Now Reading
Evaluating interest PCB distributors – lcamtuf’s factor

Evaluating interest PCB distributors – lcamtuf’s factor

2023-03-24 01:40:05

Over the previous two weekends or so, I’ve been cranking out Sir Box-a-Lot handhelds for household and pals. There isn’t any option to make a undertaking like this worthwhile, however the recreation is extra enjoyable than it’d seem — and it’s cool to observe recipients’ faces mild up after receiving a do-it-yourself present.

Sir Field-a-Tons, proper off the storage manufacturing line.

Alongside the best way, I ended up ordering the identical printed circuit boards from a number of hobbyist-friendly distributors. Quite a few comparisons of high quality and price for various PCB producers might be discovered on the web, however a lot of them are dated or suspect — so I figured it’s worthwhile to experiment and share my notes for 2023.

OSH Park is by far the best-known interest PCB supply in the USA. They don’t do in-house manufacturing; as a substitute, they mix a number of small orders right into a single panel, ship this bulk order to a fabricator, then chop up the panel and ship your boards again to you.

The service is pretty costly: a single Sir Field-a-Lot PCB (6.5×9 cm) prices about $15 shipped, and you could order a minimum of three. Rush orders are twice as a lot; a reduced bulk service brings the worth right down to $9 a board, however in that case, I’d have to order a minimum of 20 PCBs. It’s nonetheless cheaper than putting a low-volume order immediately with a home producer, however it provides a hefty price ticket to some initiatives — and it’s some huge cash down the drain if you happen to mess up the design.

On the flip aspect, the boards I acquired from OSH are finest described as stunning. Solder masks is powerful and aligned completely. Gold-plated (ENIG) pads present no defects. Silkscreen textual content right down to 0.6 mm (the “1” pin marker) is completely legible:

An in depth-up of 0.5 mm pitch TQFP-48 pads. FOV is round 15 mm.

Vias seem considerably bigger than laid out in my Gerber recordsdata; I’d guess 0.5 mm as a substitute of 0.4 mm. They’re additionally minimally off-center — though not sufficient to trigger any sensible points.

A subminiature speaker mounting space on the again of the board.

The general look of the board is excellent, with no dings, scrapes, or different defects in sight. The ordering expertise was nice too — right down to the last-minute capacity to add revised Gerber recordsdata if you happen to spot any errors down the road.

OSH Park board floor facet.

DigiKey Red is a direct competitor to OSH. The service follows the same enterprise mannequin of aggregating orders after which delivery them off to a PCB producer; the producer in query seems to be Royal Circuits in Hollister, CA.

The pricing is akin to OSH: for Sir Field-a-Lot, it amounted to $14 per board with delivery, 4 boards minimal. In distinction to OSH, the boards are despatched to you immediately from the fabricator, however the service is definitely slower than OSH — maybe owing to decrease order volumes. There’s an expedited choice costing twice as a lot, however no low cost if you happen to order extra boards.

In comparison with OSH, the ordering expertise is significantly much less polished. There aren’t any updates alongside the best way and no buyer help to talk of; I attempted to get in contact with a reside individual and had no luck. In some unspecified time in the future, a bundle containing the boards, perhaps with some rejects combined in, will simply present up within the mail. Maybe in two weeks, maybe not.

Functionally, the standard of the boards is akin to OSH. As soon as once more, the solder masks is flawless, and so are the ENIG-finished pads. Vias seem even bigger than on the OSH board — maybe 0.6 mm as a substitute of 0.4 mm? — however they’re higher centered, so I feel I can let that slide.

TQFP-48 space, DigiKey Crimson.

Silkscreen is one other matter. The textual content appears to be like OK, however areas with lengthy straight strains turned out to be a multitude:

“Friday 4:55pm” silkscreen high quality.

The cleanliness of the boards additionally left one thing to be desired: each one was lined in adhesive gunk, probably from double-sided tape used for fixturing. Nothing here’s a showstopper — however total, I discovered the expertise to be disappointing for the worth.

JLCPCB is a Shenzhen-based producer that caters on to hobbyists — one thing too icky for the tastes of its US counterparts. The JLC mannequin has two benefits. First, they provide all kinds of course of selections, whereas DKR and OSH are one-size-fits-all. Simply as importantly, in-house manufacturing is quicker than delivery boards backwards and forwards: I ordered from JLC a few instances, and each time, I acquired the boards inside 7 days.

JLCPCB is remarkably cheap: a single Sir Field-a-Lot board prices about $1.50 to $2.00 shipped to your door if you happen to order fifteen or so. And for the worth, the standard is superb, even when it doesn’t fairly match OSH Park or DigiKey Crimson.

See Also

Right here’s a close-up of a JLC board, displaying well-aligned true-to-spec vias and HASL-finished pads with a tiny little bit of JLC-added solder masks setback. The silkscreen is competent, however loses legibility under 1 mm:

TQFP-48 space, JLCPCB.

In comparison with the opposite two distributors, JLC solder masks layer is thinner and extra fragile; it may be scraped off pretty simply and can come off if you happen to preserve transforming the identical pad; in actual fact, one or two boards got here with small scrapes from the manufacturing unit. The masks nonetheless does what it’s speculated to do, however if you happen to’re designing a tool meant for use with out an enclosure, you must anticipate the masks to shortly purchase some put on and tear. Conformal coating may assist.

Speaker mounting space.

My board design had a few mechanical holes with zero-clearance annular copper rings. As seen above, JLC added setbacks on the annular rings, leaving little steel in place; each DKR and OSH plated the holes as a substitute. It doesn’t matter on this explicit case, however it’s a very good reminder to keep away from ambiguity in a single’s designs.

Within the US, your choices are restricted: though you may work immediately with a producer, you must anticipate to pay $350 or so for a few boards — or in extra of $1,000 if you happen to want the PCBs quickly.

There are another selections in allied international locations; Germany-based Aisler is of particular notice. Given their added delivery prices, they aren’t aggressive for small orders, however barely greater volumes look higher: the quote for twenty Sir Field-a-Lot boards got here out to $4.50 a bit. I’ll most likely give them a attempt sooner or later, though their solder masks colour wasn’t a very good match for this explicit undertaking.

China-based distributors are plentiful, however few come near JLCPCB by way of velocity, pricing, and constant high quality. A noteworthy contender is PCBWay; I don’t have a Sir Field-a-Lot board from them, however they provide a considerably wider number of course of selections — together with some extra solder masks colours — for a barely greater value. Their achievement additionally seems to be a bit slower, though it would nonetheless beat home panel aggregator retailers.

For recommendation on designing your personal PCBs, click here. An inventory of different electronics-related articles on this weblog might be found here.

Source Link

What's Your Reaction?
In Love
Not Sure
View Comments (0)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

2022 Blinking Robots.
WordPress by Doejo

Scroll To Top