Electronics > Manufacturing & Assembly

USA Based PCBs with competitive prices to China????.........

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--- Quote from: meshtron on February 22, 2024, 03:25:31 pm ---I wasn't "hoping" the CAD package I use was compatible, it was advertised on their site as such!  And I did end up sending Gerber files - which I have no problem with.

Also, interestingly, just got a response email from the one I sent 2.5 weeks ago - so someone from Macrofab is seeing this. :)

--- End quote ---

Hi Meshtron, you are correct! We do try to keep on top of what's going on out in the world and use posts and threads like this to better understand where we can improve and provide feedback to the team.  I am a founder here at MacroFab (Chris), and I lead our product and support teams.

Not getting a rapid response to your questions was unacceptable, we focus on an exceptional support experience, and you didn't get that experience.  That was a failure on our part, and one for which I am responsible. I reviewed our workflows with our support team and we have corrected the issue that resulted in you not getting a response immediately. I know that this doesn't make up for the fact that it happened, but I hope that you will give our team another chance.

We do advertise supporting KiCad and we work directly with the KiCad team to resolve issues when they come up.  The interim builds often cause issues for our parsers. We have identified the issue in the version you used and have opened a ticket with the KiCad team to assist us in resolving the issue, hopefully we can get their feedback and implement any needed changes quickly.

A couple of things I'd like to answer from the thread:

We don't offer purple soldermask or silkscreen.  We have a wide variety of color options available, but purple is not one of them (our default is red).  Right now, you can access the soldermask colors by clicking the "Specifications" button on the Design tab.  We are releasing an update to that interface in the next few weeks that will make specifications more front-and-center, and easier to use.

We currently source PCBs from the US, Brazil, Colombia, Taiwan, and China. The bulk of our PCBs come from Taiwan.  US is always used for our fast-turn (10-day) service, ITAR orders, and when our production customers request it. China is often used for high-volume orders where price is a driving concern, or low-cost tiers.  For all others, the platform dynamically chooses source based on best possible outcomes given specifications, lead time, and transit concerns.

You're right that we're more expensive than PCBWay and JLCPCB, there are a number of great points brought up in the thread, but I'd like to add a few additional points for consideration:

1. We're a contract manufacturer. PCBs, for us, are a thing we have to buy. Like other materials, we have costs associated with them and we necessarily have to sell them at a higher cost than we pay.
2. JLC and PCBWay are both vertically integrated fabrication and manufacturing companies.  JLC is also a large distributor in China, (LCSC and JLC are the same company) providing even greater levels of vertical integration and the ability to offer some services at a lower margin than their competitors can, as these services and products are all in-house.
3. Electronics materials prices are highly subsidized in China, both to originally create a market dominant position and to maintain it in a go-forward motion. I can't say whether or not JLC/PCBWay benefit from these specifically, but it is a thing which comes into play in securing production runs in China vs other regions.
4. Labor and material costs are significant driving factors in US PCB production, this is true - environmental controls are also a major cost consideration, as are capital costs on new facility spinups.  Construction is expensive, and even though a small amount of subsidies have been created recently for construction of new PCB fabrication plants in the US, the bulk of that capacity has/will go to defense industry where the profits are higher and the demand is guaranteed.

I'm happy to answer any questions you may have, or take any additional feedback that we can use to improve our product and service offerings!


Chris, would Macrofab like to be included in PCBShopper's price comparison list? There's no charge to appear on the list and no charge for users to be forwarded to your web site. All I'd need is for you to implement a simple API on your server to allow PCBShopper to query for prices.

If you're interested, go to PCBShopper.com and send me a message via the Contact form.

- Bob Alexander

Chris - appreciate your post.  For me, in fact, Macrofab just following up via email (and even more so posting here) does indeed make up for the fact I had a bumpy start.  No company is perfect, great companies recognize issues (even when they're small) and fix them - glad to see that's exactly how Macrofab works!

The KiCAD compatibility is on me, no knock for you guys and my assertion about your website was unfair, I was (as I mentioned) merging my experience with Macrofab and another vendor.

With respect to pricing, all valid points and - to me - there are and will be products where we're willing and able to pay the premium to get them made somewhere other than China.

Anyway, thanks for having your team follow up, and thanks for posting here.  I still have the need that originally caused me to reach out to Macrofab and will continue to pursue finding a way to get that to work.

Great! If you run into any issues along the way, feel free to reach out to me directly (my last name at macrofab.com) and I'll make sure we do everything in our power to make you successful.

@bob - I'll take a look and follow up with you.


Something not being mentioned here is the quality of base laminate used.

I had a product where the CM quietly changed and went from a North American PCB vendor to a South Korean vendor. It was some Manufacturing Manager idiot screwup and Engineering was not consulted about it. For a few products.

Well surprise surprise, cheap laminate uses lots of resin (instead of fiberglass) so Dk was higher than the stripline design lol. What a mess.
Also, the finished copper thickness is at the minimum IPC-A-600 Class 2 spec, I think that's "1oz copper 35µm/1.4 mils thick" is cheapo 20µm and "2oz copper 70µm/2.8 mils thick" is 40µm for -40%! Although -20% I've seen as a spec too. What a surprise the high current traces are running hot.
The peel strength was shit, large through-hole parts fell off and rework was not really possible without pads lifting off.

My point is pay some attention to the make/brand of laminate used, as it is a common cost-saver. People only looking at the bottom line PCB cost will miss this. Also know regulatory approvals on it if mains is involved - UL/CSA approvals, CTI rating etc.

Second is, make sure what independently-audited quality system is in place for the PCB fab. I've had bad PCB builds from NA PCB fabs and it's been due to a crappy or non-existent quality system,  even counterfeit laminate getting used.


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