focused on thicker boards, while the industry trend is going the opposite way - towards thinner boards and thinner copper foils. Most my 6 layer boards are 1.2 mm thick as opposed to "conventional" 1.6 mm, because that just works out better for the stackup I need for my projects. If you going 8 layers and above, then - yea, it's not very realistic to squeeze so many layers in a 1.2 mm thin board. Still, for 1.6 mm thickness you can go up to 10 layers with no problems, and depending on your stackup and materials of choice, even 12 layers might be possible. Same goes for the copper thickness - it's not uncommon to see 12 um or even 9 um thick copper layers in super-fine detail high-end PCBs. Deficit of current carrying capacity for such thin layers is compensated for by having multiple power planes.

I said it above. Thicker boards are more durable when novices are manhandling them. This is a project PCB I'll most likely be selling as a kit. If it's thin and flimsy bad things are more likely to happen.

It's also a guitar amp project. Thin boards for guitar amps are generally a bad thing. 2mm is fine if it was just me, but I don't trust it enough to sell it to other people to build. Especially with no previous experience with the pcb manufacturer. I'll probably do something stupid like stress test the boards and ruin a few of them. That outcome will determine if I reorder from the same company or not.
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Offline wraper

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Re: PCB Manufacturer Recommendations
« Reply #23 on: December 08, 2020, 02:57:29 pm »
I said it above. Thicker boards are more durable when novices are manhandling them.
That's some strange argument. If someone manages to break 1.6mm PCB, there are much bigger issues than breaking PCB. Unless PCB is long and narrow, it's hard to achieve even if you try. Also thicker PCB causes other problems, such as component leads being not long enough.
 

Online asmi

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Re: PCB Manufacturer Recommendations
« Reply #24 on: December 08, 2020, 03:33:41 pm »
I said it above. Thicker boards are more durable when novices are manhandling them. This is a project PCB I'll most likely be selling as a kit. If it's thin and flimsy bad things are more likely to happen.

It's also a guitar amp project. Thin boards for guitar amps are generally a bad thing. 2mm is fine if it was just me, but I don't trust it enough to sell it to other people to build. Especially with no previous experience with the pcb manufacturer. I'll probably do something stupid like stress test the boards and ruin a few of them. That outcome will determine if I reorder from the same company or not.
I think you are just blowing this way out of proportion. You will have component failures due to bends waaay before the board's breaking point. Also - have you actually tried breaking 1.6 mm board with your bare hands? As someone who did, I will tell you it's not very easy unless the board's geometry is conducive to that (long and narrow), or it's mechanical design is particularly bad (long lines of large holes, odd shape with obvious weak points).
Finally - if you are so sure that they are going to wrestle with PCB, why don't you also assume they will just break parts, which usually are much easier to break than PCB itself?
« Last Edit: December 08, 2020, 03:35:23 pm by asmi »
 


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