Author Topic: PCBWay mini-review  (Read 43788 times)

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Offline moshee

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PCBWay mini-review
« on: May 25, 2015, 09:24:30 pm »
(On second look, this probably should've gone in the PCB manufacturing sub-sub-subforum. Sorry, new forum dweller.)

I decided to try out PCBWay (http://www.pcbway.com/) to make the boards for a school project. They are incredibly under-priced and seemed too good to be true. About $130 for five (minimum order) 120x75mm 4-layer boards with ENIG finish. I wanted to check out their quality before we decided to switch over for a slightly larger run (300+ boards) of a different project.

The boards just arrived today (didn't know DHL delivered on holidays), after about 10 business days and two weekends. I was a little put off by the lack of detailed images of their boards so I thought I'd take a few close-ups. I should say first that they give up to $50 of credit for good reviews, so that should explain a large portion of the overwhelmingly positive feedback I've seen.


(Imgur album link)

The main thing I noticed is the sloppy application of solder mask. It bleeds through vias and through-holes in quite a few places, spilling out onto pads and inside through-holes. The mask doesn't quite make it in between those TSSOP pads, or even the 0.8mm pitch QFP, although the same mask swell settings do me good with other fabs.
« Last Edit: May 25, 2015, 09:27:30 pm by moshee »
 

Offline Richard Crowley

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Re: PCBWay mini-review
« Reply #1 on: May 25, 2015, 09:45:05 pm »
Wow, the silk screen looks amazingly low-rez.  Almost like it was done with an inkjet printer or something?
It also looks like the frame (or the board) may have shifted during printing.  Looks a bit smeared.
 

Offline matseng

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Re: PCBWay mini-review
« Reply #2 on: May 26, 2015, 01:02:14 am »
I recall reading the specs at some pcb fab and noted that they had separate data for white soldermask that was worse than the other colors.

Can it be that the white pigmented color is flowing and adhering differently during application than the others? But why?
 

Offline rs20

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Re: PCBWay mini-review
« Reply #3 on: May 26, 2015, 01:17:23 am »
You've chosen to use tented vias* here, which may be worth avoiding in future from this fab. Most PCBs you see in "real products" have non-tented vias, which is handy for debugging, and also avoids issues like these.

Having said that, the solder mask being inside larger non-tented though-holes is pretty poor.

* Vias covered up by solder mask.
 

Offline zapta

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Re: PCBWay mini-review
« Reply #4 on: May 26, 2015, 01:30:26 am »
I should say first that they give up to $50 of credit for good reviews, so that should explain a large portion of the overwhelmingly positive feedback I've seen.

They are known as shameless spammers and we see here often people with low post count that try to push the PCBways name. Actually, I just noticed that this is your first post here...

No chance of any business from me.
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Offline moshee

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Re: PCBWay mini-review
« Reply #5 on: May 26, 2015, 02:25:16 am »
I recall reading the specs at some pcb fab and noted that they had separate data for white soldermask that was worse than the other colors.

Can it be that the white pigmented color is flowing and adhering differently during application than the others? But why?

That's good to know. I also considered this too, perhaps I will try a different color next time.

You've chosen to use tented vias* here, which may be worth avoiding in future from this fab. Most PCBs you see in "real products" have non-tented vias, which is handy for debugging, and also avoids issues like these.

I seem to remember most of the things I've taken apart having covered vias, but I'll keep that in mind. I definitely understand the benefit to debugging.

Actually, I just noticed that this is your first post here...

I was apprehensive about posting for that reason, but there's a first post for everyone. Incidentally, my reason for registering only a few days prior has nothing to do with this (can't actually remember any more but I'm a long-time watcher and lurker).

Seeing some familiar names tweeting about them made me want to try them out, but I may have been expecting too much.
 

Offline Falcon69

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Re: PCBWay mini-review
« Reply #6 on: May 26, 2015, 02:31:55 am »
Yup!

Looks about as crappy as the ones I got from them.  I complained to them about it and his response was, "Sorry about that, we had a new guy working that area". I asked for some type of a credit since I had to reorder the boards, He stopped answering my emails.

I will never order form them again. I may go back to Sitopway or look for another.
 

Offline matseng

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Re: PCBWay mini-review
« Reply #7 on: May 26, 2015, 03:52:30 am »
I can't find the site with the white specs again, but dirtypcbs.com have a separate spec for black mask...

Min solder dam: 3mil(green) / 3.5mil(black)

So the color of the mask definitely affects the end result.
 

Offline Wilksey

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Re: PCBWay mini-review
« Reply #8 on: May 26, 2015, 11:02:00 am »
Wow, those images are shockingly bad!

Were the PCB's made by a 5 year old?!
 

Offline Richard Crowley

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Re: PCBWay mini-review
« Reply #9 on: May 26, 2015, 11:29:40 am »
So the color of the mask definitely affects the end result.

WHY?  Are they using conductive paint?  Are they unable to thin it down to the proper consistency to do a proper screen-print?
Why are others able to screen-print black so much better?  Doesn't make any sense to me.
 

Offline Scrts

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Re: PCBWay mini-review
« Reply #10 on: May 26, 2015, 01:10:50 pm »
I'd say it's possible to avoid many problems when doing a *proper* PCB.
1) VIAs on the PADs? Seriously? Blind VIAs would be OK, but definitely not through hole, since all the solder would go through the hole to the other side.
2) Why do you cover the VIAs anyway? Leave them open anywhere possible, so it's easy to debug the PCB by touching the VIA using scope probe.
3) It would be interesting to see the Paste Mask Gerber file.

Other than that:
the service is crappy. Not even the solder mask issue, but the drills are crappy. I see different hole sizes and it doesn't seem to be Gerber issue?
 

Online Monkeh

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Re: PCBWay mini-review
« Reply #11 on: May 28, 2015, 08:32:07 pm »
You've chosen to use tented vias* here, which may be worth avoiding in future from this fab. Most PCBs you see in "real products" have non-tented vias, which is handy for debugging, and also avoids issues like these.

Having said that, the solder mask being inside larger non-tented though-holes is pretty poor.

* Vias covered up by solder mask.

I would disgree, tented vias seem to be the norm these days.
 

Offline rx8pilot

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Re: PCBWay mini-review
« Reply #12 on: May 28, 2015, 09:55:23 pm »
I'd say it's possible to avoid many problems when doing a *proper* PCB.
1) VIAs on the PADs? Seriously? Blind VIAs would be OK, but definitely not through hole, since all the solder would go through the hole to the other side.
2) Why do you cover the VIAs anyway? Leave them open anywhere possible, so it's easy to debug the PCB by touching the VIA using scope probe.
3) It would be interesting to see the Paste Mask Gerber file.

Other than that:
the service is crappy. Not even the solder mask issue, but the drills are crappy. I see different hole sizes and it doesn't seem to be Gerber issue?

Via-in-pad can work with laser drilled <5mil micro-vias. The hole is so small the capillary action is too slow to do much during the short period the solder is melted. I have been looking at this closely to get better density on my PCB's. going to 0201's, micro vias, and via in-pad.
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Offline mamalala

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Re: PCBWay mini-review
« Reply #13 on: May 28, 2015, 11:13:10 pm »
I decided to try out PCBWay

What did you pay for the boards, and for how many boards?

Greetings,

Chris
 

Offline uoficowboy

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Re: PCBWay mini-review
« Reply #14 on: May 28, 2015, 11:24:22 pm »
You've chosen to use tented vias* here, which may be worth avoiding in future from this fab. Most PCBs you see in "real products" have non-tented vias, which is handy for debugging, and also avoids issues like these.

Having said that, the solder mask being inside larger non-tented though-holes is pretty poor.

* Vias covered up by solder mask.

I would disgree, tented vias seem to be the norm these days.
Completely agree - everything I've put into production had tented vias. Every board I've seen go into production in recent years had tented vias.

Regarding these boards - the soldermask quality and silkscreen quality are terrible. I've never seen rough edges like that on mask - I'd love to hear if anybody has a theory as to why it looks like that.

The silkscreen is also funny looking - like they used one of those dot matrix style silkscreen printers, instead of actually using a silkscreen. But those things normally achieve much, much better looking print then this - so maybe their printer is old/busted?
 

Online T3sl4co1l

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Re: PCBWay mini-review
« Reply #15 on: May 28, 2015, 11:25:47 pm »
To be fair, I'm sorry to say but your layout doesn't look very good. :(

Likely, it's possible to make reasonable-to-good boards with their process, making some allowance on design rules.  This is standard; there is no absolutely consistent spec that all manufacturers will adhere to, and ultimately it is your responsibility as the designer to work with the capabilities of the board house you're ordering from.

The IPC has some standards, which most manufacturers adhere to.  But ultimately, it's as with any other purchased part or contract: you tell them what you want, and you decide if what you received is satisfactory or not.

That said, obviously, the better producers will try to make things better than spec, not marginally at it.  So we get the answer to the question we had already guessed: "do you get what you pay for?"

Economics aside... how's the soldermask strength?  Is it weak and easy to chip away, or tough and strong?  Do you have a micrometer capable of measuring the foil thickness?  (Peel some off, somewhere.)  What's the peel strength, good?  After scraping off the soldermask and peeling up a corner, does the rest come up easily under the soldering iron, or is it fairly adherent while hot?

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Offline moshee

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Re: PCBWay mini-review
« Reply #16 on: May 29, 2015, 07:02:03 pm »
To be fair, I'm sorry to say but your layout doesn't look very good. :(

Likely, it's possible to make reasonable-to-good boards with their process, making some allowance on design rules.  This is standard; there is no absolutely consistent spec that all manufacturers will adhere to, and ultimately it is your responsibility as the designer to work with the capabilities of the board house you're ordering from.

The IPC has some standards, which most manufacturers adhere to.  But ultimately, it's as with any other purchased part or contract: you tell them what you want, and you decide if what you received is satisfactory or not.

That said, obviously, the better producers will try to make things better than spec, not marginally at it.  So we get the answer to the question we had already guessed: "do you get what you pay for?"

Economics aside... how's the soldermask strength?  Is it weak and easy to chip away, or tough and strong?  Do you have a micrometer capable of measuring the foil thickness?  (Peel some off, somewhere.)  What's the peel strength, good?  After scraping off the soldermask and peeling up a corner, does the rest come up easily under the soldering iron, or is it fairly adherent while hot?

Tim

I am not surprised if my layout sucks as it's really like my third "real" layout ever, and the first with more than 50 or so components. I was actually hesitant to post for that reason but I figured it would be good to show the board quality, inexperienced layout aside.

Unfortunately I don't have a micrometer, but I can say a few things about the mask. It seems about as strong and scratch-resistant as some boards I got from OSHPark. I managed to peel up an edge and with some pliers I could peel it back. The adhesion seems decent. Heating it up with my iron doesn't seem to affect the adhesion.
 

Online edavid

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Re: PCBWay mini-review
« Reply #17 on: May 29, 2015, 07:21:36 pm »
I decided to try out PCBWay (http://www.pcbway.com/) to make the boards for a school project. They are incredibly under-priced and seemed too good to be true. About $130 for five (minimum order) 120x75mm 4-layer boards with ENIG finish. I wanted to check out their quality before we decided to switch over for a slightly larger run (300+ boards) of a different project.

Why do you say they are underpriced?  Looking at pcbshopper.com, that price doesn't seem that great.  You could have gone with Elecrow or Seeed.

P.S. Thanks for posting your review!
« Last Edit: May 29, 2015, 09:27:13 pm by edavid »
 

Offline moshee

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Re: PCBWay mini-review
« Reply #18 on: May 29, 2015, 07:50:31 pm »
Why do you say they are underpriced?  Looking at pcbshopper.com, that price doesn't seem that great.  You could have gone with Elecrow or Seeed.

Their turn time is comparatively a bit better and they provide a lot of opportunity for store credit ($50 favorable review, $25 per referral, etc.)

That said, it was not the most educated decision on my part, as I had discovered pcbshopper the week after I placed my order. I was in a hurry. Many lessons learned.
 

Offline iampoor

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Re: PCBWay mini-review
« Reply #19 on: June 02, 2015, 10:43:16 am »
Why do you say they are underpriced?  Looking at pcbshopper.com, that price doesn't seem that great.  You could have gone with Elecrow or Seeed.

Their turn time is comparatively a bit better and they provide a lot of opportunity for store credit ($50 favorable review, $25 per referral, etc.)

That said, it was not the most educated decision on my part, as I had discovered pcbshopper the week after I placed my order. I was in a hurry. Many lessons learned.

After quite a few orders with Elecrow, it usually takes 7-9 days from submitting my gerbers to getting the boards using DHL shipping....thats pretty fast.  :-+
 

Offline rx8pilot

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Re: PCBWay mini-review
« Reply #20 on: June 02, 2015, 04:08:59 pm »
How is the quality, in your experience, with Elecrow? Have you done any fine pitch and small vias?

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Offline iampoor

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Re: PCBWay mini-review
« Reply #21 on: June 02, 2015, 09:00:49 pm »
How is the quality, in your experience, with Elecrow? Have you done any fine pitch and small vias?

It has been pretty consistant with the other cheap PCB services I have tried. The boards are decent, but you do have to be careful with the pads. I have found that when reworking them multiple times (3-5) it is pretty easy to life them off the board.

I havent. I only use through hole to 0805 sized components. I will be trying a QFN16 package in the next few weeks. I will report back!

What I really like about elecrow is they contact you if there are any issues with your order. With all of the other cheap PCB fabs I have tried, most of them will either ignore it, and spin your board or someone will edit your file, change the trace, and not provide any notes or emails about it. I have had some dead prototype boards because of that.
 

Offline kingofkya

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Re: PCBWay mini-review
« Reply #22 on: June 07, 2015, 11:20:42 pm »
I have to thow my opinon in here as well. i relly liek pcb-ways's order process it works nice and keep you in the loop on production.

However there seasm to be a very wide quailty on pcbs, the normal thikness ones are ok a bit worse than elecrow (weeker solder resist, copper easy to overheat only tested green and blue), but when you drop thikness down the pcb quality seams to go up and the above issues go away and shipping gets cheaper:)

Now all that being said, i have gotten 2 pcbs with shorterd traces on them so i don't know about there e-test seams like there not bothering. In both cases the spaceing was around .9-8mm so its not like it was crazy close.

« Last Edit: June 07, 2015, 11:25:02 pm by kingofkya »
 

Offline coflynn

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Re: PCBWay mini-review
« Reply #23 on: June 09, 2015, 11:56:54 am »
I had recently ordered from 3PCB as a test, which is the same as PCBWay (didn't realize that at the time, trying to avoid feeding the spammers). But since I've got them thought some comparison photos might be interesting. All boards just 2 layers, 1.6mm. First off, the white soldermask:



This has the not-very-clean edge seen earlier on the soldermask! But looking at Blue mask (different layout, but this is same library part):



There are no problems with nice clean edges. Drill hit accuracy in both boards aren't amazing. For comparison the exact same blue board done with DFRobot:



This particular pad is a little small for hole size, although I'm just using a default library from Eagle so never checked too carefully...
 

Offline poorchava

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Re: PCBWay mini-review
« Reply #24 on: June 10, 2015, 11:12:37 am »
I have some PCBs at home, that my customer had ordered at pcbway. I'm gonna take some photos when i have some free time. Anyway, quality seemed pretty good, at least on par with popular places like itead, seeed or elecrow, but still nowhere near the quality that you can get from Eurocircuits, Technoservice, Wuerth Elektronik or similar manufacturers. I couldn't complain. One thing to note - IIRC they have manufactured PCBs with plated routed slots at no (or very little) extra cost.

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I hope I won't be flagged as pcbway sales guy  O0
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